Robbing Ourselves of Joy: Entitlement or Grace?
“You deserve to be happy.”
“You deserve someone who treats you well.”
“You deserve to be taken care of.”
“You deserve the best in life.”
Problem: These don’t seem to be happening with much consistency.
If there was any cry under which modern culture united, it would be the one that preaches humanity deserving to be happy and all the things attached to that idea. There’s plenty of problems that stem from the ambiguity, such as people being happy doing evil, specifically the kind of evil that gets in the way of other people’s happiness. Murder, rape, etc., all the invasive sort of evils. How many people have you met with non-chemical depression, anxiety, and everything else along the spectrum? Maybe our modern day sadness and anxiety is inherently tied to our attitude and understanding of how life is supposed to play out.
So while there is certainly room to go on a deconstruction rant, I’d rather appeal to the pragmatic outworking of this philosophy – everyone in general seems pretty unhappy.
Question: Should we just be die-hard pessimists?
I’m not suggesting the opposite side of the spectrum like Thomas Hobbes who came to an understanding that the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” I think that this is an improper understanding as well and ultimately results in a rather sullen sort of life with the occasional pleasant surprise, but ultimately without lasting joy.
Maybe the issue is that we view ourselves the wrong way. Maybe we don’t actually acknowledge what we really deserve.
Follow up Question: So if not optimism nor pessimism, then what?
In Jesus we see our perfect contrast.
Where we were wrathful, he was merciful.
Where we told a lie, he told the truth.
Where we were deserving of death, he was deserving of life.
Answer: Jesus. But seriously.
If there’s any pattern we see thus far, it’s that nobody gets what they deserve.
The King became a Servant and gave us a crown. Jesus poured out grace on a people deserving wrath. Instead of eternal sadness, we’re met with eternal joy. So what’s the change going on here? It’s not just assuming we deserve death, that just leads to coming to terms with Hobbes. It’s a matter of perception.
A Final Question: What’s up with our perception?
We have to see life as it is contingent to Jesus in every way. How we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we see life circumstances have to be intrinsically tied with Jesus.
This doesn’t mean we’ll always be happy. Ideally, we’ll weep when Jesus would weep, and rejoice when he would rejoice. But something it will do is enable you to look at life in a newfound appreciation. Looking at life through Jesus lets you see what you actually deserve but reminds you that Jesus paid that price, and now you get to enjoy the blessings on into eternity. Trials and triumphs are both better than what we deserve, and because of Jesus, they both work for our good.
The problem with our disappointment now stems from going, “I deserve to be happy, but some areas of my life are full of difficulty and unhappiness.”
Maybe the solution is, “I deserve death, but because Jesus is merciful, I woke up today and…” fill in the blank. There’s plenty to be thankful for when compared with what we deserve and what everything is truly working towards for those in Christ, and subsequently something to be joyful about.