The New Happy

Why is it that at the epicenter of life’s greatest joys these days I find myself being the saddest?  Why, in life’s happiest moments do I  find myself unable to escape the merciless reminders that all is not well?  That’s what I’ve been thinking about the past few days…and I think I’m  making progress on an answer.

As Karla and I lay in bed very late in the evening on Christmas Eve at her parents’ home she said to me, “You looked so sad tonight….” She was right.  I knew I looked that way because I was…even though I tried my best not to look that way.  I am awful at this kind of hypocrisy.  Some people never leave a single thought unspoken.  Most of us don’t like to be around such people for long.  My tendency is not to let a single emotion unexpressed on my face, no matter how hard I try.  This is probably only a little bit less annoying than the one who cannot but speak every thought.

We had already been to two Christmas Eve services…one at our own church, but each special in their own right.  We had experienced the joy of watching everyone open their gifts…especially the young children.  And yet, all I could think about was how very sad it would be if I could not enjoy these kinds of moments in exactly the same manner as I was enjoying them that very evening.  Why? On an average day the upcoming brain surgery is not constantly on my mind.  However, at the times of greatest happiness and joy, sorrow seems to pursue me like a bloodhound on a fresh kill.

Here’s what I’m thinking.  Everything in this life is designed by an Almighty God in such a way as to make each of us wholly unsatisfied with this world alone, or the things in it to bring us ultimate joy.  The human heart longs for something more than the ephemeral things of earth. We were made for eternity not for the manifest limitations that this physical world can offer us in the here and now.

Many of you are aware of the scientific law called the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  I think it was Newton who figured this one out.  This law states that any closed system left to itself tends toward greater randomness; that is, it breaks down.  It takes an ordered input of energy to keep anything together.  This law is also a big reason why I cannot be a macro-evolutionist…but that’s for another day.

The Law of Thermodynamics is designed to describe material systems but it seems to apply equally well in the spiritual realm as well.  Christianity is not a momentary experience or emotion at a singular point in time.  Being a follower of Jesus means that one has entered the fight of faith.  Unless there is a continual input of energy…the Bible, prayer, personal spiritual disciplines and the like, there will be no vibrant faith, but rather a dormant seed that awaits an energy input.  And so, when joy eludes me most in these waiting days, I must remember that this world is not my home.  My family, regardless of how much I love them all, do not really belong to me as a private possession.

One other thing I also know.   I really do need others.   Proverbs 18:1-2 says “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinions.”  A person can sit at his computer at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, like I’m doing right now, and take some pleasure in expressing his opinions.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all, for in five hours the sun will come up and another day will begin.  And what will I do then?

Proverbs 18:10 says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”  The word “name” respresents the totality of a person’s being.  So, the name of the LORD means all that Scripture reveals about the person and works of God.  This is the tower to which I must relentlessly run.  I trust that the LORD will give me the nitro to “run” faster than the impressive speed of sorrow on the wings of joy.  Knowing is not doing, but it does help.  Someone told me last year that brown was the new black.  I think I’m understanding something more of the new happy.

And, just so you know, I have no intention of evading joy with the family just because as of late, it also brings sorrow.  The more I age the more everything about this world makes me long for the eternal joys of heaven that will never end.  Loved ones get sick and die.  Dreams are born and can just as quickly die.  Beautiful homes can be built and then devastated by two hundred year floods and an F5 tornado in one fifteen year span, as some in Iowa can attest to.  But the LORD is my rock and my fortress…the strength of my life and my portion forever (Psalm 73:25).

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4 thoughts on “The New Happy”

  1. As always, Mike, you express yourself beautifully and precisely. You have a gift for crystallizing those sometimes nebulous thoughts and allowing each of us to know exactly what you’re feeling. I also appreciate that in the midst of your honesty and transparency, you always turn back to The One who formed and loved you.

