Did you notice how so many people were decisively ready to move out of 2016? Were you one of them?
Some called it the worst year ever. Countless disastrous things happened within the last 365 days. The year was filled with contempt, distrust and agony. Yea, that sounds like a lot of years we’ve known before, but this one seemed different, more widespread.
I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps you can blame it on cable news or our attachment to social media. Doesn’t Genesis 6:6 say God was sorry that he had made Internet comments? It could be that more people were paying attention to more things that were happening last year. Or maybe, just maybe we all just experienced the worst year of human history. Who says we’re a bit dramatic? Surely, though, you’re not looking for the easy way out of this conversation. That would be to blame everything on Trump; #BlameTrump is the new #ThanksObama.
Don’t believe the hype
Tension sells, and boy has it sold in 2016. With the bad of 2016,though, there was good. That just goes to show, once again, that there is nothing new under the sun. We’ve been down this road before. What I am hopeful will happen, now that last year is just some date that we used to know, is that many more of us will learn a new skill essential to making it in 2017 and every other year after that. It’s more of a new-to-you new skill because there is nothing novel about it. People have practiced this technique for centuries. Truthfully, not forgetting the grace of God, it’s probably the one thing that has helped humanity be a winner at the game of LIFE.
It’s actually how I interpret most of the book of Ecclesiastes.
Ready? I saw that #2017SurvivalTips was trending Monday, and this was my immediate response. It’s pretty deep; so, I want to make sure you’re prepared for this.
Don’t get me wrong. There are things worth being angry about. I like to write sermons and blog posts about those things. Some of us have believed that it’s against God to be angry. Sinful, even. We’ve misread the passage that says: In your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4). That sentence seems to suggest you’re going to be angry at some point. Is that wrong? Thousands of generations of wives being angry at husbands can’t be. Now, if your anger is self-serving, perhaps. But not if you’re paying attention to what matters to God.
In terms of faith and action, there is a difference between getting angry and being angry. Child of God, get angry for the right reasons! Otherwise, chill out.
And please know that most of those right reasons have nothing to do with anyone named Kardashian or, unfortunately, get a lot of air play on your TV or streaming devices. There is life beyond your smart phone and The Bachelor. Let me just throw a couple of words out there: Aleppo, sex trafficking, drug addiction, war, injustice, racism, poverty & rape. I’ll assume it ticks you off when you read about a child being abused. So, I’ll ask you to let that perspectivize the way you belittled your barista last week.
The problem is that angry is what a lot of people are. And it shows. They’re angry at Christmas-cup designers, angry at Millennials, angry at presidents and president-elects, angry at their parents, angry at their bosses. We’re fighting at Chuck E. Cheese’s place and we treat our Little League games as if our lives depended on them. So many of us have spent our emotional energy fighting meaningless wars of words on Facebook, or complaining about someone’s Grandma driving too slow…in the slow lane. Dude, chill.
God is too good to be angry. God’s way is too good to not get angry at what angers God.
What’s most frustrating, from a pastoral perspective, is that the angry way of being is curbing the potential of so many people to live in the fullness of Christ. That’s right being angry all the time is keeping you (or the person sitting next to you) from a deeper faith in Christ. It’s hard to accept the abundant life God has promised if you’re constantly mad at the life he’s entrusted to you first. Remember that Jesus got mad in church one day. He wasn’t mad at the preacher for making him miss kick off. He was angry at what God would be angry about. He got angry at religious jerks, ornery disciples and the way we thought of children, women and others not prized in society. I think he’d be angry at us sometimes, too.
It all comes back to the kingdom
Let’s get in an uproar about things that matter to God because, after all, the Devil Wears Apathy. Then, hopefully, things will begin to change. And by things I also mean you. That’s part of what it means to pray for God’s kingdom to come. The kingdom of God brings change. You can’t get away from the kingdom, but you can be so angry that you miss it. So, again, chill out about the stuff that matters little. Let a kingdom pursuit keep you from living angry.
Some people used to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” That’s the same message as chill out, just for a different generation. Actually, you can find a definition of chill out in the dictionary. So, that makes that advice kind of old itself. But it still speaks.
Now, if choosing to chill out seems too idealistic, here’s how you can make it real. Read the book of Ecclesiastes. It won’t take you long. If you can’t read it in 1-2 sittings, read a chapter a day. Think of it as an old man writing to a whipper snapper. The old man has learned and seen a lot. He’s been through more than you can imagine. You might be surprised at some of what he has to say. Among other things, part of his wisdom sounds like an ancient way of saying chill out.
Let me know if he helps you make a successful move into 2017.