Joy for the Cherophobic

If “cherophobic” is a new word to you, you’re not alone; it’s not even in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. But by majority opinion in the Internet world, “cherophobia” is the fear of happiness. Its mirror twin is the fear of disappointment: nothing kills joy like the obsessive dread that something will spoil everything.

In my experience, these fears are the worst enemies of long-term thinking and of proactivity. (For those unfamiliar with Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “proactivity” is making things happen; “reactivity” is dealing with things as they happen.) For years, I have headed into everything internally braced against roadblocks; and for years, I have frozen up when asked where I want to be a decade in the future. And as for having a driving purpose and vision for life, the best I can manage (and that much only in the past year or so) is to stand frozen before a “future picture” wondering when someone will hand me paint-by-numbers instructions for duplicating it.

I don’t want to attempt great things for God. I want God to tell me exactly what to do, every day and every minute, so I’ll be protected from any wrong moves.

You too may know by experience that this is a road to futility, paralysis, and depression. It seems that the Author of Destiny is terribly inefficient; He prefers we learn by trial and error rather than get everything right the first time. After a few experiences with prayer not immediately answered and guidance that remains vague, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that He has left us completely on our own–and is still holding us responsible for avoiding all mistakes. Small wonder that we would rather play it safe, that minimizing pain seems the only reasonable route to maximizing happiness. Sure, we get little true, deep joy, but at least we don’t have to take the deep pain of failure with it.

Small wonder that such a phrase as “big, hairy, audacious goals” (a favorite of Mark Batterson, author of Wild Goose Chase and advocate of living dangerously for God) practically sends us into shock.

We forget that God Himself is big and audacious. He wants us to set goals at which we couldn’t possibly succeed (humanly speaking), so He can guide us to achieve them for His glory and not ours. He also wants to help us find those goals–not handing them to us in neatly wrapped packages, but guiding us to them through our prayer and careful consideration. Often our problem is that, like Lot at Sodom, we seize on impulse what looks best to us, then can’t understand why God isn’t giving us an easy ride through such an obviously good thing.

The truth is that He gives few easy rides even when we are fully in His will. Ask Joseph, or Jeremiah, or Paul.

What kept them going–and what can heal our cherophobia and paralysis–is a fresh view of God’s perspective. Human nature says the best is served by accomplishing everything possible in terms of numbers, recognition, and smooth-running systems. But most of these will ultimately pass away.

God says the best is served by accomplishing everything possible for the building of human souls–including our own–and His glory.

Sometimes, greater building is accomplished through a glorious “failure” than a million small-scale successes.

(For more on “big, hairy, audacious goals” with eternal perspective, check Batterson’s article on “10 Steps to Setting Life Goals.”)

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