The Messed-Up World: Having a Realistic Perspective of Life

IMG_20180522_182606897Will it hurt? Will I be afraid? Will I be lonely? Will I mess up? Will I hate it? Will I be bored? Will I want to die?

It’s no secret I struggle with fear of the future. Recently I’ve seen dread stealing joy. Memorial day weekend was a beautiful three-day weekend; but some of the bliss of an extra day off from work was masked by dread of starting work again. If I get to bed on time, I can have the peace of knowing I can sleep for the next eight hours; but sometimes that peace is stolen by the dread of waking up. I love school and enjoy so many aspects of being at Cornerstone University; but sometimes the blessings of school is darkened by my dread of what happens after I graduate.

How frustrating it is to so often not be able to appreciate the joys I have right in front my face. But what I realized recently is that I actually don’t even have to ask these haunting questions anymore; I already have the answers: yes, yes, and yes to all of the above.

Honestly folks, don’t try to tell me otherwise. In the future, I will hurt, I will be afraid, I will be lonely, I will mess up, I will hate life, I will be bored, and I will want to die. After A shattered flowerpot on a windowsillall, the author of Philippians put it well, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” We live in a sinful, broken, painful but temporary world. We who are sincerely pursuing a relationship with Christ are called to be soldiers in the battle on this world. That means we’re going to get hurt, we’re going to get tired, and we’re going to go through some really rough patches. But, after the Fall, this is the way the world is and–in a manner of speaking–it’s quite the way it’s supposed to be.

The significance of this may not be clear at first. After all, how can such depressing news lead to anything but dread of the future?! But see, perspective is powerful.

The first thing this realization does is remind me that life on earth is temporary and it’s not the worst thing that could happen if it doesn’t go great. I mean, if my entire life–every second of it–were to be wholly rotten, as soon as I was resurrected, the temporary pain would be completely past and absolutely nothing in comparison to eternity.

Secondly, this realization helps me to reorient my expectations. If I expect that happiness and ease are owed me, then it makes sense for me to fear their leaving. Today I might fear tomorrow’s happiness being stolen because I am deserving of that pleasure tomorrow, but I know I don’t always have it. Therefore, I fear being cheated. However, to recognize that pleasure isn’t something I can expect means that I don’t have to fear it not existing tomorrow.

Image result for lawn mowerConsider this: if you were to borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower, would you, whilst mowing your lawn, dread the moment you have to return it? I would hope not. Instead you’re likely to be grateful to have it in the moment. Indeed, if pleasure is not something guaranteed, but is, instead borrowed in a way, then it becomes a pleasant surprise when offered. It is easier to enjoy the extra day off from work, the eight hours of sleep, or the current situation in school, because these pleasures are not guaranteed, so we don’t try to possess them. At the same time, they aren’t inherently expected–so they are also a beautiful surprise.

C. S. Lewis in his book, The Screwtape Letters, points out that man, expecting his free time to be wholly “his,” becomes upset when something is required of him during this moment. But, how narrow-minded this is! God has gifted each man with every breath he breathes. If we, instead, expect to use our time for God’s glory, the times that he provides for our individual rest will be accepted in gratitude instead of demanded in selfish pride.

Therefore, going through life expecting it to be painful and hard and, sometimes, wretched, in an ironic way, opens my eyes to the beauty and joy and pleasures that I am offered in the present. 

I feel I ought to note also that having this realistic perception of the fallenness of the world doesn’t inherently mean we cannot always be joyful (1 Thessalonians 5:16) or cannot always sense God’s peace that surpasses understanding (Philipians 4:7). I wholeheartedly believe that, because we know how the story ends, we can still experience these blessings, even without being blind to the painful situation Earth is in. Faith is not a feeling and feeling lonely or scared or like a failure is inevitable sometimes. However, these feelings need not define us.

Overall, then, I call Christians to a realistic perception of the world: it stinks. “Smile, Jesus Image result for smile jesus loves youloves you” isn’t inherently wrong by any means, but we also can’t expect that all the time. We should live fully aware that we are soldiers fighting a bloody battle, aware that we’ll often lie sleepless at night bearing the burdens of the world, and that there will be days where we’d much rather take the gain of death than the life of Christ.

