Grief and sadness, like so many human emotions, has not been well-understood by the Christian. There is the misconception that the fruits of the spirit paint perpetual smiles on our faces. When the smiles are not there, it means we have something wrong . . . or does it?
Human emotions were designed by the creator. Now, I am not saying they are perfect, but they are real. So I must think about the idea that God designed sadness, happiness, grief, rage, anger, love and all the rest. Our spiritual job is not to deny these human emotions, but to stake out the boundaries between the healthy emotions and those tainted by the fall of Adam.
My personal Achilles heel is anxiety. There are lots to be said about the Christian view of anxiety. I have three books started, not to mention the one at the press now. One of those in a rough draft form is Made Fearfully–Celebrating the Gift of Fear and Anxiety. With that said, I will add that I have also been over the edge into the abyss of depression twice in my life and I know what depression is like, although that is not my Achilles heel.
My wife and I had the discussion last night that we both feel sad. While I have periods of sadness, that stay within the boundaries of “good sadness” it is very unusual for her or at least for her to admit that sadness.
The reason that we are sad is simple. It is life experiences. I won’t name them here for the sake of expediency. I will simply say it is being empty-nesters and watching the flow of time speeding up as we get older. We are starting to question why we go to work every day. I even spent a couple of hours last night looking for ways we could quit our jobs and go to help Syrian refugees.
However, the bigger question is how do we find that edge between healthy sadness and that horrible abyss or black hole of the devil that we see on the surface as clinical depression. That is truly a terrible place to dwell.
Real sadness, the healthy kind, should never be shunned. As I have said and will say over and over, God, if he is there, and I think he is, dwells in reality. The closer we are to reality, the closer we are to God. So, if we deny sadness, we are stepping back from reality one pace. The more paces we take in the backwards direction, the more out-of-focus God becomes. So there is this art form to feel and to feel deeply true sadness without becoming obsessed with it and then stumbling over that terrible edge.
I worry when I see someone whose loved one has died and they, being the good Christian that they are, are happy because they “know that they are in a better place.” I worry too about those who have lost loved ones decades ago and they are stuck in grief. Not that they can or should “get over it.” Getting over the death of someone we loved is another step away from reality. We must stay in the grief for life because that is the shape of this fallen world. But, at the same time, we must eventually stand up, dust ourselves off and be about the business of bringing peace to this world.
I am now late for work, for that job that I question is what I should be doing. But hold that thought and I will try and finish this tomorrow. Sorry again about typos but the sun is now up, I am sitting outside and I cannot see my screen due to the sun shining on it.