(The Abundant Life Series – Batch 1)
I heard a lady on a Christian radio station talking about the ‘spent’ life versus the ‘invested’ life and it got me thinking. What she was saying was so wise, yet I had never really given it much thought until I heard her talk about it.
She said that some people spend all of their lives just laughing, making a joke out of everything and finding humour in everything. Others spend their lives being grumpy, bitter and just complaining about everything. Then there are those who spend their lives on the fast lane, doing everything quick and living what they perceive to be the good life, quick.
She then stated that, at the end of their lives, all that can be seen are people who have ‘spent’ their lives but have nothing of substance to show for it.
She is right. Additionally, when it comes to such people, being around them is never a pleasant experience and here is why:
THE DOOM AND GLOOM COMPLAINER
No matter what good news you share, the bitter person either looks for the negative in it or secretly resents your happiness. The bitter person is always depressed, complaining, resentful or grumpy about something. When it’s raining, he complains, “This rain is putting a damper on my plans!” and when the sun shines he says, “Oh that sun is so dreadfully hot!”
Such people are impossible to please and are always critical. They are rarely ever thankful, do not understand the term ‘appreciation’, distrust everyone and see everything, even the good, in a negative or unfavourable light.
They see themselves as the perpetual victim, even when they are the ones that are in the wrong and are of the sincere view that all the world is after them. They are living but do not enjoy it and always wear a chip on their shoulder.
They are forever anxious, may have problems sleeping at night and ‘spend‘ their lives always worrying or fretting. When they awaken in the morning, instead of being grateful to be alive, they see it as yet another day to remind them of all that still needs to be done and how much the world and life has wronged them. They get busy being critical of life and of others and nothing and no one is ever good enough.
Because they feel that life has punished them unfairly in some way, they feel the need to punish others especially those that insist on being happy or on having a positive outlook on life most of the time.
In short, they are pessimists. When you remove the source of complaint, they find something else to complain or worry about because their dysfunction has become a crutch. Ironically, they rarely ever laugh or even smile, may have regular headaches and health problems that originate or are exacerbated by their negativity.
In short, they see life as nothing more than a burden and a torturing routine they must endure.
THE IMMATURE JOKESTER
The immature jokester takes nothing seriously, refuses to commit to a significant other, his employer or anything else for that matter. He views all of life, even himself, as a joke and ‘spends’ his life in a habitation of giggles. Light issues are shrugged off with a laugh but so are the weighty ones as well because such people treat and find almost everything, even serious circumstances, as funny.
Humour is lovely and I myself like to crack a joke here and there. Laughter is good for the soul but it becomes highly irritating when a person laughs all of the time and about everything, even in situations that require a somber mood and maturity. Such a person may be found cracking a joke even at a funeral!
Underneath what seems like their jovial exterior however is something more serious than they let on. What many people never realize about them is that they use humour and fun and apparent perpetual blissfulness, as a mechanism to cope with life and to deflect from the real issues within. That is, there is something about life that scares them, so they prefer to stay in their joke cocoon.
Such people rarely ever achieve anything substantial or worthwhile in life because they were too busy frolicking and having a good time. Privately, in retrospect, they may admit to themselves that they made a colossal mess of things and the people they were around but outwardly, they have resolved to laugh their way all through it. They rarely ever have sober moments when they take responsibility and decide to become mature individuals for themselves and the persons around them who love them. In essence, they have laughed for so long, that without the help of Jesus, they don’t know anything else or how to stop.
THE QUICK AND COMPETITIVE LIFE RUSHER
The rushed person is a go-getter who wants to live life quick and views time as running out. He will use statements like, “The early bird catches the worm” and he is always eager to try and experience everything quick. He cannot afford to wait because as you can clearly see, the time is ticking! He has things to do, places to go and people to meet. His life is filled with ‘busyness’ and he ‘spends‘ his life is preoccupied with being what he defines as an earthly ‘success’.