    Proverbs 18:10 made me think of one of my favorite verses in Hebrews 12, “Therefore… let us run with endurance the race marked out before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith…”

    And Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

    Keep running, brother!
    In His Grip,
    Adele

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  2. Mike,
    you speak so eloquently… ( i geuss that is good, since IT IS YOUR LIVELIHOOD to put into words what most all of us feel in life and equate it back to what God would have for us to see… feel … most importantly CHOOSE!!!
    THIS WORD “CHOOSE” HAS BEEN SO OVER DONE IN THIS HOUSEHOLD OF MINE, BUT IT IS THE WORD OF LIFE IN MY SIMPLE OPINION….
    I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TODAY AND AS YOU WALK THIS DIFFICULT JOURNEY… THAT YOU ARE JUST WHERE GOD WANTS YOU….
    as you well know, he is perfecting himself in you… you are facing and feeling things that you maybe personally have never faced… until we face some of LIFE’S CHALLENGES… WE CAN ONLY THEN RECOGNIZE WHAT IT IS TO LABOR WITH OTHERS IN AREAS OR PATHS WE HAVE NOT CROSSED… AND AS YOU SAID, I BELIEVE… OR MAYBE HAVE QUOTED AT SOME POINT… BACK TO PHILLIPIANS..
    “FOR ME TO DIE TO SELF IS BUT TO GAIN CHRIST”… YOU ARE BUT ACTUALLY WALKING THRU THIS IN THE BIGGEST AND MOST SELFLESS WAY YOU CAN RIGHT NOW….
    ALL THE EMOTIONS YOU ARE FEELING ARE TRUE AND OK… AS LONG AS YOU KEEP LOOKING BACK TO THE CROSS… AND THE PURPOSE CHRISTS DEATH AND RESSURECTION MEANS TO YOU IN THIS LIFE…. YOU ARE BEING A STUDENT IN A NEW GAME, SO TO SPEAK.
    THIS IS NOT OF ANY SURPRISE TO YOU.. AND YOU HAVE MOST UNDOUBTEDLY HAVE SHARED THIS MANY A TIME WITH YOU CHURCH FAMILY AND FRIENDS… BUT OH, HOW DIFFEENT IT IS WHEN IT HITS US RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES….
    WE MOST ARROGANTLY THINK… WE WILL FACE UP TO ANYTHING AS LONG AS WE ARE WALKING WITH THE LORD IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIP…..
    I ONLY CAN ATTEST TO THIS AS I TOO HAVE WALKED A JOURNEY THAT HAS BROUGHT NUMEROUS TIMES, WITHIN SUCH SHORT TIMES IN BETWEEN, WHERE IT ALMOST SEEMED AS IF THE FIRING SQUAD WAS TO NEVER STOP….BUT… GOD IN HIS GRACIOUSNESS CARRIED ME AND MY FAMILY,,, I RECOGNIZED, FELT IT, AND GLORIFIED HIM FOR THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO DO SO…… BUT IN THE AFTER MATH, I WAS LEFT, AT A MUCH LATER TIME, NOT UNDERSTANDING WHERE AND WHY GOD LEFT?
    HE NEVER LEFT.. HE ALLOWED ME TO CHOOSE OR WALK A JOURNEY I DIDN’T FULLY UNDERSTAND… I COULD UNDERSTAND WHEN ALL THE PAIN WAS UP FRONT.. AND I TRULY GAVE HIM ALL THE GLORY… IT WAS IN THE AFTERMATH THAT THE LONELINESS… PAIN… A SADNESS I’D NEVER KNOWN….. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND THIS….
    THIS WAS WHEN EVERYTHING HAD SETTLED SO TO SPEAK… THINGS WERE BEGINNING TO BE WORKED THRU OR SOMEWHAT.. OR TO WHAT EVER KIND OF UNDERSTANDING WE COULD MAKE OF WHAT HAD OCCURRED IN SUCH VERY LONG & WEARY YEARS….
    I KNEW MENTALLY … “ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD….
    I TRULY BELIEVED IT, WALKED IT, AND PROCLAIM IT.
    BUT GOD IN HIS GRACIOUOSNESS, HAS ONLY WITH IN THE LAST MONTH, OR SO ALLOWED ME TO START ACTUALLY FEEL HIS PRESENCE FULLY AGAIN… OPENED BLINDED EYES THAT I THOUGHT WERE SO CLEAR AND AWARE OF HIS WORK IN ME….
    I TRULY AM ONLY BEGINNING TO HAVE SOME UNDERSTANDING… GOD BEING GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO ALLOW ME THE LITTLE HE HAS…
    WHAT I DO KNOW IS THAT HE IS WORTHY TO BE PRAISED IN EVERY AND ALL THINGS EVEN WHEN WE MIGHT NOT FEEL HIS PRESSENCE OR IT FEELS AS THOUGH HE IS SO DISTANT… AS YOU KNOW, AND HAVE SHARED, THAT IS WHEN OUR FAITH IS BEING PERFECTED IN US…..
    HIS PURPOSE WILL PREVAIL… AS WE CHOOSE TO CONTINUE TO HONOR HIM IN EVERY EMOTION, FEELING, SORROW, THAT COMES…. MIKE I HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED BY YOUR HONESTY. IT HAS ALLOWED ME TO MAYBE EVEN SEE MORE CLEARLY WHY I HAVE GONE THROUGH THE FIRE AND HAVE COME OUT MORE CLOSELY KNIT TO MY FATHER IN HEAVEN… EVEN WHEN I THINK HOW COULD I LOVE AND TRUST HIM MORE HE KEEPS REFINING THIS OLD MIND, BODY AND SOUL AS I ALLOW HIM… OH, THAT I MAY BE LIKE HIM….
    I HAVE GONE THRU TIMES AND STILL FEEL LIKE TO BE WITH HIM FAR OUT WAYS ANYTHING IN THIS LIFE…HE HAS GIVEN ME THE ASSURANCE THAT IN ALL THINGS I CAN TRUST HIM…..
    NOT JUST BECAUSE HE SAYS IT, BUT BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN REAL TO ME IN WAYS THAT ONLY MY PERSON CAN IDENTIFY WITH AND HIM… JUST AS HE IS BEING TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.
    IT WILL BE USED BY HIM, UNTIL I MEET HIM, WHEN HE SO CHOOSES, FOR HIS GLORY……

