How many of us have ever gotten up in the morning and wished we had stayed in bed? You go to work or school and the entire day is filled things that don’t work out the way you wanted or expected. You are filled with misery for yourself and everyone you came in contact with. People confront you and say, “You must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed today!” The truth is, all of us have those days where all joy and happiness are seemingly lost. And in its place, we find within us the crankiness of a dried-up soul.
Now that might be a bit of an overstatement, but it isn’t really. In Luke 15, we read the story of the Prodigal Son. Upon the wayward son’s return, the father has a celebration without limits. The older son, returning from the fields, asks why the celebration. When he hears the father’s response, he responds himself with a rant to his father. In verses 29-30 it says, “But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” Even with the great news of the safe return of his rebellious brother, the older brother still complains. Grumpiness is universal!
Maybe venting like this isn’t your style. Maybe you are one of those who likes to stew over things. When things aren’t going well, it is a tempting option for many. You feel you have the right to be moody – in fact, you’ve probably earned it! It is a way of exacting emotional payment from a disappointing life. Grumpiness provides momentary relief, but it involves the splitting of oneself. I put on love on the outside, but on the inside, my heart is being ripped in two. Anger is just simmering below the surface. Like Judas, I am kissing Jesus on the outside, but am betraying Him within.
What is the result? I’m split in two. My will has slipped off the tracks of living a surrendered life to God and now I am going through the motions. Life ceases to be fun and if left unchecked, we can become a moodiness melancholy mess where my heart and soul are so distorted that I can slip into cynicism. This can lead to bitterness which the Bible describes like a root which isn’t easily removed.
Self-pity is compassion turned inward, and the result of it is it drives this downward spiral. Instead of reflecting on the words of Christ and the gospel message, we nurse our own wounds. “Woe is me.” “Nobody loves me!” The fact is, victimization has become one of our generation’s fallbacks. What this does is it isolates us from others. We are probably afraid to admit it, but there is a sense of pride in this kind of reaction. You are better than the other person because you are the victim. Anything bad the other person experiences, they deserve. Any good we receive, we too deserve.
When life doesn’t seem fair, there are five bad moves our hearts can make:
- Self-pity – where we nourish an internal feeling world where we are the victim. Compassion is turned inward.
- Bitterness – a simmering demand that God make my world and situation just.
- Cynicism and mocking – an attempt to restore balance by mocking the other person.
- Gossip and slander – creating a community of empathizers who see my pain, but not my sin.
- Emotional revenge – withdrawing my heart to punish the other person.
What is the result of all these moves? The absence of joy. In our North American culture, where we have an incredible abundance, we are becoming increasingly cranky. You only have to look at how people maneuver our city streets. When another driver makes an error, accidentally cuts us off or forgets to signal, we explode!
Our touchiness and oversensitivity are fed by an outlook on life that enshrines the self. When feeling happy is the goal, we always end up testy because life conspires against us. Author Stephen Marche comments on this saying, “The more you try to be happy, the less happy you are.” But when love is the goal, we reap joy because no one can steal love!
So how do we cure the cranky soul? It begins with repentance, by realizing that my moodiness is a demand that my life has a certain shape. Surrendering to the life that my heavenly Father has given me always puts me under the shelter of His wings. That leaves me whole again and surprisingly cheerful.
A second response is one of trust. If we believe that God is sovereign over our lives, then we understand that He has a plan for it. This allows us to let go of control and allow Him to work out His will and plan for us. This allows me to experience the peace and hope that comes from letting go and looking forward with anticipation.
Lastly, step out in faith and live the life we were created to live. It is easy to turtle when we are hurt and feel hurt. But that is not the way we were created. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Fullness is experienced as we walk in faith and obedience to His Word. It isn’t mitigated by circumstance, rather it is founded and fueled on being a child of God, created in His image and living for His glory.
Being a cranky Christian is an easy way to be because it allows us to live in the fantasy of our own making instead of dealing with the source of our crankiness… our hearts. In closing, let me leave you with a verse that has helped me over the years to get my mind off of how I think things should be and to focus on His desires for me. Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”