Where We Find Happiness
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How can we truly be happy? FamilyLife Today hosts Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Derwin Gray about his new book, The Good Life, and fulfilling the longing in our souls.
Where We Find Happiness
Bob: There are two things that can be simultaneously true: marriage is a great delight for husbands and wives, and marriage is hard work for husbands and wives. Here’s Derwin Gray.
Derwin: One of the things that I tell young couples, before they get married, is this: “Pay more for premarital counseling—spend more money on that—than on the wedding. The wedding is a day; the marriage is a lifetime.” We bring to the marriage our past hurts. It’s like we bring this invisible suitcase that becomes visible over time.
And as you know, the first four years that you’re in love, you’re high; God gets us high!—all these chemicals that make us feel good; that’s why we get married. If we were sober, we would never get married; because we’d be like, “Girl, you’re kind of bossy!” [Laughter] You know what I’m saying? But when the high-ness wears off, that’s when you begin the real work of learning to put down your preferences and picking up your cross.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 9th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Having a successful marriage—a marriage that thrives—well, there’s a mindset involved in that. We’ll talk about what that mindset is today with Derwin Gray. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I thought maybe now that the game is like “over-over,” I thought maybe we could do this and not talk about football; but then I realized—
Ann: Oh, Bob!
Bob: When you get—
Bob: —Dave and Derwin in the same room together, football’s going to come up somehow. I mean, that’s just the fact; right?
Dave: I think God gave us football as an analogy for how to do life. That’s what it’s about!
Derwin: Well, yes, because I was reading—
Dave: Here we go!
Derwin: I was reading the ancient Egyptian text of the Book of Genesis—[Laughter], and on Day Seven, when God created Adam and Eve, He created football.
Bob: That was Day Six that He created Adam and Eve. [Laughter]
Derwin: Oh, yes! Day Six; yes. [Laughter]
Bob: The ancient Egyptian—
Ann: —the Egyptian—
Derwin: Yes, the ancient Egyptian text!
Bob: —might be a little out there.
Derwin: It was in there! [Laughter]
Bob: Yes. [Laughter] This is our friend, Derwin Gray, joining us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome. [Laughter]
Derwin: Thanks for having me.
Bob: Derwin is the Pastor of Transformation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Six years in the NFL; a stand-out college player at BYU before that. We should just say—so we clear it up—you said this already this week, but you were a non-Mormon playing at BYU.
Derwin: I was; yes. I was, and still continue to be, a non-Mormon. What I will say—in God’s sovereign love, allowing me to go to BYU was one of the best experiences of my life—because, one, I had to learn how to adjust and to adapt to people and cultures that are vastly different from mine. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23: “I become all things to all men that one may know Christ.” It has allowed me to appreciate people’s differences and to invite them to the table.
Bob: I follow you on Twitter, so I know you love the Cougars. You still watch their games every week.
Derwin: I do, I do; yes. BYU—like I said the other day, the older you get, the more appreciative you are of your experiences. Man, when I go back to BYU, I am like a rock star. If my self-esteem is ever low—[Laughter]
Bob: “Just go to Provo!”
Derwin: —I just go back to BYU! [Laughter]
Bob: We asked you to join us because you’ve just written a book called The Good Life, which is about what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5—the Sermon on the Mount—about where happiness is found/where satisfaction for your soul is found. It’s the Beatitudes that begin that sermon.
As I looked at your book, I thought, “You know, the antithesis to what you’re talking about/what Jesus was talking about here is the whole issue of pride. Our pride is what keeps us from the good life; isn’t it?
Derwin: Most people understand pride as: “Well, look how great I am! I can do it myself.” But there’s also a more subtle understanding of pride that’s this: “I’m not worthy. How can God love me? He can forgive other people, but He can’t forgive me. Who am I that He would use me?”
Notice what takes place here is—on one side of pride, it’s: “Look how great I am”; on the other side of pride, it’s: “Look how bad I am.” And both of those sides miss the grace of the great I AM.
Ann: That’s really interesting; because a lot of people just say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m struggling with unworthiness or shame, and I’m kind of just lost in it.” You’re saying that could be a sense of pride.
Derwin: Yes, because—and here’s why—if you follow Jesus, He said these words: “Tetelestai”/”It is finished.” Once you’ve taken a blood bath in the grace of Jesus, your status has forever changed. Your status is now Jesus’ status. What’s true about Jesus is true about you. Jesus’ past behavior absorbs your behavior, and you’re united to Him. Everything that God the Father believes about Jesus, He actually now believes about you, as though it’s true.
