There are certain things that are best found indirectly. Laughter, for example, is not something that tends to be found at the end of an intent search for a giggle, but something that is discovered by chance when your attention is elsewhere. Of course there are people and things that can be relied on to bring a smile to our face – but the attention is on them not on the laughter itself. Fun is similarly illusive, nothing sends fun running for cover more than pressure to have fun. When someone tells me to relax my general reaction is to tense up! It isn’t that we can’t plan in the general direction of these experiences – but they tend to thrive better when out of the spotlight.
In the Christian life I think we find a similar situation. Joy and peace are not to be found in and of themselves, but as a result of gazing at Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith. I came across a helpful quote by Charles Spurgeon along these lines:
“I looked at Christ, and the dove of peace flew into my heart. I looked at the dove, and it flew away.” Quoted in True Worship by Vaughan Roberts.
In the context of the book I was reading Vaughan was encouraging us not to look to music (of whatever style) to give us a feeling of assurance, but to go directly to Jesus. A thought provoking point that I think can help us in a number of contexts.
Laughter, fun, feelings of peace and joy are more like wild animals than pets. You can’t rely on them to come when you call! But the truth about Jesus, his love for us, our status in him – that is eternally unchanging and can be relied on day by day. Not that he is a “tame lion” to quote C S Lewis, but he is who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).
“Great is your faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
“Great is thy faithfulness!” “Great is thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided –
“Great is your faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
For me today is a low day. I suffer from depression and life is currently in black and white not technicolour. Not the striking black and white of an evening dress, but the grey ‘black and white’ of an old crackly telly.
On days like this it is definitely best not to chase feelings of joy and fun and laughter, feelings of worship and peace. If I try and find them I will fail and panic. You see, feelings don’t do grey and the technicolour feelings that belong to depression are best left undisturbed. In contrast, the reality of my Lord and Saviour is as reliable in shaky black and white as ever he is in the brightest colours and for this I thank him so very much.