This little planet can be depressing at times. I picked up a magazine this week and came across three quotes that made me realize how desperate we are for a little hope.
The first quote was an odd mix of funny and sad. Country singer Kenny Chesney had a very short lived and well publicized marriage to actress Renee Zellweger. His description of the pain he was feeling was like a parody of a bad country song. You know what I am talking about. Songs like My Girl Ran Off With My Best Friend and I Sure Do Miss Him. Chesney compared the pain of losing that relationship to “having someone come in and take the big-screen TV off the wall during the big game, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Perhaps we have found a key to the breakdown of this marriage. I don’t want to make light of a broken covenant but what a shallow analogy to describe the break. I would suggest that the unravelling of a marriage should be far more painful than losing electronics…even during the big game.
The next quote came from writer Albert Camus. “It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.” To slightly modify an old Paul McCartney and Wings lyric…”I’m so sorry, Uncle Albert…but you haven’t learned a bloody thing at all.”
I have been on both sides of the money thing. And I can tell you without reservation and snobbery free that money is unrelated to happiness. Happiness is seeing my wife at the end of a long day. Enjoying dinner with my wonderful sons (and daughter in laws). Laughing with friends. Being greeted by a Labrador retriever that thinks I am the greatest human being.
Happiness is watching a baby toddle. A child smile. An elderly couple look at one another with that look that only decades can develop. Happiness is seeing the sun rise and hearing the birds welcome that sight. Happiness is connecting with the one who made me. That is what I was created for and my happiness is found in the simplest things of life. There is joy all around us. I choose to look for those things. Yet life happens and joy is a bit harder to choose.
In his letter to the church at Corinth Paul made the amazing statement that “I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles.” 2 Cor 7:4 (MSG)
Where does that attitude come from? I can guarantee it doesn’t come from money. Money cannot buy happiness. Because we can “rent” what appears to be happiness for a season our culture confuses money with real happiness.
The third quote comes from author Thomas Wolfe who has reached the same conclusion as King Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Wolfe wrote that “Man was born to live, to suffer, and to die, and what befalls him is a tragic lot. There is no denying this in the final end. But we must deny it along the way.”
Mr. Wolfe is a brilliant writer and man. But he stopped a bit short of truth in my opinion. Man is born to live. A fallen world will produce suffering for all of us along the way. Dying is a pretty safe assumption. And tragedy does befall many if not most of us. I don’t deny a thing that Wolfe said except that we must deny those things. I choose to embrace life. I accept suffering because I am in relationship with a God who understands suffering and offers comfort that is inexplicable. I have looked tragedy in the face and found peace. Jesus had a thought or two on joy and it’s source.
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. John 15 (MSG)
I am no where close to saying that my joy is wholly mature. But I have hope as I write this. Hope that transcends big screens, money, and the difficulties of life. I have hope because I have found the source of joy. Paul wrote a joyful letter to the church at Philippi.
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life Phil 4 (MSG)
It really is wonderful. If your hope is a quart low there is no shortage. But you have to want to be refilled.