Joy and happiness. We all like it. We all want it. Emotional highs, instant gratification, comfort and peace, fuzzy things, the smell of spring, sex, and love are things that make us happy. And, we like to be happy don’t we? Even Peter, who so enjoyed the experience of Christ’s transfiguration, didn’t want it to end.
After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:1-4
Can you imagine this scene? Jesus leading Peter, James and John up a mountain and showing them His glory. Moses and Elijah suddenly appear before them. Can you image standing face to face with Moses, Elijah and the Son of God as they have a little powwow?! What a remarkable story!
Peter wanted to pitch his tent on that glorious mountain and stay there. Can you blame him? We all have memories of a time where our hearts were lit up and our minds were at peace. Times when things were going swimmingly and love was in the air. Maybe even choirs of angels were singing. Color was more colorful, and air in your lungs was the perfume of heaven. Life was good.
Unfortunately, God does not allow us to stay on the ‘mountaintop’. Eventually, we must all come down.
It has been my experience that most of life happens in the valley, not on the mountaintop. The cold, hard realities of life play out in the shadows of the great mountains. There, life happens; monotony in the everyday, and pain and deep sorrow.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Pain is every bit as real as joy.
When hard times hit in my life, I sometimes get the feeling that people view me as being a pessimist. So, I thought that I should explore to see if I am. I try not to be overly negative, but I call it like I see it.
What is pessimism? According to the World English Dictionary, these are the definitions:
1. the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things
2. the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good
3. the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man’s sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence
Definition #1, the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things
Do I expect the worst? A lot of times the answer is yes. How many times in the bible does God warn us of trouble in this life? . . . many times. How many times in the bible does God tell us that life will be smooth sailing? . . . zero. Does God tell us that the world is a magical, wonderful place? . . . not so much. My point is that trouble is something that we should expect because God told us to expect it.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. John 16:33
On the other hand, we can only expect the worst from the world, not from God. God only gives the best. . . . count on it!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16
It is so easy to expect the worst from everything including God. We tend to project our negative experiences on God as well as the world. Our negative experiences in our life are a result of the enemy, not of God. We must separate the two. The world disappoints . . . God never fails.
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5
Do I see the worst in all things? Absolutely not. I see the good in people and in the world and it moves me. I also see evil in people and things in the world and that moves me as well. It moves me to sorrow; Godly sorrow. Godly sorrow is a result of God opening our eyes not only to the beauty of who His is, but the reality of our world.
Definition #2, the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good
Do I believe in the doctrine of evil triumphing over good? Not even a little. We already have victory in Jesus. Nothing that we do or that happens can change that. HALLELUJAH!
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD. Proverbs 21:31
Definition #3, the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man’s sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence
Do I believe in this doctrine? I absolutely do! This statement hits the nail on the head! This life is full of corruption.
“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people”.” 2 Timothy 3:1-17
However, thankfully, the world is just a stepping stone. This is not our home.
“For our citizenship is in heaven” Philippians 3:20
So, am I a pessimist? Well, in those terms, I guess partly I am. But, are the previous attitudes wrong? That is the question.
Godly sorrow; we will suffer as Christ did
From childhood we are taught to deny pain. Let the past be the past, and move on. “Don’t cry, and don’t be sad,” we are told. We learn to take our hurt and woundedness and stick it down in the deepest, darkest parts of our being where it will never be seen or heard from again. Emotional wounds are viewed as shameful and must be hidden. . . . . and, why aren’t they healed already . . . geeez?! Get over it!
Just get over it. Great advice, right?!
When does it ever work to ‘just get over’ or ‘stuff’ our feelings? It doesn’t. It always finds a way to unstuff itself. Emotional wounds are like the lava from a volcano. It either oozes out over time leaving a path of destruction, or, it just blows. Either way, it is extremely destructive.
If we are followers of Christ, we will suffer as He did. And, living in this world will likely leave us wounded. It is better to accept that we will suffer and experience pain and face it head on.
“Sometimes we want to experience the glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him. We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.”
– Saeed Abedini – an American pastor who is currently imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith
What attitude toward the world is accurate and true? How do we know the right attitude to have? We must examine the attitude Jesus had. Let’s look in Matthew at the sermon on the mount.
The beatitudes fascinate me. They are so counterculture, and they are absolutely beautiful.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:3-11
I love these verses almost more than any others in scripture. They are music to my ears.
God allows us to feel our hurt and pain, and be in a place of sorrow without shame. He acknowledges our pain and suffering. Not only that but . . .
HE BLESSES US IN THAT PLACE!
Wow! He didn’t say, “come on, you ‘poor in spirit’, put on a happy face”; or, “be optimistic, look at the bright side,” or “chin up!” He never commands us to “snap out of it”. Jesus never asks us to be anything but real – PRAISE GOD!
Pain, persecution and suffering are real things in this life. To deny that is to deny reality. Allowing us to feel and experience sorrow is part of His healing. And in sorrow, He becomes more real to us than ever before. What a gift that is!
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Let’s remember that Christ came to turn things upside down. Or right side up?! He did not conform to the ways of the world. He preached that the ‘least of these’ will be blessed. This is not quite the way of the world where only the happy, healthy, optimistic people seem to be acceptable.
What were Jesus’s beliefs about the world based on the sermon on the mount? I would surmise that he saw the world as cruel (Matt 5:11), bland (5:13), dark (5:14), hostile (5:44), full of hypocrites (6:5,16), destructive & unsafe (6:19), difficult (7:13,14), and dangerous (7:15).
So, what was Jesus’s view toward the world? I think that this verse says it all:
“You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” Jesus replied Mathew 17:17
From these verses it would seem that Jesus’s attitude about the world was negative. But, these attributes were and are very real in our world then and now. Yet, He loved that same world so much, that he died to save it. That’s amazing!
The world is something to be overcome
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4
In His Word, God tells us that He has overcome the world. If God tells us that the world must be overcome, than we must assume certain things about the world. Anything that needs to be overcome is generally bad.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
My point is that the world isn’t a great, wonderful and magical place. It isn’t Oz! It’s more like Kansas, or maybe the tornado in a Wizard of Oz scenario!
Reality check –> The world is a place often full of darkness where more bad things happen than good.
Living a life free of sorrow is not likely, according to God’s Word.
If we are getting through our life without suffering of any kind, than we must do a check on ourselves. How much of our life are we living for God? Are we giving Him everything? Are we surrendering all or being safe?
In this country we strive to ‘have it all’, or achieve the ‘American Dream’. God has so much more planned for our life than the “American Dream”. He has a plan that may involve rejection, discomfort, suffering, and loneliness. But never forget, His plan also includes purpose, meaning and unimaginable love and peace. He wants us to experience His joy that is far beyond anything that we can comprehend.
If we are always chasing after happiness and optimism, than we are missing the point of this life. God puts us on this earth for a short while and asks us to do 2 simple things. 1) to love Him, and 2) to gather our brothers and sisters and bring them to Him. That’s it.
“let us resurrect our dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish ‘resurrected’ self and experiencing the cross of Jesus, then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.” – Saeed Abedini