Melancholy: A Guest Post

I ran across this gem of a post from a friend of mine from Union University days. I think it speaks to where so many of us are these days in the joy mixed with sadness, in the now and not yet. I hope it will speak to you as it did to me when I first read it:

“Melancholy.

That’s the most accurate word I can muster to describe how this holiday season feels to me. Do you, too, recently find yourself experiencing the paradox of emotional numbness against the backdrop of Andy Williams singing ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’? Have you and/or your loved ones’ hardships left you lost in a pensive sadness, wandering around in your blasé thoughts?

Man, that sure is where I’ve been lately. Not just because of the recent losses I’ve experienced myself, but I can’t even tell you how many people I know right now who are hurting and experiencing life-altering difficulties. And on some level, the cheer usually associated with Christmas seems to emphasize the ‘blahs’ even more.

And yet, I find that it’s these times that test the mettle of my faith. I mean, if what I believe about God is only true when I’m ‘feeling it’ – then that’s a rather paper-thin orthodoxy, is it not?

So, I’ve decided to do something this season, and I wanted to encourage some of you to do it, too, if you feel so inclined:

Embrace the melancholy.

That’s right. Embrace it.

Before I unpack what I mean by that, let me be clear what I don’t mean. I’m not talking about wallowing in sadness, nor do I mean following it into a downward spiral of hopelessness and depression. If you are at that level, then by all means reach out and get help from a loved one or a professional counselor.

I’m speaking rather to those who feel like a train that has stopped too quickly. The weight of your circumstances and this dumpster fire of a year are gaining momentum and shifting forward. You’ve got an emotional migraine. Your feeler seems to be broken from feeling too much all at once.

I want you to know that God, in His sovereignty, gave us a wide range of emotions to experience, and He did it on purpose. He created them for us. Sadness isn’t a sin. It doesn’t make you ‘less than.’

While the apostle Paul said he had found a way to be content in every circumstance, he never said he was giddy all the time. Hardships are, well. . .hard – and God gave us the pressure valve of our emotions (some pleasant, others not as pleasant) so that our heads wouldn’t explode every time something extreme happens.

Perhaps our best cue for embracing the melancholy is found in the Psalms. As a musician, it’s always been my favorite book of the Bible. I often find myself strolling through the Psalms, especially when something seems off in my life. I’ve come to realize that David wrote some of his best stuff when things were personally falling apart for him.

Amazingly, the psalmist’s difficult circumstances often drove him towards God, not away from Him. So it stands to reason that God is in fact willing to sit with us in our sadness. Whether we ‘feel Him’ on our end or not, God is both gentle and relentless in being with us when we are hurting.So, do I crave hard times? No, of course not. They stink.

But after my nearly 50 years of living, I’m just now discovering that whatever path I’m on – God still wants to be near me and He’s strewn things along that path for me to pick up and carry with me for future reference.

So, friends, if you feel like I do this Christmas — let sadness and hope jostle in the balance. Be okay with the messiness of how that feels. Simultaneously embrace God and the feeling of melancholy. He’ll sit with you in the midst of it. Do what might feel counter-intuitive – go towards Him. There is something to be gleaned here in this strange place. After all, one of the miracles of ‘God with us’ is that it’s not circumstantial. He is still Emmanuel no matter where you are” (Carey Dyer).

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