Life isn’t perfect for any of us. We all have our fair share of reality to live out day to day. Even if you have much of what this earthly life offers, there is yet the chaos of the inner life that prevents us from giving our lives an honest perfect rating.
It seems to be true, however, that for some life is a bit better than it is for others. Some people seem to have things work out fairly well. Others seem to stumble from one bad break to another. The current take on this in pop culture (although not a “new” concept by any means) is the law of attraction—that we can arrange life for ourselves just by the vibe we send out to the world around us.
My first introduction to this current rage was through a news bit I saw a few months ago. It was in the framework of the book The Secret. The story featured a woman and her young son (maybe 10 years old) who had read the book and began applying its principles. The boy wanted more toys, and he began to believe that the toys were headed his way. After a series of events, the unfolding of which he attributed to all he had learned in the book and through the law of attraction, he came into extra money with which he purchased his precious loot.
There are several things that disturb me regarding this.
First, it seems rather self-serving and base to focus so much on what we want to gain out of life and how we can meet our whims. The notion behind this book is to become more self-focused to create the life you really want. Hmmm . . . I’ve found that the more self-focused the person, the less I want to be around them. This bent used to be considered negative (conceited or egotistic or the like). I guess now it’s chic to be wrapped up in your own world. A review of the phenomenon in Christianity Today said this:
The Secret, you see, is all about the self—it’s for the self, obsessed with the self. Newsweek offers this critique: “On an ethical level, The Secret appears deplorable. It concerns itself almost entirely with a narrow range of middle-class concerns—houses, cars, and vacations, followed by health and relationships, with the rest of humanity a very distant sixth.”
Second, does this theory that is labeled a “law” work in all places for all people? Maybe some of that could work here where we live in a land of privilege and opportunity (for the most part). How does this work for the people in Africa? Is their suffering due to their failure to live by the law of attraction? And if they simply begin to apply principles, will it begin to rain there so that they can provide food for themselves and have access to water? The premise from the book is that bad things come your way because of how you think—I guess the power of every single person in Africa thinking negatively has caused their ongoing “bad circumstances.” A review by the Washington Post also decries this blame game.
I must admit that people who take life’s blows in stride with a positive outlook tend to move through life easier; and people who crumble under life’s blows with a negative outlook tend to get stuck in dark places. But I think life’s blows are never completely avoidable. I don’t think it is truly possible to avoid all of life’s difficulties merely by thinking positively.
I met a homeless man today. His name is Nicholas. He was a typical homeless man; unkept, red-eyed, heavy in spirit. I’ve been thinking of him, wondering what brought him to where he is. Did life deal him too many hard blows? Did he make too many poor decisions or send off too many bad vibes? I will never know. But my heart breaks for him.
If I lived by the law of attraction, I would not ache for the pain of a life such as Nicholas’s because his circumstances would be his own fault (due to his own bad vibes and negative thoughts). The law of The Secret seems to endorse callousness toward the plight of others. What if we all lived with this outlook? We would become a society full of disdain toward anyone else who doesn’t measure up to our version of prosperity or well being.
Gloriously, this is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ answers all. It is here at the cross of Christ that the mercy of a holy God meets the desperate needs of a broken world.
It is here I will camp out, where I have experienced the unexplicable peace and hope within horrid circumstances—peace has come not because I have mustered up enough positive thinking, but because God whispers His reality beyond this world to the depths of my heart.
And it is here at the cross of Christ that I find compassion for the ways life has dealt me its worst and for all the poor decisions I’ve made—compassion has come not because I deserve mercy or attract it with my positive vibes, but because God loves me in spite of myself.
Yes, the law of love is more precious, more true than any law of attraction. The beauty of it cannot be explained or manipulated. God has acted in great, selfless love on our behalf, and it is that heart of self-sacrifice that I long to follow and mimic. That is something worthy of all my time and attention and focus.
“For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” —Romans 5:7–9