grounded to go on no matter what

There’s no question that living in this world means inevitable sadness unless one somehow refuses to take life seriously. And there’s a sense in which we should not hold back. It’s not like we shouldn’t control our emotions when need be. But when one is sad, they’re sad. People need to get real both in their reactions to others, and in their own lives.

At the same time we have to remain grounded. Life doesn’t stop simply because we want it to, or because we want to stop, ourselves. We have to go on. Yes, surely changed with the wounding and remaining scars that are barely if at all healed. And with many questions. Yes, we have answers in Scripture, and the answer in Jesus and the good news in him, but if you’re observing and thinking, there’s always wonderment about both the beauty and brokenness of nearly everything.

Going on in Christ doesn’t mean running like a bull through a china shop. We tread softly where need be, and seek always to walk in wisdom. But we have to get God’s grace and go on no matter what.

We have to remain grounded in God’s word and in prayer. Hopefully with God’s people, though it can be quite lonely at times. The point is that we must remain in God’s grace in Jesus, whatever we’re going through.

We want to do this in community in Jesus, yes. But we have to be active ourselves in it, sometimes quite dependent on the prayers and help of others, such as counsel. After all, we are interdependent; we do need each other. But to do our part, we have to carry our own burden, the load the Lord gives us. And we go on, believing God will see us through. In and through Jesus.

 

sadness is good for the heart

A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
    than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
    so is the laughter of fools.
    This too is meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 7

Back to one of my personal favorite books of the Bible; it’s there for a reason, and not just for its ending. I like to think that Jesus could laugh with the best of them, but was more given to being with those who suffered, entering into their world and suffering empathetically with them, and relieving that suffering so that ultimately they could take up their cross and follow.

In the series at the church we’ve been attending, taking our grandchildren, and may become a part of, we’re in the midst of a new series on the book of Philippians called “Choosing Joy Under Pressure.” It seems to me that this deep joy thrives in the midst of pain and sadness, yes indeed- pressure. So that what the writer of Ecclesiastes might be getting at is how superficial people can be, so that their thoughts and lives do not at all rise to any level beyond the absurd.

Maybe this is in part why Jesus said the poor and poor in spirit are blessed, while the rich are not, at least not necessarily so, but open to woe and rebuke, and a cursed existence. I for one have lived with a lot of internal pain most all of my life. But I am also more and more realizing the joy of seeking to follow the Lord in the midst of it. Grace and peace from God accompanies all of our life in Jesus, including our pain.

In following Jesus, we are not living it up with partying and laughter, though that is a part of life as God created it to be, and can be a way to get to understand where people live, Jesus himself eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. The very heart of God is what we look for, and that is a heart of love, giving everything for others, for the world, in and through Jesus. And to do that, we must enter into the depths of what it means to be human, both in the enjoyment and appreciation of life, and in the difficulties, even death, which accompanies all of that. In and through Jesus.

living well in the well

Scientific American has another article well worth the read entitled, “Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being.” If one reads the Bible, one really should have surmised the truth in that already. The psalms highlight negative emotions, Psalm 88 being perhaps the prime example.

I am a person who has been plagued much of my life with what might be called an emotional deficit. Someone who counseled me, to whom I shared that struggle called me an emotional cripple. Supposedly my emotional quotient (EQ) would be low. That simply has meant that I’ve layed low and withdrawn, not the life of the party, though strangely at times, experiencing so many low points can result in a lot of off the cuff humor.

But I’ve learned, and still am learning to accept such downtimes, sometimes seemingly overwhelming, and when I finally do I find that the negative emotions subside, and a kind of peace and joy, or sense of well being sets in. Another thing I’m learning more and more is not to allow negative emotions rule the day. We can turn them into prayer, into silent waiting on God, into reading, maybe even into sleep.

The point of the article cited above is to accept the entire gamut of human emotions and to find the good in such. Pain is not to be either medicalized or ignored, sometimes even denied, or as counselors say, suppressed. Problems will remain, and it’s not a matter of simply not worrying, but being happy. We are to present our concerns to God to avoid anxiety (Philippians 4), but they are still concerns, and for us not to be sad and and at times even angry over what goes on in the world would flat out be wrong.

We do need to bring them to Jesus, himself called  “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 52-53). He understands our experience firsthand, and is thus uniquely able to help us in our times of great need and struggle (Hebrews 2, 4).

And so we need to learn to live well in the well, the depths of despondency and despair, knowing that even there in and through Jesus there is a hope that doesn’t shun the reality of life, but in and through Jesus actually begins to transform it, as we wait for the great change to come (Revelation 21-22).

when sad

Emotions are a part of life, and to be taken seriously. They can actually be a help or a hindrance, depending on what we do with them.

I have struggled more or less much of my life with depression, probably would be classified mild in clinical terms, since I’ve always been able to function and do what was required of me.

I find times of sadness in my life can be opportunities to seek to draw near to God. Sometimes I know at least in part what troubles me, and while one thing may be paramount, often I’m saddened over a number of things. That can be helpful in giving me much pause to stop, be still, be silent, and seek to come into God’s presence anew and afresh, or really “just as I am”, in and through Jesus.