Such persons may also be pleasure seekers and see all of life as a race and competition in which only the fittest survive. They rush into relationships before the right time, then rush back out again, only to rush into another one. They take short cuts to what they consider to be advancement and they never take a moment to just be still. They never practise patience and see no value in waiting. They may even turn their noses down at those that seem to be at a standstill and equate such stillness with failure.
They may treat people unfairly and step over toes if it means they will be promoted or get ahead or receive some kind of progress benefit. They may be unethical, compromise and practise dishonesty because in their minds, making ‘progress’ and as quickly as possible is worth it.
They do not focus on making quality, morally ethical and sustainable decisions, only those decisions that will guarantee the quickest self-satisfying result. They are prepared to sacrifice their health, their family, their well-being, their sanity and their standards, all in the name of getting rich, getting promoted, getting a name for themselves, getting recognized, getting attention, surviving and getting ahead.
After all, as they see it, life serves no greater purpose.
HOW THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE DIFFERENT
Having looked at the Jeering Jokester, the Chronic Complainer and the Get-ahead Go-getter, as the lady on the radio commented, the Christian should live differently. The Christian should not just ‘spend’ their lives as these people do but ‘invest’ it.
If a Christian views his life as an investment, he will not be rushed to live it quick or waste time just complaining and being bitter and depressed about everything. The Christian would also not waste precious time being immature and will know that he cannot joke his way through everything.
Whereas the average Christian will have light moments of laughter, moments when he feels overwhelmed by life and moments when he feels impatient, he ought not to focus on any of these things to the extent where it becomes what defines his character.
The dysfunctions mentioned above become the largest part of a person’s character when it becomes easily visible, so that when people think of such a person, that is what they identify him mainly with. Such people have ‘spent’ so much of their time and life nursing and cultivating this negative habit, that it now defines and controls them. It has grown to the point where it has entrapped them and they do not know of any other way to live.
These dysfunctions are not mutually exclusive either. I have for example, observed people that consider all of life to be a rush and at the same time are negative about everything. Also, a person may fit into one or more of these categories without possessing all of the behaviours and outlooks I have identified above. Furthermore, the negative behaviours I have listed are not by any means exhaustive. There may be more.
The danger with the three horrible character flaws identified above though are that the persons who possess them (whether they realise it or not) are living unto themselves, while having pushed or being in the process of pushing God out. That is, at the heart of each flaw is a preoccupation with SELF, selfishness and a refusal to confront reality because it will point a finger at themSELVES.
A finger pointed at self would mean accepting that they are to blame, that they are responsible for the dysfunction and that it is up to them to make amends to their character. People with these dysfunctions however, usually lack the courage to confront themselves and the rigour to make the necessary changes. They cannot deal with what they already know to be true deep down in their hearts: That is, that they are not perfect, that the dysfunction will have no positive or substantial outcome in the long term and that they need to change. They therefore choose to hide behind these dysfunctions so as to avoid addressing the real issue: SELF.
The jokester for example, sees life selfishly as about him and his enjoyment. The chronic complainer and negative person, sees life as having not treated him right and the world as a place where he needs to protect himself from further pain, while inflicting pain on others. The person that is rushed and preoccupied with getting ahead is of the view that life is about him and he deserves so much more than what he currently has and has been given. He is therefore living in discontentment and even when he gets what he thinks he is after, he is still not satisfied. He has an unquenchable desire to obtain more for himself and quick!
The Christian should be different because God should be his focus and his guide. He should be joyful because the Lord is his strength and his reward. God will give him discretion as to whether a situation calls for light-hearted humour or maturity. God will teach him the value of waiting on him and having patience and he will understand that life is not a race for the swift. It is so much more than that.
The Christian knows that he has divine purpose and therefore understands the beauty of waiting on God for further instructions. After spending time waiting on God and his guidance, when God instructs him to move, he moves swiftly, without looking to the left or to the right, just simply ahead.
He has his down moments but the hope he has in Jesus and his resurrection power, never keeps him there. When his happiness meter is low, he still has his joy in tact because the world did not give him this joy and therefore nothing and no circumstance can take it away from him.
