In my original “Cheer Up” post, I said,
“Going into my anguish, not running away from it, is where God gave me peace. I found joy, not chasing after it desperately, but while meditating on sad poems and realizing that is the desperate context in which I choose to trust God.”
This morning I was thinking more about that. And while I do not disagree with what I said, I realized there is another specific element I should have clarified. I think it sounded like my two choices were 1. Go into my anguish or 2. Chase desperately after joy, because I’m supposed to be rejoicing in all things.
The choice I have made is that I will not desperately pursue, run after or demand Joy. What I will do is acknowledge and feel deeply the pain of my situation, the overwhelmingness that I feel, even the anxiety and the panic.
But I will do that–I will think on those realities–with my face turned directly toward God. With my heart seeking after Him and crying out desperately to Him. With my hands open to Him even as the tears pour down my face in worry and despair and fear.
When I speak of “meditating” on my sadness, it is not thinking about my sad situation to exclude God. It is an intimate conversation, really, with God about all that is overwhelming me. The direction of my “meditation on sadness” makes all the difference. Because as I sink into the heavy realities of my life, I am surrounded by and embraced and held by Almighty God.
My main point was that I don’t experience Joy by pasting a smile on and spouting off spiritual words. The joy I experience is a gift of grace that comes to me when I am facing with total honesty how overwhelming certain circumstances are to me right now.
In the honest, heartwrenching pain, I cannot force Joy or Peace to happen. I cannot even demand them from God. And I cannot demand that when He gives them to me, as gifts of His grace, that the Peace and Joy will erase the fears and doubts and uncertainties and discouragement. Sometimes the fear goes away with the gift of peace. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way it does not change the way He meets me and holds me as I cling to Him in my darkest times.
On a lighter note (or maybe to convince you how strange I really am!) I thoroughly enjoyed reading a sermon on depression by Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter. I’m not a huge fan of Puritan theology (don’t stone me, please!), but this was a pretty fun read for three reasons: (1) hearing the things that are the same today as they were then (2) the good perspective and advice he gave and (3) the hilarious and totally politically incorrect advice he gave.
All in all, while I allowed myself to feel the weight of my sadness yesterday, God brought me hope and peace through the depressing poems (in my original post), through this sermon on depression from the 1600s, and through a very helpful worship service at a tiny Lutheran church I visited. This morning He encouraged me again through a letter from friends who are praying and challenging me.
Today I went up. And I went down. And up and down and so on. My life is still very hard. There are situations where any decision I make feels like it will only make things worse. For me and for people I love dearly.