Good Days, And Bad
I remain deeply touched by the wisdom in Phillip Strickhausen's prayer during last Sunday evening's worship service. As he prayed us into 2017, Phillip asked God to give us blessings in the coming year, and also to help us with the trials and tribulations that will surely come our way. The sober realization that not every day will be delightful reflects the Bible's teachings about who we really are and about the lives we really live, and contradicts the contemporary notion that the quality of our life is measured by the broad width of constant smiles. This article is written to present the Bible's teaching about the nature of man and the nature of life.
"Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Released in 1988, Don't Worry, Be Happy was a worldwide pop music hit by singer Bobby McFerrin. The song neatly summarized the (then) growing pop cultural, pop psychological, and pop religious dogma of "Positive Psychology." Rooted in uniquely American optimism, in the humanistic psychologies of the 1960s, and in the "Positivity/Possibility Gospel" of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller, Positive Psychology now dominates American social and religious thinking with its "moral imperative to stay cheerful." Positive Psychology and its religious counterparts teach, in other words, that psychologically healthy and religiously faithful people Don't Worry, Be Happy without fail.
Stand by for irony: Bobby McFerrin's life ended in suicide and Robert Schuller's "Crystal Cathedral" ministry ended in bankruptcy.
Critically evaluating Positive Psychology, Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/straight-talk/201306/dont-worry-be-happy) asked, "Does Positive Psychology Have a Dark Underside?" and found reason to doubt "the relentless promotion of positive thinking" saying,
This value...leads to an insidious type of oppression that marginalizes and silences those who are suffering...and judges them as failures...There is a limited tolerance for sadness, and other painful emotional experiences.
Stand by for more irony: Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychology, had "a pessimistic perspective...And emphasized the importance of acknowledging and accepting the hardships, cruelties and indignities of life."
Several of our members are struggling with chronic illnesses and with chronic pain, are supporting family members who are suffering with chronic life issues, and are enduring other kinds of unhappinesses that appear to be chronic. How foolish, and how heartless, to somehow assume that they are to be blamed because they are disheartened. Instead, we ought to "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15).
Go Ahead And Worry Sometimes, And Be Unhappy Occasionally
Weeping with those who weep recognizes three important truths about who we really are and about the lives we really live. The first truth is that life includes things that lead to weeping. The second important truth is that healthy and faithful people must incorporate weeping within their world view, and also must possess the capacity to weep. The third truth is that others need to be responsive and supportive to those who are enduring life's dark seasons.
And life does have dark seasons:
- Following the Fall of man, God condemned us to,
"Cursed...ground...In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you... By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return (Gen. 3:17-19).
- Solomon wrote that man's "days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest" (Ecl. 2:23).
- Jesus' first two Beatitudes are "Blessed are the poor in spirit," and "Blessed are those who mourn" (Mt. 5:3-4).
- Paul described our internal struggles between good and evil impulses as "wretched" (Rom. 8:18).
- Peter concluded that “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls" (I Pet. 2;24).
Conclusion: A Question Of Balance
As is always the case, all of the Bible's teaching on a subject must be blended in order to understand its truth. We cannot ignore the Bible's teachings about the dark clouds that will occasionally shadow us in 2017, just as we cannot dismiss the Bible's teaching about the light at the end of the tunnel. "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18).