When I left the last post, I shared that, in general (and definitely not every Christian I know) Christians live as relatively joyless lives on this earth as non-Christians. I know of many who are very joyful people but, I’m really making a broad brush statement that I feel has validity. So much so that there have been books written under that premise. One of those, The Slumber of Christianity by Ted Dekker, stirred me to write some of my own thoughts about this issue.
As I indicated in the last post, I had a discussion with a long time friend of mine about the pursuit of “stuff” always being greater than the actual obtaining of it. I mean, remember the anticipation of Christmas? I remember that I sprung out of bed at some ungodly hour as if shot out of a cannon. All because I wanted to see what “Santa” brought. I can’t remember ANY of those gifts that I tore through (well, maybe a couple like the vibrating football field where players vibrated up and down the field all in pursuit of a little felt football…what a great game…or my hockey game that had a REAL overhead scoreboard that dropped the puck onto center ice where players attached to long metal rods could be moved up and down the ice and twisted left or right by the knobs to shoot and SSSCCCCCOOOOOORRRREEEE because they were attached to those rods…another great game). But, I do remember the great joy in anticipating that morning. And, more significantly, I remember my kids getting up so blasted early and coming in to stare at Sue and I just patiently waiting for us to catch a glimpse of them so we would get out of bed….it’s kind of the same look our Golden Retriever gives us every morning so we’ll feed her ;-).
So, if that’s the case that we enjoy the anticipation of something more than actually getting it, it makes sense to me that if our hope is in the “stuff” of life, we continually need to be in pursuit of it because once we get it, it fails to deliver the same sense of satisfaction and joy that pursuing it gives us. So, how should it be different from those who are followers of Christ?
Ted Dekker makes this statement in his book that “the general failure of life to produce the happiness of achieving dreams is especially interesting for Christians because, judging by their actions rather than their claims, Christianity on the whole are no more happy (or joyful) than people of other (or no) faith(s).” It’s the open secret of the church—we make all kinds of incredible calims based on the holy Scriptures, but our lives are pretty much the same as the lives of the unchurched…But on the whole, Christianity has failed to satisfactorily respond to the glaring observations that Christians, despite a tendency to describe themselves as happy, are in practice no more happy than non-Christians. Our religion’s answer has been predictable: Seek more, sin less, and have faith. Then you will find happiness in your marriage and on earth. Most Christians have followed this mantra in spurts, yet they invariably end up dissatisfied with the results. Their marriages still fail. Their jobs are still downsized. Their cars still break down. Their health still wanes. And they still can’t seem to find enough faith to ignore their general predicaments in life or embrace the great happiness they once had as naive children. As a result, Christians settle for less and call it being content in much the same way the world settles for less and calls it content. Christianity, it turns out, looks less and less like a child’s blissful Christmas, and more like a long slide down the hill of hard realities shared by humans in general. Why?”
Now, many of you may be thinking the same things that have crossed my mind: Just because we’re followers of Christ doesn’t exempt us from the hard realities of life. That may seem to be what Ted is advocating but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, when those things of life happen, how should the story look different from those of us who are Christians from those who aren’t? I’d like to explore this for a few more posts. So, maybe you can think about those times when you find yourself in pure joy and how you respond to the fact that this life doesn’t provide the satisfaction our souls seek? And, do you put on the mask to say, “I’m content…it’s OK…I’ll be all right” while all the time you are just as discouraged as ones who have no hope outside of this world? Should it be different (I’m not saying that we don’t have sorrow, troubles, trials and difficulties but I am asking if our ultimate deep felt response should be different than for non-Christians)? Until next post….