Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve been a fan of the television show the Simpsons. I would watch faithfully every Sunday evening and when the show went into syndication I watched every weekday as well. My viewing of the show hit a crescendo while in college when every night my friends and I would watch the show and then talk about and quote lines from it the following day in class. I think a paper or two may have even been written about the show and turned in for course credit.
I was reminded of my love of the show while sitting in mass the other day. I sat there lost in prayers and thoughts of the day when suddenly out of nowhere came the realization that I had become Ned Flanders.
For those of you not familiar with the show, Ned Flanders is the ultra religious character on the show who follows all of the rules of his religion to perfection. He even follows a few of other religions just to be safe. He is the poster boy of what a religious minded person would look like. In fact, like almost all television characters, he is an over exaggeration of the religious minded individual.
When I say that I have become Ned Flanders, I say not because I am suddenly the person who knows and strictly adheres to the obscure rules of the faith. I say this because suddenly I find myself sharing in Ned Flanders outlook on life. Ned’s faith and trust in God allows him to have a positive attitude on almost every difficulty that faces him. Nothing seems to get him down.
There is a particular episode of the Simpsons where they try to get Ned Flanders to change his view on life. They keep presenting Ned one annoying situation after another and every time he comes up with a positive about the situation. (My personal favorite is when he compares the hum of fluorescent lighting to the hum of angel wings.) We need to view our own lives in this fashion. Looking for the positives in difficult situations rather than the negative. If one focuses only on the negatives of life it is very easy to get sucked down and destroyed by what you face.
As my own faith is reawakening, I am finding myself sharing in this Ned Flanders like view on life. I am starting to realize that life is full of difficult situations and a strong faith in God makes these situations easier to deal with. My faith doesn’t rid me of the struggles of the situation, but it does provide a strong shoulder for me to lean on.
View the difficulties in life through the lens of your faith, focusing on the comfort that God can and does provide you. When faced with difficult situation remember the prayer of St. Francis de Sales:
Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.