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Happiness Worth Finding
Stephen A. Peterson
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Happiness Worth Finding
Stephen A. Peterson
Jerry Butler, 14, had every material thing a teenager could want—everything but peace, happiness and joy. Jerry had two wonderful parents who told him daily that they loved him without conditions. His parents were successful business owners and multi-billionaires. They could afford the best of just about everything for Jerry and his siblings. Jerry had two younger sisters who adored him. They looked up to him for guidance, comfort and to humor them when they had any overwhelming issues or problems.
On a hot July, 2007 afternoon, Jerry threw a big pool party inviting some of his friends and teens from the surrounding communities. One of his visitors, a fourteen years old girl named Anita Jensen, seemed very happy even though her parents had to struggle to make ends meet.
Anita’s parents could not afford to buy her the prettiest clothes nor did she have very many friends. To have any spending money at all, Anita babysat for her neighbors some weekdays nights and on weekends. Yet, in spite of her disadvantaged, Anita was a very happy person and it showed.
Jerry went about talking to the roughly three dozen teenagers he had invited. When he came to Anita, he could not understand how she could be so happy. She wore plain seemingly cheap clothing, did not know how to carry herself around people of wealth and privilege and she spoke in a weird tone of voice in Jerry’s view. Jerry thought with money a person could buy friendship or anything else if the price was right. He actually thought that he was not happy because he was just not spending enough money particularly on his friends. So the primary purpose of this pool party was to bring his friends and new potential friends to his house to give them each expensive gifts. By giving them an expensive gift or two, he believed they would be so pleased and impressed by what they had received and what they saw that they would be his lifelong friends.
When Jerry personally gave Anita a very expensive stereo system along with 200 CD’s of her choice costing more than $10,000.00, he was shocked when she turned his gift down with the prettiest smile he had ever seen in the face of a girl. “Thank you very much,” Anita responded. “I just can’t accept these gifts not because it is not appreciated. I just wouldn’t know what to do with these things. I’ve never had such a large sound system. My parents simply never had enough to purchase a sound system. So sound systems just aren’t an interest to me. It would be a waste of your money. Besides I have everything I have ever needed. I have the unconditional love of Jesus Christ,” Anita said with confidence.
Jerry was shocked and left speechless by Anita’s discourse. “How can she be happy with hardly anything in life? That’s impossible!” Jerry continued to believe happiness depends upon money and one’s possessions. He felt his premise was supported when three of his invited guests accepted his expensive gifts enthusiastically. Yet these individuals despised and, in two instances, actually hated Jerry. Nonetheless, Jerry continued giving things and money away. For some reasons Jerry was not happy. “Maybe I need alcohol and a few drugs to spice up my life.”
In the seclusion of his bedroom, Jerry began to drink alcohol—a little at first. Then over time more and more to make him feel better. Soon getting drunk felt good—very good indeed! But as soon as he became conscious he had a terrible headache and he still was no happier than he had been before.
Just as he had done with alcohol, Jerry began using illicit and licit drugs hoping to achieve happiness. And when he came to on two occasions, he learned, to his dissatisfaction, that someone had stolen his wallet with all of his money, a couple of credit cards and a picture of one of his sisters on one occasion. Still, after all of this searching and experimenting, Jerry was still not happy. In fact, he learned more what it was like to be miserable and even stupid.
In frustration, Jerry cried: “Why can’t I be happy? I’ve got everything! What’s wrong with me?” Then he remembered that strange, weird girl. “What’s her name? Anita! Anita! Yeah! That’s her name! Yeah! Maybe she can tell me what makes her so happy. I just can’t figure her out. She doesn’t have hardly anything but she seems so happy all of the time.” After waiting nearly thirty seconds on the telephone, Jerry finally made contact with Anita. “Anita this is Jerry Butler. I really need to talk to you. Something is really bothering me! I’ve got to ask you some questions or else I’ll go nuts! How about if we meet and talk at one of the pizza restaurants? I’ll pay for the food and stuff.”
“What’s this about, Jerry?” inquired Anita.
“I really have to ask you some questions. Will you meet with me, Anita? Please!” plead Jerry.
“Let me ask my parents first to see if it’s okay. They heard me talking to you. They said its okay. Sure!” said Anita.
“I can be by with me and my driver to pick you up. Is 6:30 PM too late?” Jerry said enthusiastically.
“No, that’s great! I’ll be ready!”
“Thank you! Thank you!” Jerry responded in an excited tone of voice.
Jerry and his driver arrived right at 6:30 PM to pick Anita up. He could not believe what he saw. Anita and her family lived in a very small house, bare patches of grass neatly kept and a huge pecan tree in the backyard that seemed dangerously close to the tiny house. When Jerry and his driver stepped up on the porch, it squeaked as though in pain as a result of their weights.
“Hi! Are you ready to go?” inquired Jerry.
“Yes,” responded Anita.
“I’ll have you back within an hour,” Jerry promised her parents.