He is ambitious and hardworking but he does not set his heart on riches and getting ahead. He submits himself to whatever is God’s purpose in life at every stage and he does not compromise for the sake of advancement or acceptance.
He understands that God has a sense of humour but that he is also a God to be feared and that requires him to be mature and serious about certain issues such as marriage, fidelity, our love for him, faithfulness, salvation, the gospel, obedience and much more.
The Christian will enjoy life and laugh at something from time to time but he will also have the ability to become sombre and grave when dealing with serious and mature issues. He has a balanced and well-rounded view of life and knows that it has its ups and downs, hence he is never too funny or too serious.
Come what may, he never loses his hope in Jesus because he knows he serves a powerful God. In everything and every situation he gives God thanks, even when he does not understand what God is up to and things don’t seem to make sense. He knows that in whatsoever state he is in at the moment, he is to be content, even while aspiring to something better. He sees life essentially, about his Lord and not about himself and once he keeps his eyes on him, he will be able to escape the above character dysfunctions.
He will therefore not spend his life, which amounts to wasting it, running after empty pursuits, seeing all of life as a joke or going around complaining and fretting. Admittedly, a Christian may be tempted to go in these directions from time to time but even when he fails, as he will on some occasions, relationship with the Lord ought to convict him and lead him along the path to repentance. He will therefore not stay in this place.
It is when a person wallows in and is consumed or overcome by the above dysfunctional behaviours throughout their lives, that the real danger arises.
As I close, make sure that you are ‘investing’ your life and not merely ‘spending’ it. Ensure that the persons you align yourself with as well, whether as friends or a potential candidate for marriage, share a similar philosophy to you and are not just ‘spending’ their lives joking, being critical or just go-getting. Such persons make poor relationship material and should be avoided as much as possible. They should be avoided because whether deliberately or not, they will try to infect you with their life philosophy.
I personally have been around people that complain or are critical and negative all or most of the time or laugh and frolic all the time or are in a race to get ahead and be competitive all of the time and it is not pleasant.
When you are down in a valley and going through adversity, the immature grinner will laugh at you and the situation because he takes nothing seriously. When you share good news about something with the doom and gloom complainer, he will either be resentful or try to find a way to extract something negative out of it. He will also be highly critical of life and of you and when in a valley, he will doubt whether you will ever make it out alive. Worse yet, when he is in a valley, he considers it to be the end of the world and will try to break your spirit with the burden of his depression.
When you want to wait on God and you speak of things like patience, the rushed person will think you are crazy. He views you and the whole world as competition and will spend all of life harbouring insecurities. He will forever be devising ways of getting ahead, even to his own detriment and makes many foolish and rash decisions, all because he could not wait.
When it comes to the serious issue of selecting a life spouse, we should ask God for discernment and protection in avoiding people with these dysfunctions. For, dysfunctional traits could appear to be attractive initially, thereby duping us into a life of misery and unhappiness.
For example, the person that rates high on humour may be attractive to you initially, make you feel happy and as if you had not a care in the world but in time, you will grow to resent this very trait when you find he wears a grin on his face 24-7 and sadly, takes none of life, not his own, not yours and not that of others, seriously.
The person that rushes through life and is obsessed with advancement, may attract you initially because he is considered as ambitious and motivational but in time, you will see the ugliness and stress of such a trait, when such a person does not see the value of taking time to enjoy life, to seek guidance from the Lord on matters or just to think and enjoy having you in their life for that matter. Driven by his thirst to get ahead and quick, you will find yourself placed on the back-burner and practically ignored throughout your relationship.
Finally, a person who is always complaining and critical may be mistaken for someone that is practical and realistic, when in fact, you will find over time, that their negativity sucks the life out of life itself and you are being poisoned by their toxicity.
Truth be told, many persons have raced, complained or laughed themselves to an early grave. You get to decide whether you want that for yourself and whether you will align yourself with people that have such outlooks on life.
(Written on 4th April, 2016)