View from the Pew
This past Sunday’s sermon title was “The Antidote to Discouragement”, which after way too much winter, seemed like a very appropriate topic. I was actually wondering if we would have to cancel church due to the amount of snow we got – that could be a new record for Palm Sunday!
Since I get the bulletin each week via e-mail, I was aware of the sermon topic ahead of time, and naturally thought of the whole endless winter = general discouragement thing, but it seemed that as Pastor Shirley spoke, I realized I had been carrying around another burden of discouragement that I wasn’t even aware of. This hidden burden has been colouring how I have been relating and reacting to other people – an insidious use of one of Satan’s favourite tools that has not only been tainting my witness for Christ but making both myself and those around me miserable.
It is often easy for the everyday pressures of life to fill our horizons, so that we see only the mountain of tasks to be done – the endless cycle of minutiae that needs to be attended to. Did I pay the oil bill? I think that Mom and Dad need help with groceries… When will I get a chance to do my taxes? The list goes on and on, and it is one that we all face on a daily basis. Recently though, I started noticing that my behaviour was slowly changing to reflect these daily pressures. At work, I was still polite, but I was no longer friendly and did not bother to thank my customers for their business. At home, I was critical of my husband, and short with my answers. My conversations with friends seemed to be more of a litany of woes than a joyful celebration of the friendship. And that’s where the sermon topic hit home…
As Christians we don’t need to rely on temporal band-aids, like shopping-therapy or southern vacations to raise our low spirits. While these may briefly increase our happiness-quotient, shortly after the activity ceases, so too do the good feelings that accompany them. The answer then, lies in grounding ourselves in the eternal. As Pastor Shirley spoke, I was so struck by the simplicity of the answer that I quickly scrawled it on my bulletin so I could hold onto its truth for later contemplation:
When your present situation is discouraging, don’t focus on the present, but look back to the cross, and then look forward to Christ’s return.
The cross – in the moment, a source of total despair for the disciples, yet afterwards, the ultimate source of joy for all mankind. But while our joy is founded in the past, it is not grounded there – we have the expectancy of Christ’s return and a future with Him where there are no tears or suffering. Does this mean that we will now automatically spring out of bed each morning with a giant smile on our face? Of course not, but when temporary happiness seems elusive, we can look to the cross and to Christ and reach for the deeper reservoir of joy that comes from knowing Christ as our Saviour.