“Be Happy” they say. “Always look at on the bright side.” “Take joy in the little things.” Why does this sound like just a bunch of fluff. One liners?
My daughter has developed an allergy to the sun. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT!? Where did that come from? It stinks. I mean really now… the sun?!?! Its not like an allergy to mangoes where you can just stop eating them.
As I was dropping her off at school today, a beautiful sunny day, she put her imaginary microphone up to her mouth and said with a giggle, “Today I predict a day of itchy with a side of irritation.” We laughed and she headed into the building. Wow. Imagine that. With all the frustration of dealing with a sun allergy, and she laughs and starts her day with a joke… and joyfulness.
Where does THAT come from? Joy in the midst of bad circumstances?
It got me thinking about my Christian faith. The rest of the world says, “Smile. Be Happy.” and “Take time to appreciate the little things.” To me that is kind of like saying, “Oh, you just got news that your neighbor backed into your car and ripped off the bumper – and the insurance won’t cover it because of a loophole. But be happy instead of miserable. Look at the little flowers on your walk way and listen to the little birdies. And smile.” ‘Scream’ is more like it. That type of news stinks. What is there to be happy about. The little things don’t make up for the sting left behind by the difficult things.
So what do we do with a verse that says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4) Or “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)
Is this some kind of trumpet call to muster up enough ‘happy’ to mask the ‘depressing’? Is this saying we should fake a smile? Pretend to be joyful? Ignore reality?
I don’t think so.
But here is another way to look at it. Lets say you suddenly realize you have the winning lottery ticket. You just won 10 million dollars! Wahoooo!!!!! Now your neighbor comes by and says that he accidentally backed into your car and ripped off the bumper – and the insurance won’t cover it because of a loop hole. That stinks… but hey, I just won 10 million dollars! Oh and your boss didn’t like your quarterly report… awe that is too bad, but I just won 10 million dollars! And your trip to Disney World that you’ve been planning for the past 2 years just got canceled due to a hurricane. Rats. But I JUST WON TEN MILLION DOLLARS!
I mean really now. All the other stuff pales in comparison to winning 10 million dollars.
As a Christian… isn’t that where our focus should be. Not on pretending the bad things didn’t happen. And not on the little things… a bird singing or a little flower blooming (although those things are beautiful). But our focus should be on the BIG THINGS. When I woke up this morning, I spent time with THE GOD OF THIS UNIVERSE. HE actually gives a ‘darn’ who I am… and listens to my prayers! Woah! I mean seriously now… THAT is freakin awesome. And today… today I get to be a small part of His plan! What he is doing in the world. I can actually join God in His work and what He is trying to accomplish in other people’s live. That rocks! And no matter what happens, in the end, I’m going to spend eternity with God… where He is. Now that is better than Disney World (although I just admit that Disney World is pretty great. Ever get a chance to see the look in a young girls eyes as she crosses the water in a ferry and suddenly realizes that Cinderella’s castle is RIGHT THERE!?!? I mean, the real thing!)
Just a side note… look at Cinderella herself. She is living with a wicked step-mother and two of the most annoying sisters on the face of the planet. Yet she is always ‘happy’. Isn’t that they world’s message? Just ‘be happy’. But where is her joy coming from? What does she have to be happy about? Does it really work like that? Just ‘be happy’? I don’t think so.
I’ve heard of many people who have suffered through the terrible tragedy of dealing with cancer. Some find themselves huddled in the corner of a hospital alone, miserable, and hopeless. I’m not saying that is a poor response. Trust me. I understand the devastation that it brings. But I also know other people that have gone through the same devastation and yet they have hope. When people visit the person in the hospital, they come away from the visit feeling like THEY were the ones getting encouraged… that the person with cancer had such a joy and a hopeful attitude about what God had planned for them in eternity… it was simply remarkable.
So I’m suggesting that the Bible doesn’t beckon us to be fake ‘happy’… or ignore the disheartening things. But think bigger than that. Find the things that really matter in life and in faith. Get excited about God and what he is doing. Get excited about spending eternity with God in heaven. And other things will start to pale in comparison. I believe my daughter has found that type of joy. A joy that lets her face her sun allergy with a giggle and a joke. It still stinks. But she’s got plenty to be happy about in life.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…” (Philippians 4:12)
I’ll just leave it at that. You can read Phillipians 4 if you want to know more about the secret that Paul learned. (By the way – this is Paul who spent a lot of time in prison because he spoke openly about his faith.)
I pray that you will find real joy in your life.
P.S. – Last night at the end of the day, my daughter did not react as much as other days to her sun allergy. After letting her read this post, she commented, with a laugh… “yeah, but on the bright side, like most weather men, I got it wrong.”