Sadness in the Season of Joy
It’s winter again. If you live in Ohio, the skies are gray most of the time and the coldness outside keeps some isolated in their homes. And my heart goes out to those of you who have to go out and fight the elements. It’s not pleasant! Not only is it winter…the holidays are coming.
The world around us says it’s a beautiful time of the year, being with those we love... giving thanks, then giving of gifts to all who are an important part of our lives. We look around us and it seems that everyone is enjoying themselves as they rush around doing what we are supposed to be doing.
But maybe, for some reason this year…the joy is not there for you. You might be surrounded by a large group of significant people in your life, people you love, but you think to yourself “why do we do this? It’s the same thing every year… exhaustion, overeating, and the trading of gift cards!” And the thought of that makes you weary.
Or maybe you are all alone and have no one to trade gift cards with.
Unlike the rest of the people in your world, the heart inside you is so heavy you feel like you can’t breathe. You feel so sad you just want to cry and not stop
Maybe you actually have a reason to feel that way…you are in physical pain or someone you love is hurting and you don’t know how to help. Maybe, it’s grief that makes you feel this way. More often than not, it’s disappointment in yourself or someone else, probably because your expectations were set too high.
Sometimes feelings of sadness overwhelm us and we simply don’t know why. We look around us and see all the blessing we have been given and cry out in desperation, “Dear God, l know all this comes from you, but I still feel empty.” Then we feel the guilt because we see so many who have far less, yet they appear to be happy.
So we paste the smile on our face, and try to be happy too. We force ourselves to do what we are supposed to be doing. We set up the Christmas tree, buy gifts, make candy and cookies, and even fill a shoe box for a needy person because we are told that giving to others will make us happier. But this year, none of it is working. And in this time of unrest and sadness, we feel very much alone and unable to think of one human we can reach out to for help. And the loneliness makes our hearts even heavier.
I’ve had those seasons in my life. Most people have. It doesn’t even have to be winter outside our window, but it’s winter in our hearts.
I think back to the worst time of my life. It was a combination of things that made it that way; it was a time when I felt sad and alone for an extended period of time. Every morning, as I struggled to wake up, that heaviness would settle over me and I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and go back to the unconsciousness of sleep. But I couldn’t. I had responsibilities…there were people who depended on me. I wanted to be the best Christian, wife, parent, sister, child, friend I could be, but I lacked the energy to be all that. Even when I could do some good, it felt like a thankless existence…always trying so hard... helping, helping, helping and rarely feeling a sense of satisfaction from it.
It was during that winter in my life that I learned several valuable lessons…
I learned I wasn’t alone in my hurting, debilitating sadness. God was there. Somehow, He reached down through the dark cloud that surrounded me, put his finger under my chin and said, “look up, my child. Look up to me, I am here.”
I learned that sadness most often comes from looking down at the situation around our feet or looking around us at others.
I learned that the way out of the sadness was looking up because that is where our help comes from.
Every day, for weeks, I read the same words in my Bible. They were the only words my troubled mind and heart could process. It was not a time for learning new spiritual things, it was a time of just “getting through the sadness.”
And the words that got me through that time?
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43: 1-3.
Then I would go back two pages in my Bible to this:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
And finally…”Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
This was the promise that got me through that season of sadness…I belonged to God, He was with me “through” (that means there is an end to it) that season, and in the end, there would be joy.
During the holiday season, I believe we can add one more paraphrased verse from John 3:16 to this litany. “For God so loved me, that He gave His one and only Son, and if I believe in Him, I will not perish, but have everlasting life.” The verse speaks of the life I can be assured of for eternity, but this life, the one I live in today can have peace and joy…but first I need to focus on the very real fact that God loves me and never leaves me alone.
As a past mental health nurse and a person who has suffered from clinical depression, I recognize that there are times when a person can not help themselves out of the dark world of depression. If you see someone struggling, could you reach out a helping hand to them. Encourage them or guide them to a doctor or therapist who can help them. Or perhaps you are beginning to suffer from some of the symptoms below...don't wait, don't think "they will go away", reach out today to someone who can help you.
Symptoms of depression:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won't go away
- Digestive problems that don't get better, even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts