Getting My Eyes Off of Myself

A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 NRSV

We visited a church with our kids on Sunday. The pastor, in trying to make a point about honesty, addressed the dynamic that occurs when friends meet together: “How are you?” “I’m fine.” He concluded that often the “I’m fine” is actually a lie because we aren’t fine.

But are we?

As Christians should we have any opportunity for griping or complaining, moaning or groaning? Or are we actually stating a truth when we say “I’m fine,” a truth that perhaps we really don’t embrace but which is a truth nonetheless? Paul wrote:

    We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NRSV

All things work together for good. In other words, if we aren’t fine now, we are soon going to be so because God is working everything together for our good. That’s a promise worth clinging to. We are fine because God is working things out. Even those things we can’t see still contain His hand, His plan.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote:

    Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 NRSV

And yet, in 4:17, he calls these things “light afflictions.” The NCV calls them “small troubles.” And if these things are small troubles, then surely what we are going through is minuscule! Why would we not have a cheerful heart?

I think we need to ask ourselves where we focus our attention. Are we focusing on our glass being half empty or half full? The man who is dying of thirst would cheerfully accept a half glass of water, while only the glutton would complain that there was only a half glass instead of a full glass. If we expect to have all of our lusts fulfilled, then we will complain when God blesses us with just enough for today. If we expect the road to be difficult and full of “light afflictions,” then we will rejoice when the burdens are lightened further by God’s blessings.

The fact is, we need to be that cheerful heart in the midst of a dying world. We need to be that good medicine. And we aren’t being fake or false or untruthful when we do say, “I’m fine,” because the fact is, because of the Lord Jesus, we are fine! We are more than fine. We are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) because we have the Lord and all that He wants to give us. Let’s be that cheerful heart in the midst of the sorrow.

The fact is, the Lord wants us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto those around us. There isn’t even one time in our lives where we are allowed to think about our own priorities, our own desires, our own needs. To care for us, that’s the Lord’s responsibility and He’s infinitely good at it! To care for others, that’s our responsibility and it’s something we need to practice with much greater effort.