On the other hand, sadness can be a danger as well. I can listen to another voice other than the voice of the good shepherd. That other voice will put all kinds of troubling and indeed perturbing thoughts in my mind which will eat away at my soul, making me struggle with anger and bitterness. And if something happens especially unexpectedly, what is in me may well spill out. Which then I’ll have to repent of.

Emotions are not to be despised and shunned, or buried within us. The Psalms over and over give testimony to the faithful being open and honest to God about what they are thinking and feeling, even when that is not good. Sadness along with other emotions can be our call to be still before God. To seek God and his face. To pray to him. Of course all in and through Jesus.

And while we need to go immediately to God, we can share our heart struggle to some degree with trusted friends when that is appropriate. That they might pray for us. And we for them, if they should ever share their own struggles with us. As we bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ, which is love, that unique love we find in God through Christ. And we do this ourselves and with each other with a heart by the Spirit of Jesus for the world.

sadness

I have to admit, I do live with plenty of sadness over a good number of things. Most of it relates to sin in the world and its impact, as well as living in an existence in which bad things do happen. In one way we go on in Jesus so that our experience is secondary to that. But in another way, our experience does tell us something to which we need to listen.

When our bodies feel pain, that is an indicator that something is wrong. The same goes for emotional pain. And yet pain is not something from which we should shrink. Think about having no suffering. No pain. Nothing that is troubling.  It is surely good to have seasons like that during which we experience rest and peace in the depths of our souls. But living in the world we do, it would seem unchristian to never experience the pain of this world. And indeed, it would be.

Of course we have to backtrack before I make one final point. We grieve first of all over our own sins. Over our own hardness of heart, and folly.  We seek God’s grace in Jesus through confession of our sins to God, and at the right time to a trusted brother or sister in Jesus. We seek to make things right where we can, and live a new existence.

Jesus himself identified with our plight, even so much as identifying himself as one of us by undergoing John’s baptism which was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Of course Jesus took on himself all our sins at the baptism of his suffering on the cross. He became sin for us, that we in him might become the righteousness of God.

And we do well to identify with the sins of the world so that through us Jesus’ salvation might come to others. We don’t do well when we live some happy existence oblivious to all that is wrong. This is where I think in God’s grace and working in Jesus, Mother Teresa was given an extraordinary gift. She suffered so deeply, so intensely for so long inside. But through that suffering and her frailty, surely even shortcomings, God through Jesus did a marvelous work. Bringing salvation and healing to lepers, and many others in India. And touching so many of us all over the world.

So we don’t want to shirk the sadness we experience. We indeed need to learn to listen to our lives. Pain, as C.S. Lewis aptly wrote, is God’s megaphone to the world, to get the world’s–yes, our attention. Jesus himself experienced the deepest depths of human pain and darkness in his Passion, which comes from the Latin word for suffering. And we share in his glory to the extent that we share in his sufferings. Indeed it is considered a privilege to do so. But it is real suffering. In the words of Paul in his experience: “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” That was in large part to learn deeper and more true dependence on God. But likewise in Paul’s case, it was surely toward sharing in Jesus’ sufferings for the world. He said filling up that in Christ’s Body which was lacking in regard to sufferings that are ongoing. Yes, Jesus suffered once for all for the salvation of the world. But that salvation is in a secondary, yet necessary sense, carried to the world through his Body on earth now.

So let us not condemn ourselves over our sadness, or grief, even depression. Let us commit that to God for what it is. And pray that we may truly share in Jesus’ sufferings, that others might find along with us, God’s salvation in him.

when sad

Lately I’ve struggled not only with being tired, but maybe related to that with sadness. If one could enter into my story or hear it out, one could understand why. Sadness is one thing. But what can accompany that is the temptation to discouragement and despair. Not God’s will for us in Jesus.

Psalm 88 is rather striking to me, a psalm I was in yesterday. It ends where it begins, in a deep pit of darkness, and despair may not be too strong a word to add. But throughout, the psalmist continues to look to God in prayers. A dark night of the soul, and in spite of the prayers, God seems to be silent.

Living in a fallen world in which evils happen daily can leave its mark on us, both temporarily and for life. And we do bring on some of our sadness on ourselves by our own sin and folly, no doubt. Taking the cue from the psalmist we should indeed look to God, and we should do so in the community of God’s people. This psalm was written for God’s people, but it is evident as are the psalms, that it came from real life experience. This is the way of Scripture: it presents to us the story of God through Christ in a way in which we can find ourselves and our story within that story. And when we do so we find plenty of sadness and tears, along with God’s good consolation through his redemption and salvation for us in Jesus.

The underlying issues that make us sad are what we need to keep bringing to God over and over again. This is what the psalmist does. In this psalm the psalmist attributes their deep darkness to God. This gives God the opportunity to work in and through that darkness. The “dark night of the soul” is something we shun, especially in this day and age. But we ought to embrace it, continually asking God to bring us not out of it, but through it for his glory through Jesus.

How do you approach such times? How can we help others when they are down?