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING… AND ALLOWING ME TO SHARE MY OWN HEART…..
    HE HAS ALREADY WON YOUR BATTLE.
    ALL THE EMOTION THAT COMES WITHIN THIS SIGNIFICANT BATTLE ARE GOOD TO BE FELT AND EXPRESSED AND GIVEN UP TO HIM….
    HIS WILL BE DONE IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN….

    I KNOW THAT IS YOUR HEART… BUT HE DID LEAVE US WITH RAW HUMAN EMOTION…. CONTINUE TO LET IT FLOW….
    ( EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF THAT HAS TO SAY IT ALL WEATHER IS NEEDS SAID OR NOTAND AT MANY TIMES, POSSIBLY FALLING ON DEAF EARS…) BUT FOR SOME, THAT IS HOW WE ARE WIRED…
    WE HAVE TO LEARN THE SKILL OF LISTENING SOMETIMES MORE THAN TALK….hee-hee

    MIKE, BE BLESSED TODAY, I WILL BE PRAYING ESPECIALLY FOR YOU AND YOURS TODAY.. AND CONTINUE AS YOU WALK THIS JOURNEY IN YOUR LIFE….I WILL BE LIFTING UP TO OUR HEAVENLY FATHER!!!!
    AMEN AND AMEN!!!!!!!
    HE IS WORTHY!!!
    HE IS ALMIGHTY AND WORTHY OF MY PRAISE FROM THE VERY DEPTHS OF MY SOUL

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  3. I’ve often wondered if Jesus often had sadness and joy, as you are experiencing. Surely He must have, don’t you think? Most definitely at the Last Supper, for what you desribe is also described in the account of it. I struggle with labeling this dual emotion as being double minded, because I experience this, and it greatly bothers me at times. (Maybe because I cannot control it? Maybe because the world says, “Be happy at Christmas!” I’ll have to think on that.)

    I have to say that after reading your post, I think of it more as solidifying to you, and those close to you, exactly where your strength comes from, and the end to which He is bringing you, the perfection of your faith.

    Maybe you, like I, have asked yourself, “What if something big comes along? Will I deny Christ?” Maybe not…but I’ve asked that. I know how weak my flesh is, how I’ve wrestled with the Lord. And then I realize, by His grace no doubt, it isn’t about how weak my flesh is, it’s about how strong His love is. Love never fails, though from where I stand, it sure sometimes appears like it does.

    Imagine the sorrow in His heart to know that we are separated from Him, when we were created for Him. And yet the joy that is set before Him, redemption through His sacrifice! A paradox of the cross…at least from where I stand. So the sorrow you experience is that you are confronted with a very real possibility of being separated from those you love, wouldn’t anyone feel that way? And so He is yet revealing another part of Himself to you, molding you into the image of His Son!

    Psalm 103….Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits….

    As always, I am encouraged.
    Deborah

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  4. Thanks! The struggles of your heart are a familiar thing to me. In my daily walk with Him I am learning some of the same things you are expressing. I hope to meet you one day…either here or there…

    Tony Dye

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