Friday, November 25, 2011

The Misconception of Faith and Happiness

            For some reason I sometimes feel bad when I’m in a spiritually “Eeyore” type of mood.  I.e. just down on the brokenness of the world, sin in general and sin in my own life, the general ignorance of the spiritual realm people operate in, etc.  Yes the Lord gives me joy…but more in the eternal sense, knowing all the crap of “today” will one day be eliminated.  I feel bad because for whatever reason I feel like I’m either 1) being a negative influence on fellow Believers and/or 2) turning non-Believers off to Christianity because who would want to join faith of a bunch of sulking adherents?  But why should I feel bad about not always having a fake smile on my face though?  Am I not emulating Christ’s very own proportional human disposition when the burden of living in this mortal coil manifests itself in my mood?  Shouldn’t our heart’s break for the fallenness of the world just as much as his always did?  

Listen, I am not a Christian because if makes me feel better about myself, or primarily really for any emotional benefit it gives me (though that is one positive side effect).  In fact, the contrary is true.  But isn’t that the point of the Gospel of Christianity?  It’s not here to dispose of niceties and high fives…it’s here to dish out the truth…which is basically how screwed up the world is because of how screwed up we are as individuals.  The Gospel’s message isn’t initially meant to be joy-inducing.  When you’re drowning in the ocean and someone in a boat yells, “You’re drowning!”, you don’t exactly respond with happiness.  The joy comes from the result of accepting the hand that pulls you up from your sinking under the water to the dark depths, accepting the reality of the fallenness of man and ourselves...and realizing the debt owed has been paid, yet paid by a most assuredly not-so-happy set of circumstances.  It reminds me of the story Philip Yancey recounts in his book The Jesus I Never Knew of when Marco Polo first encountered asians in his expeditions west.  They did not want to see the murals of a crucified Jesus of his foreign religion, but were more drawn to the idyllic pieces of baby Jesus and his holy mother.  This aversion of the “difficult” aspects of Christianity exists even today, even with Believers.  I’ve even met some "Christians" that haven’t seen and won’t watch The Passion of the Christ because of how violent it is.  WTH?! You’re not a Christian if you can’t handle what your Savoir had to go through to save you (we know enough of the punishment Christ went through that Gibson’s rendition is across the board considered an accurate portrayal).  But this aversion of the hard stuff is just a symptom of a deeper missing piece in these folk in that they don’t want to face the real sin disease of the world and of their very own hearts.

Christ himself said being a Christian "will basically suck in this world".  I’m paraphrasing John 16:33 of course but that’s essentially what he’s saying.  For someone to say “hey you’re not smiling or happy all the time, why would I want to join your faith?” is so logically inconsistent and anti-truth it’s not even funny.  If I was to join a faith solely based on it making me feel better and happy and smiling all the time I’d join the Raelian Movement, definitely not Christianity and all the cross-bearing it demands.

Of course the counter-point to all this is that even though the world is very difficult often Christians should still have a positive outlook and a peace always despite the crap of the world.  I agree with this and I think I do generally have a positive, peaceful outlook (people often comment how I, on the outside, seem to see usually the good in people and situations, except my own life, but that’s not for here).  I’ve also met and read about other Christians live in, or have lived in, really crappy situations, but remain super positive and joyful throughout and after them.  That would seem to contradict my assertions above?  Well not exactly.  Because even though joy is present, or should be, in all circumstance, that joy is based in eternal truths related to who God is, not in temporal happiness, or lack thereof, of the current circumstance.  Also, sometimes life just is heavy and you need to express that heaviness.  I mean Jesus expressed that more than once.  Yes, he had a burden way beyond anything we could experience, but it’s all relative right? 

Anyways, I’m getting too analytical at this point.  I just wanted to make the point that being a spiritual Eeyore is not necessarily a bad or truth-void disposition.  And I surely don’t apologize for it to people that find it oft-putting or unattractive.  I think it indicates a properly perspective on a fallen world.  That said, without the Gospel, that perspective will remain in hopelessness.  The Gospel gives us the truth yes, but it follows up with hope.  And hope converts into joy once it’s fully realized.  That’s why even in my “this world sucks” moods I can be 100% accurate, 100% joyfully hopeful, and 100% Christian.

To further paraphrase Jesus’ words in John…things won’t suck forever.

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