But, in all of this, there is a peace and a joy that comes with the release of the “American dream.” Enjoy every blessing that God offers you right now. But don’t worry about what will come tomorrow. Your pleasure isn’t expected tomorrow, it’s expected in the next life.

 

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I Feel Like I’m a Failure: Putting Feelings in Perspective

people man cry sad tree sunset bokeh outdoor nature

June 6, 2016.”This morning I awoke in my normal weekday mind set…” I read this as I looked back back in my journal from last year, “…and completely detested life.” Well, I guess some things just never change. Can anybody relate?

Interpersonal communication is communication between two or more people. This is what most of my school-year posts were about. Intrapersonal communication is the communication that occurs internally. It’s the conversations you have with yourself in your own brain. When working 40+ hours at a job I don’t necessarily love, I need to focus more on intrapersonal communication–which explains the last numerous blog posts…and this current one.

The battle I find myself fighting so hard for is that of having a good attitude, being content, joyful always, and hopeful–all the things I like to shove in my readers’ faces (yes, I’m a hypocrite). Truth be told, I write these blog posts to myself as much as to anyone else. But what happens after I write all these things, after I instruct you to look for the positives, to see work as a service and purpose-provider, to keep the future perfection in mind, to communicate the hope we as Christians have? What happens after I instruct all these things but don’t feel like anything has changed? What happens when I still Image result for waking upwake up most mornings and scowl at the fact that I’m still breathing? Where did I go wrong?

I could be wrong, but this past week I had a revelation.  It was one of those revelations that come in the form of a bold, random thought that shocks you because you didn’t think you had it in you to think like that. This is otherwise known as God speaking, I believe. Anyway, my thought was, “what if using feelings and emotions to measure my accomplishments in the area of joyfulness, contentment, hope, and peace is the wrong form of measurement?

Perhaps you roll your eyes at me and think, “Duh. That’s not a revelation.” But to me it was. I try so hard to think of work as being a service. I try so hard to think of it as being prep work for heaven. But I feel like I fail because I awake in the morning with my grumpy face on, I count down the minutes at work wishing time away, and happiness seems so distant and so desperately short lived.

But what if being content were different from feeling content? What if being joyful weren’t the same as feeling joyful? What if I can use my time at work as a service just by knowing it can be and not by feeling all warm and fuzzy for helping others? What if I am  using my time as prep for heaven simply by having heaven on my mind even if I’m not jumping up and down with excitement? What if trust doesn’t have to mean I feel safe? What if courage doesn’t have to mean I feel strong? What if love doesn’t have to feel romantic?

night blue sky stars galaxies trees plant silhouette light lightning storm Especially in our culture, we are told to “follow your heart.” We’re told that your emotions should determine who you pursue, what you pursue, and how long you pursue it. Granted, your likes and dislikes, gifts and talents need to be taken into account when making decisions. But emotions are not the end all be all. I love David Dunn‘s song “Lightning Storm,” as its lyrics make some good points in a culture whose songs normally preach following any and all feelings: “So stop existing for what you’re feeling. Open your mind up and let the truth in.”

If these things were true–that feelings don’t accurately measure how much I’m growing, it could mean I am trusting God, I am serving through work, I am prepping for heaven, I am living with hope, I have joy…even when I don’t feel it. That would mean that waking up angry doesn’t mean I’m failing.

Granted, recognizing this isn’t going to change anything. There is no easy fix to trudging through work. I have a feeling I’m still going to have an awful lot of bad days in the upcoming weeks. But it’s encouraging to think that this lack of positive feelings isn’t proof of anything really. Feeling like a failure doesn’t make me one.

Feeling unhappy isn’t fun. But recognizing that my feelings don’t define me, I can see them as they are: feelings. They don’t have inherent significance nor do they speak truth all the time. And a side bonus of putting feelings aside is that often if you force your feelings to give superiority to reality, your feelings will eventually submit.

Don’t let your feelings define you. Seek out the truth.

people man alone bible book wall bench I believe God has a purpose for each person he creates and that he loves you with a love deeper than you can ever know. You matter and he won’t let you fail life if you turn to him.

Let me know your thoughts. I love hearing back from readers 🙂