Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Why Are Some Christians So Sad?"

Donald's wants to get into meditation. Not knowing any Christians who practice meditation, he got a book that included eastern philosophies and practices. He soon discerned that the book was not for him, but a question came up concerning inner suffering. Apparently Buddha taught that the inner sufferings, in response to one’s hardships, are most tragic. But "Why are some Christians so apparently sad and suffering?" Donald quotes from what he was reading:

"In Buddhist teachings, human suffering is an expression and reflection of the distance between our reality and our desires and beliefs."

Here’s an example of a difference between those in Christ, and those not in Christ. The above statement may indeed represent the unregenerate human being. For anyone, however painful our afflictions, it is how a person internally processes their suffering, which can potentially damage the soul. However, the Christian’s reality is wonderful! We accept that at this time, in these fallen bodies, we suffer. Yet we can rejoice in our sufferings! This is due to first, the effects of “the fall,” and then to the salvation we have received through Christ. We recognize the pain, but glory in the promises.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18

Romans 8 explains how, due to sin entering the world, the whole earth is not as it would be. Were the world not fallen, this Buddhist teaching would be right. But since it has, and since all creation is groaning, it is rather unnatural for people to just accept their sad lot in life. There is hope! Some of us have entered that hope. As part of creation itself, we who are born again, eagerly anticipate the time when God will come.

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
Romans 8:19

For both the regenerate and the unregenerate soul, a certain amount of vexation in this world is sanity. The world is not how any of us would have it. Remember, we were created for the Garden. We weren’t created to endure suffering. But we’ve all suffered. There is a denial or deception involved for the one who ignores our situation. But once we recognize the pain, we can decide what to do about it. For that we need some truth. The glory that is to come, is already the Christian’s reality, because we are recipients of the promises of God. So while Buddha might tell us that our pain is caused by our life’s desires not matching our reality; for the Christian, our pain is that our present experience is not matching our reality.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, -- but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit...."
1 Corinthians 2:9,10

Thanks to Christ Jesus, God has given us more than we could ever hope or imagine! Our minds cannot conceive what He has for us who love Him. Our spirits only know that it is going to be wonderful. We taste now and see that the Lord is good, and we get glimpses of our reality, which is awesome.

Why are some Christians sad? The answer isn't because their reality is bad. Their eternal reality is awesome! The present sadness is because their eyes are fixed on the present suffering. We people are like mirrors, reflecting what we are facing. Put a mirror in a Scottish glen, and gazing at the mirror will bring you serenity. Take the same mirror and stick it in a dungeon, and you’ll get a dismal reflection. I’ve experienced bouts of depression. Not everyone can maintain their focus on Christ and the promises. We all have our pains and pasts. It isn’t about putting on a happy face. It is about putting our face in His presence, and reflecting.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 3:17,18

The Bible tells us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. The Christian who does not, will soon be struggling. The book of Hebrews keeps pointing our attention back onto Jesus, so that this transformation into His likeness can continue. Unlike mirrors, people actually are transformed into the likeness of what we are facing. Praise God!!! We can change!

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2

The battle is for our focus! A Christian’s joy, freedom, peace, and yes, happiness, depend upon our being able to focus. We don't need great minds, but we need to keep our minds in a great place: on Jesus. We are not individually mighty. Yes, we have received the Spirit of God, Who helps us in our weakness. But we are in battle. Scripture is filled with reminders to not only fix our eyes on Jesus, but to continuously encourage each other to do so. Fellowship is so important! We need frequent reminders.

"So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have."
1 Peter 1:12

Because the joy of the believer comes with reflecting God, Peter, when writing to the church about goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love, wrote:

"For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins."
2 Peter 1:8,9

Meditation for the Christian isn’t emptying our heads, dieting solely on bean sprouts or saying "Ohmmm." It is deliberately entering the presence of God, focused on truth. Here are a couple of books on meditation. These two people have helped so many of God's children, find their focus for centuries. They are both pocket sized books, and very inexpensively. Here they are:

"Practicing the Presence of God," by Brother Lawrence. (1610 – 1691)

"Experiencing God Through Prayer," by Madam Guyon. (1648 – 1717)

Christians have glimpses of the glory of God? That is part of our reality. Our sin stained earthly eyes and ears and senses cannot focus on these realities for long yet, but the truths are there. And we know that one day, we will be out of these bodies and in His presence.

"Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
1 Corinthians 13:12

Yes, people may want much more than they have. But as Christians, if we want anything that we don't have, we are actually wanting less than what God has for us. That is a kind of insanity, due to yet imperfect faith. But Jesus has us covered here too.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6

Christians can suffer inwardly, when our focus is out of place. Keeping our eyes fixed upon Him and His promises to us; that is where the battle is now. Satan and the world and our flesh seek our settling for gratification in this lifetime, now, sooner than later. This is the pressure we feel since “the fall.”

We are free to be joyful or miserable. But our reality is that we have many great and wonderful promises that we can either eagerly anticipate, or we can focus on the here and now. I find that recalling some of the many times God has already shown me proof of His presence in my life, helps me remember promises He's made to us. Heaven is indeed coming! We don’t ignore the pain, but we can choose where to focus.

Sometimes we get sad, between acknowledging the pain, and regaining our focus on our reality. That refocusing takes some folk longer than it does others. For a time, they may feel sad. We are free. If we feel rich, we can eat clam chowder and think we have it made. (New England style only please. None of that red stuff!) Or if we feel poor (or too high in cholesterol), we can sit with our watery soup and celery stalk, meditating on a life misspent. But neither reflects our reality! We have it so much better! Our reality is that eternity, and all God promises for us started when we came to Christ. Suffering is a meantime kind of thing.

Brother Lawrence was a monk. Madam Guyon was a prisoner in the Bastille. Both, regardless of their very different circumstances, knew joy, and their meditation brought them into a more constant focusing on Christ. Their writings are great tools for Christian meditation.

And if you know any sad Christians who don’t want to meditate so, I recommend you simply do what I do. Gather together several solid believers; those moved by compassion; real prayer warriors. Then on Sunday, if after service your sad Christian is still seemingly glum, just go on up to them. Then as a ministry team, join hands, and encircle this sad soul. Then looking on them with Marsha and Peter Brady smiles, sing that old children’s song, “Jesus Wants You For a Sunbeam, To Brighten Up Each Day!” Invite others to join you. I can promise you that the next time you see them they’ll at least be smiling at you!