Why?—because Jesus lived the sinless life we could never live. Jesus died the death we should have died on the cross. Jesus rose again—defeating sin, death, and evil—to unite our lives with His life. Even as I listen to myself talk, that is absolutely unfair! That’s why it’s called “grace.” Grace not only brings you into the family of God, but grace keeps and sustains you in the family of God.
Dave: I think a lot of us—and maybe it’s pride—almost laugh at that. Honestly, I’m thinking/I grew up, thinking, “Okay, if you’re a Christian, and you believe this stuff”— Derwin, what you just said—“‘That’s not the good life! I mean, I want that; that’s good to have on the side, but the good life…”— I call it the “Theology of ‘It’”; I think we all have this “Theology of ‘It’”—“When I get “it,” then I’ll be happy.’”
Dave: I can remember winning the MAC Championship; that’s big time!
Derwin: That is.
Dave: You know, you played at BYU; I was at big-time Ball State. I can remember beating Northern Illinois, throwing the winning touchdown. In the shower—
Ann: This was after the game.
Dave: Yes, I can remember just this sense/this feeling of, “That’s it?!”
Dave: You know, that was/I thought “the good life.” We all feel this. It’s like, when you look at what you just said about the Beatitudes, and real happiness is following God, you almost go, “Is it?!” But here’s the thing: nothing else has worked, so it has to be something else.
Dave: And you’ve nailed it. That is the happy, good life,” but help us understand—
Dave: —how that really is fulfilling the DNA of our longing in our soul.
Derwin: Yes; you know, let me add this, too; because I think it’s important that—let’s say, if we could supernaturally go back in time, where you had your long locks like Fabio—[Laughter]—and if Jesus was forming the Beatitudes in you, after you won that MAC Championship, it would have been a different sensation. You would have been grateful to God! You would have been thankful to Him. You would have appreciated winning more, because you wouldn’t have been a shadow; you would have been the real thing. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that we’re “in essence, shadows”; we’re not solid.
Well, the Beatitudes make us solid! What I want to say is: “Christian men, Christian women, Christian teenagers, or whoever you are: ‘Go for it for the glory of God! Be phenomenal.’” Accomplishing things is wonderful if it’s for His glory, and He’s formed us to the people that He wants us to be!
The second part of your question—is this: “You have to jump into the water and see if this is true.” Years ago, my wife and I were on vacation somewhere in the Caribbean. She’s very aquatic; I am not so much aquatic, okay? If there’s more water than a Jacuzzi, Derwin ain’t getting in it. [Laughter] Anyway, she would do—what is it?—snorkeling. She would snorkel. Black people don’t snorkel, but she was snorkeling. [Laughter] Anyway, she was snorkeling; and she would come out and go, “It’s beautiful! It’s incredible!” For years, I’m like, “That’s good, honey.” And she said, “No, you have to see it!”
One day, I was like, “Alright! I’ll do it.” I jumped in the water, tried to swim, messed up a little bit. Some Caribbean boys were like [with Jamaican accent], “Look at ya, man, with all those muscles, and you can’t even swim!!” [Laughter] I was like [with Jamaican accent], “No, I can’t swim!” [Laughter] Eventually, I figured the snorkeling thing out; and lo and behold, I was like, “Boom! This is better than she described.” I was like, “This is like looking at life from a whole new reality.” I didn’t want to get out of the water. When I came out, I was like, “Whoa! How did I miss out on this for so long?”
Well, Jesus, when He invites us into His kingdom/when He invites us into the good life through the Beatitudes, He’s saying, “I want you to jump into the water so you can see how beautiful life can really be.”
Ann: Because the good life isn’t always the easy life.
Derwin: Oh, goodness, no!
Ann: Talk about that; because you just said, you’re snorkeling, and you’re opening your eyes to this whole new world,—
Ann: —and yet, it’s not always easy.
Derwin: No; oh, gosh! Well, there’s a chapter that I wrote called “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” or “Happy Are the Peacemakers.” I open up that chapter with the beating of Rodney King in 1992. Some of the listeners may not remember this; but in 1992, a man by the name of Rodney King in Los Angeles took police on a high-speed chase. The police beat him with batons, and someone was filming it. This was before we had smartphones.
For many of us in the black community, it was like, “Finally! People will see that this type of police brutality is true!” Now let me affirm: “Do we love policemen/do I love policemen?”—yes; I pastor many of them, and pray for them, and love them. We get awards at Transformation Church for our work with the police department. One can be for police and for police reform simultaneously.
For those of us, who are theologically minded, the idea of total depravity doesn’t skip the police department. Just like there are bad pastors, there are unhealthy, bad police officers, who enforce police brutality. Anyway, I write “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” I describe that experience; and lo and behold, in America, we’re still having these types of issues; we’re having the racial divide.