On the way to the restaurant, Jerry asked: “Anita, why are you so happy most of the time? I’d like to be as happy as you. What is your secret? I’ve tried everything and I just can’t seem to be happy no matter what I do.”
“Jesus Christ,” Anita quickly responded.
“Jesus Christ? What? You mean God? Religion and all that stuff is the reason you’re so happy? Really? No!” said Jerry. “Are you serious?”
“With Jesus in my life I really don’t need anything. Besides He gives me everything I need. If He wants me to have it, He’ll give it to me,” Anita said cheerfully.
“It looks like he doesn’t like you very much! You sure don’t have a whole lot!” Jerry said mockingly.
“But who is happy and who is not? And who is asking for a way to happiness and who is not?” Anita said smiling.
After their party arrived at the pizza restaurant, Anita went on to say that he would be happy once he came to know Jesus Christ. A happiness that is free. All Jerry had to do is to accept Jesus Christ by faith and happiness would be his.
Jerry was stunned. “What do I have to give up?” inquired Jerry.
“That’s between you and God. That is done when you get into His Holy Word and pray. He’ll tell you what He wants you to do. He’ll make you so happy you’ll want to do what He asks of you. Sometimes what He asks will be hard. You might lose friends, be laughed at, be put down, lose your money, things, good health but knowing He’s there all of time… Well, you’ll have to see for yourself!!” responded Anita enthusiastically.
“I’ve never known anyone as happy as you. When you just talked about this Jesus Christ, God, your face seemed to shine. This so weird. But I don’t know how to pray. What do I say? How do I start?” Jerry inquired.
“Jerry, prayer is nothing more than talking to God. Whatever you say is fine with Him. Length is not important. Just say what you want truthfully and honestly. God will do the rest! Before we ate this night, I asked God to reveal Himself to you and to come into your heart because I can see you searching for Him. I believe you will find Him, too! Maybe not today but I believe very soon. This the night of your salvation and the first day of your trial that will result in your happiness for you Jerry Butler. Now it is time for us to return to our homes,” Anita said smiling.
Jerry was confused by her words. He did not understand them until he arrived at home that evening. On his return home, Jerry learned his youngest sister had been rushed to the hospital with an undiagnosed and sudden illness. Jerry loved both of his sisters a great deal but the youngest was his special sister. His heart seemed to sink to his feet when he saw her hooked up to the many strange hospital devices with no response from her.
For the first time in Jerry’s short life he faced a situation when money or things meant nothing. He would not be able to buy his sister back to health or, it would seem, increasingly, back to life. Jerry was struck with numbing fear when he overheard the doctor tell his parents their daughter, his sister, may not live through the night.
“She can’t die! NO! What can I do? I’ll call Anita. She’ll know what to do,” thought Jerry. “Anita, this is Jerry. I’m at the hospital. My sister, the youngest one, is really sick. I overheard the doctor say she might not live through the night. What do I do? She can’t die! I’m so scared!” Jerry said softly in the telephone.
“Pray, Jerry! Ask God to make your sister well again,” responded Anita.
“But I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say what’s on your mind, Jerry. He’ll understand. Don’t be afraid.”
“Okay, I will,” promised Jerry. Approaching his sister’s bed, he stood over the five old then said: “God, I don’t know what to say or what to do. Please, God don’t let my baby sister die! I love her more than anything I have ever had. I’m sorry for all the wrong and bad things I’ve done. No matter what you do this night I will dedicate the rest of my life to what you want me to do.” Then Jerry said now crying, ”Please God, please! Don’t take my baby sister. Let her live! Take me God but let her live! Please!”
Within minutes Jerry heard a familiar voice. “Jerry,” said a little girl’s voice.
“Julie! Doctor! Julie’s awake! Come quick!” shouted Jerry.
A doctor and nurse came into the room, took her temperature and gave her a quick examination. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. This girl was dying. Now it is though nothing had ever happened. Very strange indeed!! I need to see your parents. I’ll tell them that I’d like to keep your sister overnight to see if she is okay and the problem won’t come back again!” stated the doctor.
“Jerry,” his sister said. “I saw Jesus. He’s real, Jerry. I talked to Him. I was in heaven and it is wonderful!!! I asked Jesus if I could stay but He heard your prayer. He cried a little and told me He was sending me back here because my brother was willing to die for me, that my brother loved me more than anything and that my brother needed to hear this story to be saved to turn his life around before it was too late. What did Jesus mean Jerry when he said its might be too late for you?”
Jerry stood momentarily stunned by his sister’s report and her following question about his salvation. For Jerry realized that if he died that very moment salvation would not be his but damnation. He thought that he had to do something about this before it was indeed too late.
On the day of his sister’s miracle, Jerry learned that salvation and happiness is not dependent upon wealth and having things. Through his sister’s mysterious illness and recovery, the reality of Jesus Christ was revealed. From this incident, Jerry found true happiness and, more importantly, salvation.
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