Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust.
At first glance, you might think I was describing the rollercoaster of emotions that rush into our minds (maybe even in that order) when it’s time to gather with our collective families over the holidays. But the Disney-loving kids of the world know these emotions as characters from the new Pixar movie Inside Out. If you haven’t seen the movie, I am warning you that this blog may contain spoilers. I still encourage you to read on. It is my personal conviction that Pixar accidentally made a movie about the gospel, and the encouragement I hope to lend you may be worth spoiling the movie.
Quick Summary of the Movie
Riley is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl. We come to find out that her life is run by five emotions embodied in her brain who work together to keep Riley happy by collecting memory orbs for Riley to look back on in times of need. Joy is the leader of the operation and her job is to make sure all of Riley’s core memories (memories that affect who Riley is as a person) are JOYFUL. Disgust is pretty much there to keep her fashion in check, Fear helps Riley think cautiously in risky situations, and Anger… well he leads Riley to a lot of sin. That leaves us with Sadness- she has no purpose in this happy-go-lucky girl’s life.[az_dropcap mode=”dropcap-color”]Joy runs Riley’s life with no complications, dictating her every experience. Everyone seems okay with letting Joy manage the brain. After all, isn’t it ideal to always be happy?[/az_dropcap]
But Riley’s world is flipped upside down when her parents announce that they are moving to San Francisco. In the midst of losing her friends, going to a new school, and adjusting in a big city, Joy is working more diligently than ever to make sure that all of Riley’s memories remain pleasant. All seems well, until Sadness finds out that she has a new ability to make past experiences (that were once joyful) into very sad, depressing memories simply by touching the memory. Sadness means no harm, but she can’t seem to keep her hands off the memory orbs. Eventually, Joy and Sadness find themselves thrown out of the headquarters of the brain leaving Fear, Disgust, and Anger to figure out how to make Riley happy. Joy and Sadness have to work together to find their way back into the memory headquarters, all the while trying to preserve Riley’s joyful core memories.
At the end of the movie, all of Riley’s core memories have become dark and dead due to the touch of Sadness. The five emotions believe they have failed until they re-watch a series of memories in Riley’s life. They notice that all the JOYFUL experiences that grew Riley’s personality were first preceded by sad moments. Sadness has a purpose because it creates an avenue for true joy.
Is the gospel really in this movie?
The gospel is a story of REDEMPTION. And so is Inside Out.
God loves redemption because it displays His love in ways that we could not otherwise see it.
God created the world and everything in it for His glory. When mankind misused God’s creation to bring glory to themselves, we all fell into an estate of sin and misery. Do you ever think about this? The nature in which I live is in rebellion to God. It is my natural response to think of myself, not God, as one who is worthy of praise. I diligently work to build my kingdom, not God’s. I am constantly thinking my ways are better than His will. By my own power, I willfully choose all the wrong things.
God meets us in this sad estate. And because we have no avenue to boast in our wicked ways, God sees this as an opportune time to show us mercy and grace so that we could know just how good He is. I am reminded of a verse: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). Sin leaves us dead in our trespasses so that we could realize our need for Jesus and the REDEMPTION that can be found in him. And knowing Jesus gives us a greater joy than any prior memories we have of the world.
King’s Kaleidoscope has a song called Felix Culpa, which means “fortunate fall” in Latin. When we fall due to the sadness of our estate, “Our sins are stories of grace to recall” … as the song says.
The gospel is “good news” because it brings us to a sad state in which we realize we are totally depraved. When we see the brokenness in ourselves, we stop seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. We see that the world fades in comparison to God. And praise be to God, we are not satisfied with the world’s brokenness. We suddenly long for Eden again. We long to be in God’s presence. We long for real glory. And God sends His son to die for those with a longing heart. Jesus takes everything we deserved (wrath), and we get everything Jesus has earned (the love of the Father and his righteousness). Redemption calls for a great plot twist in any good movie!
What about First Pres?
First Pres is not new to seasons of trial. We know the hurt of loss, we understand that change can be challenging, we have tried to “fight the good fight” alone, and we see brokenness among the saints. But do we trust in the sovereignty of God who has allowed these things to happen?
[az_dropcap mode=”dropcap-color”]Too often, we let a touch of sadness in our lives steal us away from trusting in God who loves to create stories of redemption in the lives of his children.[/az_dropcap] Remember: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). God wants us to lack in nothing. So He uses any means necessary to make sure that we are growing. Sometimes, I am so stubborn that trial seems to be the only way I will learn.
Remember: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:3-6). Being needy is healthy for the Christian. When we understand that we are nothing apart from God, we begin to have a right understanding of our depravity. It’s a good thing to need Jesus every day!
Remember: “God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons… For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11). God has a divine plan for the distress in our lives. He allows for difficult moments of growth because He is your dad and He cares for the relationship we have with Him.
Our church is not perfect. We have broken people (like me) with selfish desires in faulty ministries (like mine) and that is just one thing that leads to seasons of congregational trial. It does us no good to wish away or worry about the trials in our lives. In fact, it is a bad witness to others when we do this, because it tells them that we cannot trust the God that we proclaim is sovereign and good. I’m done apologizing for seasons of trial. God has intended for them. As one of the kids this year at summer camp so eloquently put it, “If we didn’t have holes, there would be nothing for the light to shine through.” I trust that God is using every bit of it. Look at His track record; we have no reason to not put our hope and trust in Jesus. He is the only solid foundation on which we can stand.
There will be moments of sadness (sometimes long ones). Trust God. Know that He will bring about a greater joy than we could have ever planned for, and understand that the trial is necessary. Do not pity yourself, do not respond in sin, do not ignore it. Understand that God loves to redeem brokenness. Know that He is drawing us to need Jesus. Be thankful that He is reminding us to look forward to our home in Heaven.
May this be the song of our hearts: