The Gray Life

Despite our modern conveniences and unparalleled wealth, life in the world is often gray. God wants more from us and more for us. Following Him is the path to color, joy, love, and the abundant life.

By Mark D. Harris

“My eyes are dull, my mind is numb, my strength is weak, my heart beats slowly, and my love runs cold. I can neither laugh nor cry. I am neither asleep nor awake. I am not here, at least in my attention, but I am not somewhere else either. Everyone around me looks at their cell phones, absorbed in texting people who are not here, watching videos that may amuse them, playing games to pass the time, or reading articles about topics that they find mildly interesting. Pleasures become less pleasurable. Hours grind by with me sitting alone watching an endless cycle of movies, games, and amusements in which others do things that I wish that I was doing. I am too afraid to act, lest I hurt my body and spirit. More and more, I use alcohol and drugs to help me feel what I no longer feel without them.”

“I used to love nature, being absorbed in the whistle of the wind, the warmth of the sun, and the fragrance of flowers. But as my hearing grows faint and my eyes grow dim, the beauties of my memory exceed those I hear and see around me. Trails where I used to run, I now fear to walk, because my bones are thin and my body sways. Nature has become dull.”

“I want relationships, I want to spend time with people rather than things, but I am afraid. I worry endlessly about what others think of me and defend myself more than engaging others. My culture tells me to take offense at anything anyone says with which I disagree, or which makes me upset. I am instantly uncomfortable with anything that I don’t understand, and I don’t forgive. After all, why should I forgive, since I am the victim, the injured party. They did it, not me, and they should pay. I imagine ways to get revenge on those who I believe hurt me, and despair in my impotence to bring that revenge into reality.”

“The world promised me power, wealth, and fame. As a woman, no one could deny me anything, even though our society was stacked against me. I achieved my goals, reaching the summit of my field. But I am alone, and I always will be. Where are my power, wealth, and fame now?”

“In the end, I avoid relationships in the first place, or torpedo the few relationships that I have. Ultimately, I focus on myself, just like others’ focus is themselves. How I feel, what I want, how I can protect myself from hurt or embarrassment, what I believe about the past, and what I hope about the future. My life is ultimately about me, as my culture tells me. My security, my happiness, my goals, and my dreams are what matters most to me. After all, the life that I am living is MY LIFE.”

The aforementioned paragraphs are not quotations from individual patients or counselees but are compilations of what people have said to me over more than thirty years of medical practice and Christian ministry.

We live the gray life, the life in the shadows of good and evil, the life neither fully alive nor completely dead.

Why is life gray?

  • Is life gray because of COVID? No, because life was gray long before COVID.
  • Is life gray because of politics, or world events, or moral decay, or racism, sexism, etc? In part, but sin is far broader and more pervasive than these particular manifestations.
  • Is life gray because of disappointments? In part, but it doesn’t have to be, because every disappointment can also be seen as a redirection, or even a blessing, from the God who loves us.
  • Is life gray because of pleasure? No, pleasure is a gift from our Creator designed to share His bounty with us, but we ignore our pleasures, believing somehow that we deserve them, and our joy in pleasure is washed away by our waves of ingratitude.
  • Is life gray because of pain? No, pain breaks through our grayness. Rather, life becomes gray because we try to shield ourselves from pain. We flee the pain of relationships through isolation, the strain of physical labor through outsourcing, and the discomfort of hot or cold weather by remaining in climate controlled buildings and vehicles most of our days.
  • Is life gray because we lack meaning? Yes, because we reject a relationship with the Eternal One, the All-Powerful, the One who is the source of all meaning and all existence.
  • Is life gray because of selfishness? Yes, because focusing on ourselves is the surest path to misery, while focusing on serving God through others is the most reliable path to joy.

Young children are generally not gray. They experience the world with wonder, discovering creation with fresh and hopeful eyes. They implicitly give glory to God, and they see and enjoy in ways that we adults have long since forgotten. A few Christians, such as the late Paul Brand, a missionary to India, orthopedic surgeon, and researcher on leprosy, maintain their wonder through decades of life with Christ.

Keith Green sang “My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold. And I know how I ought to be, alive to you and dead to me.”

How do we escape the gray life?

The Father of Light, the Master of Creation, and the Source of Everything Good in the Universe is the only One who can rescue us from lives of gray. The first step in having a life full of color is to have a personal relationship with Him through the work of Jesus Christ. The second step is to become more like our Father in Heaven by spending time with Him in prayer and studying and memorizing His Word. As we become more like the Author of Color and Beauty in the Universe, our lives will better reflect His color and His beauty. The third step is to spend time with others who desire to worship, love, and enjoy Him; your brothers and sisters in the Church (Hebrews 10:25). The fourth step is to do your best at everything you do, laying aside every distraction and directing your efforts to do what He calls you to do. The fifth step is to rest in His sovereignty, because no matter how hard and smart we work, we cannot control the future. To believe God is to be counted as righteous (Romans 4:3). Part of this is fleeing evil in our lives. The final step, in everything we are and do, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.


Our lives are gray, and it is our own fault. By choosing the life of sin and selfishness, we choose gray. By choosing self-abandonment in Jesus Christ, we choose the colors of the rainbow. God wants us to have so much, and we content ourselves with so little.

“I have come that you might have life and might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).”

“He who keeps his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake with keep it (Luke 17:33).”

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