Dog days

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5.11


Is the weather getting on top of you? Are you sick of Covid restrictions? Does the US election fill you with despair? Martin Luther was no stranger to fits of gloom, despite his robust personality. He had a novel coping strategy, though. In a letter to a friend who was struggling with depression, Luther pulled no punches. His friend was being assailed by the devil himself so he must rebuff him in no uncertain terms and turn instead to singing lustily in praise of Christ!


There is a lot of sense in that. Sympathy is fine, as far as it goes. But it doesn't solve the problem. Telling the person to pull themselves together is insensitive and just as useless because it goads the sufferer to do something they feel unable to manage. Yet confronting oppression at its source and replacing it with something altogether positive, which embraces the body, mind and emotions is to open a way forward...


In one of my on-line classes we have been considering what makes for happiness. Is it financial security? Is it friends and family? Job satisfaction? Meaning and purpose? Having a faith? Being self sufficient?


I cannot say all of these because some are mutually exclusive. But the deeper one delves the more elusive the goal of happiness becomes. Or maybe it's not so much elusive as complex. Or, perhaps again, our tendency to over-complicate causes us to miss the point. Is it a simple matter, staring us in the face?


The Christian view is that happiness has to do with the "will". As with Luther's advice to his friend, it begins with our deciding to turn away from what is destructive to focus instead on what his good which, ultimately and inevitably, orients us towards God - for whom all things are possible and who desires only our good. Notice how the process takes us out of our self-absorption to direct our gaze outwardly. Another feature of the Christian approach to happiness is that it prioritises the well-being of others. Knowing that God "has our back" liberates us to concentrate on the needs around us, rather than wallowing in our own desire or self-pity.


May you be aware of the loving arms of God encircling you and lifting you, equipping you for this moment and whatever lies ahead. Praise him for his wonderful goodness - and share the joy...

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