“Put on something happy!” said the man eating at the same hole-in-the-wall restaurant as me.
The server was confused. The man pointed to the newscast featured on wall-mounted television and repeated his statement accompanied by an unnecessary gesture, “Put something happy on the TV!” I understood what the man meant. It could have been asked with more civility, but I like happy stuff as much as the next person. We base our lives on feelings or circumstances more than we would like to admit. Ebola health crises, the Middle East, Robin Williams’ suicide, human trafficking, immigration reform, natural disasters, government waste, injustice, prejudice, death, bankruptcy, and unemployment, along with the loss of health, loved ones, and comfort zones overwhelm us all. Deep down, most of us would prefer it all disappear. We don’t want to think about it.
Life is real and not all happy. Sure, we could use more optimism, but none of these issues go away by changing the TV channel. We can do our best to ignore things that don’t make us happy. Yet that would lead to a phony, unrealistic, and disillusioned life. How should we respond when the circumstances of life are seemingly negative?
Let’s look for God’s handiwork. I am not saying God is the cause of any tragedy. Why he allows bad things to happen is beyond me, yet I trust him. I’m the last guy to ask what I think about bad things happening to godly people. It doesn’t make sense, and some days, I don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes it really is between you and God to sort out.
At the same time, I proclaim God’s sovereignty. This is not a trite response as if to hide behind the “God’s got it all in his hands” explanation. But he does. Keeping our faith grounded in Jesus Christ is saying we believe and behave like he knows what he’s doing. Do you trust him in all things? I need a God who knows what he’s doing.
As Christians, we are the hands and feet needed every day to help others. Funds are needed for hospitals to fight disease in Africa. Advocates need to address human trafficking and immigration issues. Everyone I know needs the comfort of a Christ-like friend due to difficult circumstances of life. All of this is possible because we belong to Christ. He loves and cares for us, and we are mandated to do the same for others.
Christians cannot base their lives on feelings either. Ultimate contentment, even happiness, is found through our personal relationship with Jesus coupled with serving others. The man who demanded the television channel be switched also said, “If I don’t see it, I don’t have to deal with it.” That is not the heart or response of Christ. His eyes are not buried into the ground. He sees the injustice and sin, the outcast and troubled. He took compassion on all. Jesus takes action in people’s lives because everyone has an eternal soul meant for eternity with him.
Put on something happy. Live optimistically with Christ’s help and offer his hope. Put on the eyes, mind, and heart of Jesus as you live in a world so desperately in need of his help.
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.