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says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
Let me start by saying that I am generally a happy, optimistic person. I like being happy. I try to make others feel happy. This blog’s tagline is inspiration in the everyday—because I believe that inspiration is there when we look for it.
When I’m not happy, my immediate reflex is to think: What’s wrong with me?
This post was inspired by a bad day. I had some heavy thoughts weighing on my heart, about people suffering in the world among other things. The February sky was gray and the prairie winds howled but there was no snow on the ground; there had recently been a garbage day when cans had blown over and released their contents all over the neighborhood.
I was straight up #NotInspired.
I got to thinking about the author of Ecclesiastes, the great King Solomon. After living a full life (albeit full of mistakes), it seems like he was feeling pretty #NotInspired too.
Typically it’s good to fight your bad mood, to meditate on gratitude and choose joy. I read One Thousand Gifts a few years ago and it transformed the way I think about gratitude; I also recently shared about the science of choosing your thoughts.
But occasionally, no matter how I try I can’t shake the melancholy. On this particular day I had prayed and been to church, been around friends and tried to focus on the positive. Yet I was just feeling sad.
It occurred to me: Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me after all.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
[…] a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance […] —Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4
One of my favorite family movies is Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I bawl my eyes out every time I watch it. Spoiler alert: the moral of the story is that Sadness is an essential part of a mature human being’s emotional core. As much as you try to kick it to the curb, you need it. And here’s the best part: without experiencing the depths of Sadness, you don’t get to experience Joy either.
This is a Biblical truth in that story. Jesus himself was a man who did not restrain himself from tears.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” [Jesus] said to them.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross […]
I recently learned that when we cry, we release stress hormones in our tears. In other words, crying is healthy.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
When Solomon laid out his anguish in Ecclesiastes, I believe it was his desperate cry for the savior who had not yet come. For those of us who know the fulfillment of that ache, we have more hope. And yet, sorrow remains.
Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and rejoicing may end in grief.
We live in a world rife with pain and suffering. No matter what advances we make technologically and culturally, there’s nothing we can do to make them go away. People ask: Why would a loving God allow this? That’s a hard question, but I think it relates to the topic at hand here: we know sorrow so that we may know joy even more.
Fittingly, I have a hymn stuck in my head right now called No Tears in Heaven. It’s based on this verse:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
I believe this. Someday we won’t cry anymore. But we’re not there yet. The world isn’t there yet. And while we wait, it’s okay to cry.
Far too often in my life I have run away from gloomy feelings. They’re scary and make me feel uncomfortably exposed. But I’m learning to embrace them. Explore them. Find healing and even hope in them.
If Jesus was okay with being sad then I should be too.
Are you comfortable with sorrow? How do you explore your sorrows in a way that is healing and ultimately leads to joy? Leave a comment below or on social media.
***Disclaimer*** I am not a psychologist. I’m aware that many people suffer from chronic anxiety and depression, and these are real health conditions that you do not simply talk yourself out of. I hope that you find this post helpful, but please don’t take this as medical advice.
(All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™)