O the Joy of Painting!

CC NC, Moritz, Flickr
CC NC Moritz Flickr

Let me dare to guess that we share a favorite TV program. Know what it is? Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting. It is the only program able to bring everything I’m doing to a grinding halt to let me get lost in pure wonder.

I cannot watch The Joy of Painting without thinking about God. It is a perfect visual of his handiwork with and in our lives and the only time we’ll ever see it completed in 30 minutes!

What I Learn Watching Bob Ross

Bob Ross paints the portrait that John Bunyan describes in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Each of them takes us on a journey through our earthly lives and details the colors, contrasts, and other features that make us what we are becoming day-by-day.

Some things about God crash in on me when I watch Ross paint.

1. Eternal perspective. It washes over me like a tide that God doesn’t live in my world; I live in his. He is providentially creating who he desires me to be as I yield to his will.

It compels me to live for God with everything in me and not just for an earthly reward. Many people want to secure their lives here-and-now because the present is all they can grasp. But Jesus rebuked the rich man with all his burgeoning industry, not for his wealth but for being stupid enough to enter the next life spiritually bankrupt.

God desires our wellbeing and prosperity now. Yet we should not discount Heaven and living toward that end, for it is more reward than we can comprehend.

2. God is purposeful. Entirely so. He proclaims, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Isa. 46:10).

How many times have I thought Ross had ruined the portrait! “NO! Not a tree there! An old shack, really?” Because I was enjoying the sunshine coming over the snow-capped mountain. But only he knew what that tree and stone and waterline were going to contribute to the scenic beauty.

And it isn’t just his technique; it’s also his mastery of color. I could never mix colors so thoughtfully, so easily. And how many of us can verify that the Lord knows how to bring good things and sweet relief into our lives?

3. God gives delight. I often remind myself of God’s affection: He is for me. We eventually learn that the dark hues and random applications in our lives were not ruinous as we thought of them at the time. God was never hurting us, although there were times when his work wasn’t pleasant.

But if we’ll trust him with the canvas, indeed the whole project, the day will come when we’ll suddenly notice what we had never seen. We’ll finally understand what was always in God’s heart for us as we marvel at the beauty of our own lives.

The David Crowder Band sings, “You make everything glorious and I am yours. What does that make me?” I’ll tell you, glorious.

9 thoughts on “O the Joy of Painting!

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Michael. It brought back memories of sitting with my dad, the ultimate channel flipper. He always stopped, though when he spotted the Joy of Painting. Together we would gasp (like you) when it looked like he was putting a tree in the wrong place, or he would start to smear paint across the sky that later turned into mountains, and we would sigh when suddenly reflections would appear in the water. Then there was what I thought was a tree suddenly becomes a deer, or when I think he’s done he starts adding shadows and light. Instead of red it was Crimson, and instead of brown it was Sienna.
    I love your analogy and will be keeping my eyes open when flipping channels myself to enjoy a fresh perspective on The Joy of Painting it may just turn into a time of worship :).

    • Indeed, Kathleen! On a different note: I often think that if I had to pack a gift box of genuinely American things for a foreigner, that show would definitely be included. I feel it captures the undertone of this nation, of a proud people who have been richly blessed with so much, from talent, like Ross himself, to the vast and varied landscapes that he paints.

      • Michael, I think your comment was definitely Holy Spirit inspired. I am taking a class on Diversity 😦 and it is more focused on the negative than the positive of being American. Your response is encouragement to me to pursue His Word and to be a light within this forum.

  2. Wow, I haven’t seen or thought of The Joy of Painting since I was a kid. I used to love that show! Going to have to see if it’s on a Roku channel somewhere. 🙂

    Great insights too, Michael. I liked how you brought out that it looks like the portrait might be ruined by some of the things added and how it’s like our questioning what God does because we don’t have His perspective. Good stuff!

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