Hope in Sadness
Almost daily, tears just leak out of my eyes, often without any warning. I don’t know what is happening. I have always been an easy cry-er, but This. Is. Different. I feel like something is broken. I can even name the day it happened, April 15th, but I don’t know why. That day was unremarkable, except I received another piece of disappointing news. The news itself wasn’t even extremely disappointing – maybe a 3 or 4 on a scale of 10 and coming on the end of a year when disappointments were averaging a high-8.
But I just can’t shake this one off. Reading my bible helps, but it doesn’t totally erase the ache. My usual distractions of tv and tennis aren’t working either. So here I am, my heart hurts, my chest feels tight, my head hurts from constant crying; my spirit feels crushed. And the realization that nothing really bad enough happened that should trigger an emotional response this intense only adds fuel to my disdain of self.
I’m growing weary of sitting in this self-pity – this deep sadness, but I cannot see any way out of it.
Hope, I’m calling!
Where have You gone?
I don’t like it when You hide from me.
I feel so alone.
Hope, did I lose you?
Did I leave You out in the rain?
Are you buried in the mud somewhere,
Unrecognizable and stained?
Hope, did I take you for granted?
Assume you’d stick around,
Despite my inattention?
Have you left for fertile ground?
Hope, did I extinguish your light?
Have my careless words and casual deeds
Conveyed a disdain for Your power,
And cause you to leave?
Hope, maybe I’ve just misplaced you,
And You aren’t really lost.
Help me sort through all that blocks
My view of you, and of your cross.
As I sit here trying to write a tidbit of something meaningful, I just keep coming back to this deep sadness that has descended, uninvited, into my life. I wonder if others are struggling too? And I wonder if its okay to admit to the few that will read this blog post – that I’m not okay?
A Glimmer of Hope
I have spent the last few years leading a Bible study called Keys to Freedom. I have learned so much about recognizing spiritual bondage and this study guides participants through very thorough steps to obtaining freedom. One of the core truths that author, Nancy Alcorn, stresses is that emotions are not the problem. However, emotions do serve as signposts that something deeper is going on: a root issue.
I have asked Jesus multiple times if He would reveal the root of this problem? But I am either not hearing His voice correctly, or He is wanting more for me than a quick fix this time. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of these two statements.
Psalm 84:11 is my life verse: “The Lord God is a sun and a shield; The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
If this verse is true, then God is not stingy. He does not withhold good things from His children. If I am praying and asking God for something and He is not answering like I expect, then my logical assumption should be that what I am asking for is not good for me, or it is not the right time for me to have it, and God is shielding me from it. My head understands this, but the struggle is getting my heart, will and emotions to accept it.
On one particularly tearful morning, I decided that I would embrace this verse again. I told Jesus that I trust when I am ready, He will unlock the truth regarding my deep sadness. But I also told Him I needed His help, His reassurance that He was with me in this dark time. In that moment, I felt like He invited me to lay my head in His lap, and He just held me while I cried.
After I had my cry session with Jesus I sensed a shift. The best way I can describe it is that while that deep sadness isn’t gone, its grip on my soul is loosened. I have a buffer now between it and my tear ducts and the tightness in my chest. Having that bit of separation is giving me hope that this is not a permanent condition.
Reaching for Hope
In addition to a constant dialogue with Jesus, I have admitted to my family and my prayer partners and my small group that I am really struggling. Faking joy has never been my strong suit anyway. Also, knowing that my friends and family are praying with and for me, and sharing my burden is a huge comfort. It’s also a very practical, biblical step. (See Galatians 6:2 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.)
I have also started counseling. I knew that this deep sadness was bigger than I could figure out on my own, and I needed professional advice on how to cope.
Equally important, I have continued to do the mundane, ordinary tasks of life, even though I really don’t feel like it. Priscilla Shirer adeptly explains the importance of this in her talk, “When It Feels Like God Is Doing Nothing.” Through her many examples, from her own life and from familiar Bible stories, like Joseph and Saul, I was reminded and encouraged that God is never not doing something. He will show up while I am doing the simple, everyday things that He asks me to do.
I have also begun to ask Jesus to help me in these everyday tasks. As I turn more often to Him, I sense His presence in my ordinary. I am learning that when Jesus promised to be with us always in Matthew 28:20, He wasn’t talking about being with us only when we are engaging in ministry or doing some grand thing for His kingdom. He really meant ALWAYS.
I am welcoming His presence when I am walking the dogs and when I am reading or writing. I acknowledge His provision when I am doing laundry and praying with friends. I sense His pleasure when I am paying bills and admiring His handiwork in nature. In short, I am learning to rely on Jesus, my friend and my savior much more often than I ever have before.
As much as I long for a quick fix from these unwelcome and overwhelming feelings, I am grateful that I am learning to consistently depend on God.
Romans 5:3-5 says, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Even though I don’t feel like rejoicing, I can give thanks to God for who He is and how He is so near to me in my trials. I can choose to be assured that God is doing something, even though I can’t see it yet. And I reach for the promise that the HOPE that He is producing in me and for me will never disappoint.
Hope, you have not left me,
You have not been hidden or lost.
Instead, you are refining me,
Producing character without dross.
The tears are not as frequent now, and I know that this season will end. Hope didn’t leave me because Jesus never left me. I am learning that He simply wants to be with me, when I am feeling emotionally well, and especially when I’m not. He is both the solution AND the process. He never disappoints!