I’m writing this chapter about how to be a peacemaker across ethnic and cultural lines. “How do you love people who despise your existence?”—well, the way you love people, who despise your existence, is to keep your eyes on Jesus, who gave you an eternal existence, and who says, “Love your enemies.” I’m not going to persuade you by giving evil for evil. The only way I can try to persuade you is to love you. Besides,—listen!—if I love you with the love of Jesus, it may not stop you from hating me; but it will stop me from hating you.
I lay open this theology of ethnic reconciliation for God’s people to be able to walk through, so that the Gen Z and the younger generations can say, “These Christians in America would not stand by and allow the dark forces of racism to continue; they’re going to be salt and light.” That’s the good life! Yes, that’s tough! That’s really hard, but nowhere in the Bible does Jesus go, “Hey, by the way, this is going to be really easy today!”
Derwin: Matter of fact, He said this in John 16:33: “In this world, you will have trouble; but take courage, because I have overcome the world.” He overcame the world by breaking the shackles of sin, and death, and evil. No one can make me not act like a Christian. I can only give them the power to do so.
Dave: As we walk back to the humility part, talk about how being humble plays out in marriage. [Laughter]
Derwin: Wow! Yes; you know, one of the most incredible gifts of being married is God reveals to you how selfish you are. That has been one of the incredible gifts—is you see how selfish you are.
Bob: That doesn’t sound like a gift! To have a mirror held up to you—
Derwin: Yes, yes.
Bob: —to go, “Look at this; look how selfish you are today.”
Ann: Did you discover that on your own, or did Vicki kind of point that out? [Laughter]
Derwin: No, Vicki’s really good at pointing that out! [Laughter] That was/yes, she was really good at pointing that out, for sure. But, you see, my pride was the more dangerous kind of pride. My pride was a proudness in my humility. My whole life, Dave, I had been taught this: “If people got close to me, they could hurt me; therefore, I’m not going to let you get close to me to hurt me. If anybody’s going to hurt Derwin Gray, it’s going to be Derwin Gray.”
I brought that into marriage. One of the things that I tell young couples, before they get married, is this: “Pay more for marriage counseling than the wedding. Premarital counseling—spend more money on that—than on the wedding. The wedding is a day; the marriage is a lifetime.” We bring to the marriage our past hurts. It’s like we bring this invisible suitcase that becomes visible over time.
As you know, the first four years that you’re in love, you’re high; God gets us high!—all of these chemicals make us feel good. That’s why we get married; because if we were sober, we would never get married. We’d be like, “Dang, girl! You’re kind of bossy!” [Laughter] You know what I’m saying? But when the high-ness wears off, that’s when you begin the real work of learning to put down your preferences and picking up your cross.
The humility part was this: about ten years in, oh gosh! We were like glorified roommates, but there’s so much more that God wants to do. Humility is God strips you of everything that you think you are. He begins to reconstruct you. There are various things that we went through: from dealing with the pain and trauma of our past; for Vicki, she went through cancer in 2004; when she was pregnant, she went through what’s called hyperemesis gravidarum, which is the Latin term for “throw up all day, every day.”
I’m thinking to myself, “How in the world can I be prideful toward her when she literally feels like she has the flu for nine months?!” With our last child, Jeremiah—we had a miscarriage in between—with Jeremiah, she actually slipped into clinical depression. Before then, you know, I was a typical guy/I think, “Well, just drink some Gatorade!” No; clinical depression is not: “Drink some Gatorade.” It became serious when she looked at me and said, “I don’t want to live.”
When we were at her doctor, the doctor closed the door. There was a list on the door that said: “You’re depressed if…” All ten of those characteristics of depression, we went, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” A part of my humbling was watching her strength to bring our children into the world, watching her strength to walk through cancer with incredible faith.
One night—no one ever tells you this—but when you’re diagnosed with cancer, the first night you just can’t sleep. I remember us being in the bed, and we were both sniffling and crying. She quoted a Scripture, and then I quoted a Scripture; then she quoted a Scripture; then I quoted a Scripture. Before you know it, we were literally playing Scriptural tennis, going back and forth. Our tears of fear turned into tears of hope/tears of joy.
Part of my humbling was watching the way she walks with Jesus. The woman knows Jesus!—like, “I am a better man because of her!”
