At the end of last year, this meme was going around.
Last year seemed to be more than a little rough for most people I talked to. There were lots of people with cancer diagnoses and other sicknesses, some marriages and other relationships crumbled, celebrities (and loved ones) died, and let’s not even mention the political season.
As we entered 2017, so many people around me breathed a sigh of relief to be starting fresh in a new year. Sadly, depending on who you ask, 2017 hasn’t shown much improvement so far. This New Year was born screaming - and appears to be colicky. What if this year is no better than the last? What if it’s worse? How much of this can I take?
Tired of my griping, I sat with a friend of mine and nearly wailed, “I don’t want to be so negative! How can I be joyful when there’s so much ugliness and grief?” And my friend very gently said, “You have to go search for it!” And, she’s so right!
We used to say we live in a fallen world with only a slight shrug. Now, it seems, we say it with the same resignation as a cancer diagnosis. Ever since the first sin, this world is bent towards pain, ugliness, and destruction. Maybe we’re just becoming more aware of that ugliness. But as those who belong to God, our focus doesn’t need to be so downcast. We look towards Christ who conquered the world; and not just the ancient world, but every desperate hopeless point in history from then through now and on to when He comes again. We need to keep our focus on Him and not on the world. How can we do that when things seem so bleak? This is what Paul said that we should do: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8)
Let’s think about times when God turned ugly situations into something beautiful. When the sin on earth became so bad that God decided to send a flood to wipe out the majority of mankind, it was a beautiful rainbow that He chose to show Noah and his family to remind them of His promise. When mothers go through the pain of bringing life into this world, they have the sweetness of a baby at the end of their very literal labors. We’re constantly told that things will be hard for us here, but at the end there will be rest. (And to this mama, rest is a beautiful, beautiful thing.)
Since we will go through trials and troubles, is it okay to be upset? I think so. Jesus Himself got distressed, but He remained focused on the Father. But the Bible says to “take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) This isn’t a command for God, but for US. God desires that we not be burdened by things here on earth, and focusing on the negative, ugliness of this world takes away from the salvation that God has already given us.
So, give yourself time – A few minutes? A few days? A year? --every situation is different--to feel the pain of a situation. But be sure to turn these thoughts back to God, who is always ready to turn our mourning into dancing. (Psalm 30:11) There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5) But joy doesn’t come while we cross our arms at it and scowl, daring it to be as bad as the night before.
Regardless of the circumstances, we are called to see and to be the beauty in them. Either the beauty of gratitude, the beauty of being a blessing, or the beauty that God will bring out of the situation.
How might reminding yourself that beauty is coming change your own bad days?