For several years I was Chaplain to the theatres in Edinburgh, under the auspices of the Actors’ Church Union, which ensures that there is an Anglican chaplain to every theatre in the UK.
One day, a young actress came to me in tears and told me that her brother had just been killed in an accident. I thought she would go straight home; but no, she went on stage that evening and gave a marvellous performance. My heart was full of admiration for her, and afterwards in her dressing room I said so. She turned to me and said: “My brother loved me to be happy and hated when I was miserable, so I did it for him.”
I treasure these words because they sum up what I believe God wants us to do. If we look round the world at the wars and the famines and the diseases, we might well go around with long faces. If we even look at ourselves, our failures and disappointments, our sins, again we might despair.
But God made us for joy, not misery. It’s the devil who loves long faces and gloom. Jesus ate and drank and kept happy company, so that the self-righteous Pharisees called him “a glutton and a wine-bibber, the friend of publicans and sinners.” But Jesus compared God to the father of the Prodigal who, when the boy came home, forgave him all the wrongs he had done and threw a marvellous party.
God doesn’t want us to ignore the sufferings of the world, but he has shown us that he is always in control, no matter how bad things may be. Every suffering can be changed into joy by being laid before our Lord. He went through it all, and he will see us through.
As the young actress said to me: “He loved me to be happy and hated when I was miserable, so I did it for him.” God wants only our happiness. So whatever your worry or trouble, give it over to him, and then go and give a great performance, as though you hadn’t a care in the world.
Our troubles may not disappear, but at least we will be facing them with God, and he, by sharing them, will cut them down to size.