If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen stories of my past that have illustrated a time in my life when I was an incredibly unhappy individual. One evening, during that difficult time period, I got a slap in the face. But it was a slap in the face in a good kind of way. That slap came in the form of a phone call from my friend, Andy. The phone call started out just catching up on what’s been going on for the previous few weeks and his proclamation that he was going to attempt the Master Cleanse. I wished him luck on that one. I’d heard it wasn’t pleasant.
At one point he decided to point out the absurdity of a lot of my Facebook status updates at the time. He made me realize just how many of those things ended up being about how much I hated my job and how miserable I was. He told me not to be that guy. You know what? I hated being that guy.
It wasn’t something I thought about very often. I generally just wrote it off as a part of my personality. I’m sarcastic. I tend to be cynical. And I had a pretty pathetic attitude toward things at the moment. It wasn’t something I was proud of. And it took a phone call from a friend to make me realize just how pathetic it made me look.
I’ve said it before, probably even on this blog, that I don’t like being the one that complains. I even feel incredibly guilty for complaining about my trivial problems when so many people I know and love deal with so much worse and with more severe consequences.
That night, Andy went on to tell me that I needed to find joy in some area of my life. I sat there and I tried to make excuses for why it was difficult for me to find this elusive joy. I looked around at my life and saw so much pain and misery and it was easier to accept that as my reality than to look past all of that to find the genuine joy that I knew existed.
It got me thinking about something that Dr. Lyle once said back in college. He was our campus minister, and I’m not sure if it was said during a message he was giving or just a regular conversation. But he said he was tired of hearing Christians say that they were “okay, under the circumstances.” That simple thing has stuck with me through the years, but I’ve forgotten the point of it all.
Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown into prison for doing God’s work. They could have easily looked at their situation and accepted their miserable circumstances. But they didn’t. It’s not as if Paul looked at Silas and said, “Well, we gave it our best. Guess we’ll just have to resign ourselves to rotting away in this place.” Instead, the two of them began praising God and singing hymns. The strength of their faith and their joy was powerful enough to shake the walls of the prison.
So what was I doing under the circumstances? As a follower of Christ, I should have been able to rise above those circumstances. Not based on anything that I could do alone, but based on the strength that God wanted to give me. Just like a parent doesn’t want to see his or her children in misery, God doesn’t want to see any of us in a miserable state. But the promise isn’t that those times aren’t going to come. The promise is that He will be there and will remain faithful to us no matter what. He wants us to turn to Him and find in Him a joy that can be found nowhere else.
Toward the end of our conversation, Andy asked if I was mad at him. Of course I wasn’t. He pretty much told me something I needed to hear. Like I said, it was a slap to the face. A kind of wake up call that I had been ignoring for a while. It’s important to have these reminders that joy isn’t a fleeting thing. Unlike happiness, which is based on a temporary feeling, joy is something that can be found at all times in all circumstances. You just need to go to the right source.