How Looking on the Bright Side of Tragedy Distracts us from Jesus

2020 has been a tragic year. And today, I feel like I’m living in a weirdly comfortable post-apocalyptic world – a social dystopia where handshakes are forbidden and everybody’s personal distance has grown from 18 inches to 6 feet. And no, I’m not hanging out with gamers or reading too many teen novels. I’m living in the same world you are.

My Jokes

10 days ago, I was working with my WAY Nation friends. We sat 3-4 feet from each other. And on my lunch break, I was writing a parody of MercyMe’s song, “Almost Home.” It’s one of the biggest songs on Christian radio, and it contains heartfelt lyrics about how Jesus is our true home. I changed the title to “Please Stay Home.” And I rewrote the lyrics to the chorus.

Please stay home
You might think it’s just a cold
But I’m gonna judge you if you sneeze
Why can’t you understand
I don’t want to shake your hand
Getting too close can spread disease
Please just stay at home

The day after I wrote this obviously brilliant and irreverent parody, President Trump spoke to the nation about COVID-19 from the Oval Office. The morning after his address to the nation, my team decided humor might not be the best tone to set for our station (WAY-FM) in the midst of a growing tragedy, and my parody was cancelled.

From there, things escalated quickly. My conversations with colleagues were still filled with humor, but a sharp concern also seeped into every interaction.

On Friday, we were told to work from home the next week.

Last Saturday, my wife and I took a walk around our neighborhood. Whenever we crossed paths with other walkers coming from the opposite direction, I coughed into my sleeve as loud as I could, then smiled and laughingly said, “Just kidding!” Nobody laughed. They just whispered to each other and walked a little faster.

Today

My family still has Wifi, food, and gasoline, but my social interaction tank looks like Wal-Mart’s toilet paper aisle. Our church didn’t meet. Our small group didn’t meet. I work from home in our backyard she-shed. We stopped hanging out with our neighbor friends because their son acquired a fever… In other words, I’m living in a very comfortable, family-friendly version of solitary confinement.

Here’s the hard part for us. We run an AirBNB from our walkout basement. During this time of year, we’re 100% filled, and the money we receive makes up about 40% of our financial plan. Last I checked, every AirBNB guest has cancelled for the next three weeks. I literally just got notified of another cancellation as I’m writing this.

When we sat down on the March 1 and planned our monthly budget, bills, and mortgage payment, guess what wasn’t on our mind… A GLOBAL PANDEMIC! Y’all, my wife and I used to laugh about people we know who identify as “preppers.” Now, I’m trying to remember the location of their underground shelters.

Seriously though… Well, I was kind of being serious about the underground shelters. But for real this time… at the beginning of March, nobody, except a few experts, knew to plan for this reality. And honestly, the new reality sucks.

Experiencing Loss

Today, one of my best friends came over. We usually do a secret handshake. This time we secret air shook from 6 feet away. When my 20 month old daughter tried to hand him her Little Tikes cell phone for a fake call, he decided not to take it. “I don’t want to get her sick,” he said.

I thanked him, but it made me think about how much we’re losing. For my wife and I, it means financial strain, stocking up on $450 worth of groceries, and missing social interactions with our friends and family. For others, it means no job, no money, a sense of panic, and in extreme cases, death.

We didn’t plan for this. Nobody planned for this. Almost everybody is feeling some sense of loss and pain- whether you’re rich or poor, a landlord or homeless, extrovert or introvert, mildly inconvenienced or wondering how you’re going to pay rent.

And it’s sad that we’re all experiencing pain and loss.

The Bright Side vs. Jesus

Admittedly, I always try to look on the bright side. And I usually try to wear my optimistic tendency as a badge of honor. I get frustrated when my wife can’t pull herself out of sadness. I want her to lighten up and joke around. I want to cough really loud into my arm as neighbors walk by. And I want people to laugh and be happy.

Here’s the problem. Sometimes I get mad when nobody smiles and laughs. I stew in anger when my parody is cancelled. If my wife can’t rise above her sadness and join me on the bright side, I tend to write her off as a Debbie Downer.

I write a lot of people off. And I’m slowly realizing Jesus didn’t do that.

He didn’t say, “Come to me all you who are enthusiastic and light-hearted, and I will throw you a party.” He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NLT

Laughter is great. Joy is needed. But when I try to look on the bright side in every situation, I refuse to love others with Jesus’ kind of love. He loves, listens, and gives people rest. I deflect my wife’s sadness with advice. I joke about national emergencies. And I give trite Scripture references to friends, then mentally check out of a hard conversation.

Jesus’ Promises

In John 16:33, Jesus promised us we’d experience hardship and sorrow. If Jesus promised it, why have I always tried to escape it? Sorrow, pain, and loss are uncomfortable, and for me, pretty unbearable.

I felt a weird sense of loss when Kobe Bryant died. I didn’t know him, but I’m a huge basketball fan. Also, I live in Nashville. A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to tornado sirens. A friend of a friend lost his four year old daughter. A couple who used to be in our small group woke up to a tree falling through their bedroom roof. They were very shaken up by it.

After both Kobe’s death and the tornado, I privately made insensitive jokes to close friends about each tragedy that ended with me apologizing and saying, “Too soon?” I also minimized each tragedy with “At least such and such didn’t happen…” or “At least they’re with Jesus now.” Telling jokes and minimizing other people’s pain seems to be my go-to because I hate feeling loss. And I hate feeling pain.

Today, I asked the Lord what He is doing during this uncomfortable time and how I can join Him in it. I think I just got my answer.

Instead of trying to help my wife look on the bright side, joke with my neighbors, or write a Coronavirus parody song, I’m called to share in the burdens of others “and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NLT

When I share in someone else’s burden, it’s going to get heavy. Jesus even guarantees me that sometimes it’s gonna suck. Sometimes there’s no immediate bright side. And when I stop looking on the bright side in every situation, I can finally start looking to Jesus. And Jesus offers me more than humor, advice, or trite sayings. He offers me rest.

When I stop looking on the bright side in every situation, I can finally start looking to Jesus. Click To Tweet
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Sharon
Sharon
March 30, 2020 10:30 am

OMG! You looked right into my heart! Your “parody” is my “sarcasm”…. both are disguises. Thank you for expressing your thoughts so beautifully. You’ve got a friend in me….

Jaynee Erickson
Jaynee Erickson
March 30, 2020 1:33 pm

good job!

Renovada72
Renovada72
March 31, 2020 8:29 am

I appreciate your honesty Rob. It’s not easy to recognize those areas that God is challenging us to grow. Ty because it gives me hope that others with your personality type can become compassionate towards those of us who are more ‘sensitive’ or ‘downers’. Ironically, I n some strange way this strengthens us and we are then able to see the brighter side of life and can value your Optimism no matter what is going on around us.

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