Bob: You know, I think about Jesus’ statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and I think we can tend to have this idea that we must think that we’re terrible people. I think what it means is we must acknowledge the reality of the condition that we’re in. Most of us think we’re better than we are. So “poor in spirit” is to say, “I’m not as good as I think I am.” You mentioned this, Derwin; you said there can be this other kind of pride that says, “Oh, I’m a terrible person.”
The reality of your spiritual condition is to acknowledge two things simultaneously: “I am created in the image of God; I have value, worth, and dignity as a result of that,” and “I am riddled with sin that keeps me separated from the God who created me.”
Derwin: Yes; so I like to say it is that grace humbles us without deflating us, and exalts us without moving us to the place of thinking that we’re greater than God.
Bob: That’s good!
Derwin: And to be “poor in spirit” is Jesus saying, “Happy are those who are God-reliant,”—that every breath you take is a gift of God.
Derwin: We even take breathing oxygen for granted. We take for granted that the sun is going to rise. No!—we’re not entitled to any of those things—so being poor in spirit is pure gift.
Derwin: It’s pure grace; it’s: “God, thank You that I can even say, ‘Thank You.’”
Dave: The “Happiness Manifesto.”
Dave: I mean, you ended the book with this; and you even said, “Hey, maybe put this on your wall or your bedroom door and say that.” I thought, “This captures—
Derwin: I think you should read it.
Ann: Read it!
Dave: I’m going to read it; I mean, I was going to make you read it—
Derwin: No, I want you to read it.
Dave: —you wrote it!
Derwin: You’re a quarterback!
Dave: I’ll read it, man. It says:
I, blank—so you put your name in—I, Dave, declare that all I would ever hope to be is found in all of who Jesus is. My life is hidden in His life. His life is my life. As a gift of grace, Jesus lived a sinless life because I couldn’t. In His unending mercy, Jesus died the death that I should have to atone for my sin. Today, I am free from the power of sin and death. Because of His great love for me, I am holy, blameless, righteous, an adopted child of God. I am pleasing to the Father because I am in His beloved Son.
The happiness that I seek can never be satisfied by created things. The happiness I was created to experience is not found in happenings. True happiness is more about God making me good than good things happening to me. Today, I declare that I choose happiness because I choose Jesus, His kingdom, and His glory. Today, I declare that I will choose the ways of His kingdom, the truth of His gospel, and will live from His life. Signed, Dave Wilson.
Ann: What a great thing to say every morning—
Ann: —like: “This is who I am. This is who Jesus is, and this is what He has for me.”
Derwin: Yes, and speaking a Scripture-infused declaration over yourself is worship.
Derwin: And I want to go back to the other part of pride of: “I’m unworthy,” “I’m this…” “I’m that…” If you belong to Jesus, don’t call Him a liar. You may feel that way; sometimes your actions may reflect that, but the greatness of our God is He says, “Before the foundations of the world, the Lamb of God was slain.” God loved us before the foundation of the world! God has already taken into account past, present, future sins. What He declares to be so, we believe it. When we believe it, our feelings and our actions catch up to His truth.
Bob: Are you living the “good life”?
Derwin: I am! If this book doesn’t help anybody, it helped me! It really taught me new ways of how to engage Jesus, but also new ways of how to see and be in the world in which I’m not co-dependent on the world for my happiness.
Dave: And God gave you a good, good, good woman—
Derwin: Oh, no doubt!
Dave: —to be with you through that.
Derwin: Oh, gosh! Oh, my goodness; yes.
Bob: Yes; I think you can add us to the list of people the book has helped.
Bob: It’s not just you. And I hope it’s going to help a lot of our listeners as well.
Thank you for being with us and talking about this.
Derwin: Thank you so much.
Bob: We are making Derwin’s book, The Good Life, available this week to those of you who can support the ministry of FamilyLife® with a donation. What you’re actually doing, when you donate, is you’re investing in the marriages, the families, the lives of tens of thousands of people every day, who are receiving practical biblical help and hope for their marriage through this daily radio program. I should say, hundreds of thousands; because, really, the reach of this program has expanded so much over the past decade because of the number of channels where FamilyLife Today is being heard.
There are people all around the world who are accessing this program thanks to the generosity of listeners, like you, who make all of this possible with your donations. Again, if you’re able to help with a donation today, to help expand and increase the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you do, ask for your copy of The Good Life—by Derwin Gray—What Jesus Teaches about Finding True Happiness. It’s our thank-you gift to you in appreciation for your support, and we do look forward to hearing from you.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about what real love looks like. I think, honestly, all of us need to have our thinking recalibrated a bit when it comes to our understanding of love. Besides, with Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, we’re thinking about love; let’s think about it rightly. We’ll talk more about what real love looks like tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team, and special help today from Justin Adams. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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