Many thanks to Sarah Moon, author of the blog “Ponderings of a Christian Skeptic: Thoughts about God, the Church, and the adventure that is life.”
I found Sarah by reading one of her comments on someone’s blog. She was witty and her sarcasm came across perfectly. I had to read more of her stuff! After reading about her blog I was very impressed with her transparency in dealing with her own struggles. I strongly recommend that you take a look at her site (after reading this article of course) and add her to your RSS feeder. I especially liked her post entitled “I like to worship, but I don’t like worship songs.”
I wrote Sarah after reading almost every single one of her articles. I took a chance by telling her about my own blog site and what I am trying to accomplish at “Graphic Grace.” I asked her if she would be willing to submit a guest post and I am so happy that she agreed! We may never meet face to face, but I thank God for directing me to Sarah’s blog. I hope you enjoy this and I pray that it touches you as deeply as it touched me! Here you go…
Happiness Never Was a Requirement
I know that, as a Christian, I’m supposed to have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where?). But I’m not always happy. I’m an optimist, so I put a great deal of effort into being happy. But it doesn’t always work that way, especially since I have depression. Too often, life resembles a different song- one by King David himself. “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (Psalm 6:6)
Even though the Psalms are filled with similar verses written by this man after God’s own heart, the Church seems to frown upon those who struggle with depression. “Depression is a Christ deficiency,” a fellow Christian once told me. “So, you’ve been praying for God to take this depression away. Well, if you have sin in your heart, the Lord won’t hear you,” a Christian counselor reminded me. “I am suspicious of anyone who says he is a “Christian” but can’t show the joy of Jesus on his face,” a pastor preached.
But I’ve prayed, I’ve read through my entire Bible more than once, I’ve repeated the “salvation prayer” a hundred times. But I still get depressed. Life still feels hopeless sometimes. I still feel the need to turn to self-injury. God doesn’t look down from heaven, see that I’m doing the “right” things, and magically make me happier.
Am I telling you all this to make you feel sorry for me? To invite you to my pity party? No (though, if you do show up to the pity party, it starts at 7. Bring your own chip dip). But I believe my experience reflects a deeper problem in the church. Is depression, or sadness, or difficulty, or a hopeless situation really a result of a Christ deficiency? I believe the majority of Christians would answer no. Yet, we seem to perpetuate this mind-set by ignoring the problems. We would rather pretend that Jesus made our lives perfect than admit our struggles to one another.
Why do we do this? I’m sure everyone has his or her own reason for doing so. But it seems like the main reason is that we feel the need to defend God. One of the biggest arguments for Atheism is the fact that God allows suffering in the world. When faced with finding a rebuttal, we Christians often react with denial- “What? Suffering? Happy am I! I’ve got the joy of Jesus! O, it is wonderful to be a Christian!”
But, even though Jesus is a great source of joy and comfort, we have to start facing the reality that bad things happen in the world. That Jesus isn’t a fairy godmother who makes all our dreams come true. That our faith in Christ is not a means to happiness. God doesn’t want us to pretend that he’s something he’s not. He doesn’t need us to lie to ourselves, our fellow Christians, and the skeptical non-Christians in our lives. He’s God. He can defend himself. What he wants, what is healthier for us Christians, and what is more attractive to non-Christians, is honesty and transparency.
David’s Psalms aren’t your typical up-beat, positive worship songs. When he was happy, he rejoiced. When he was sad, he cried in desperation. When he was angry, he challenged God.
And like David, I can’t always be happy. But that’s okay. Happiness was never a requirement. I can have comfort in Christ’s love, and I can have hope for a coming kingdom. But God is not disappointed in me when I am depressed. I can come to him with honesty. I can cry to him, yell at him, swear around him, and question him. And as Christians, we can be transparent with each other. We can bear one another’s burdens, and that’s a wonderful thought, because life is too hard. We shouldn’t have to do it alone.