Sometimes it’s just hard to be happy.
We all have bad days where everything around us seems to appear a mournful shade of grey. The tricky thing is, with human emotions being so complicated, there doesn’t even need to be a specific reason for us to feel this way. In our fallen world, we have to deal with sadness and other negative feelings as a way of life. While some people are born with natural dispositions that are more prone to these feelings than others, the truth is everyone is susceptible to experiencing the emotions that make the world lose its color.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: this is a negative post about promoting self-pity. Such a statement is quite contrary to my true purpose in writing this. My reason for writing this comes from a simple desire to clear up some common misconceptions that Christians might have about experiencing sadness and more complex emotional states, such as depression. My intention is that you will be comforted and reassured after reading this post, rather than wallowing in despair.
So let’s begin our re-assessment of sadness. We’ll begin with a few false ideas that some Christians have about it first.
Myth #1 –
If you’re feeling sad or depressed, it means you’re not right with God, and have sin in your life.
Unfortunately, I have heard this belief come out of many different Christians’ mouths. While it is always possible for a person to have sin, it is not a sin to be feeling sad or depressed in and of itself. Sadness entered the world as a result of sin, but it is not a sin to be sad. To hold this opinion is ignorant; to say it to someone who is struggling with sadness or depression is downright insensitive. If you make such an assumption about someone who is experiencing these feelings, you’ll end up sounding like the Pharisees in the New Testament, who claimed that a blind man was born that way because of his parents’ sin. To blame someone’s emotional pain on their sin without taking time to correctly understand their situation is an extremely hurtful thing to do.
Also, when Jesus Himself was here on this earth, He too experienced sadness, just like us. When his good friend Lazarus died, the Bible tells us that Jesus wept, and had compassion and empathy for Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Whenever he was rejected time and time again by people in different places, I’m sure Jesus was grieved like anyone would be. Of course, Jesus’ most awful experience with sadness had to be all of the events leading up to His death on the cross. Agony in Gethsemane, betrayal by one of His own disciples, being falsely accused by the Pharisees, being denied not once, but THREE times in a row by Peter, his other disciple, being mocked, physically abused, harassed, condemned to die as an unjust punishment, and ultimately abandoned by His own Father in Heaven – ALL of these things caused our Savior unimaginable sorrow.
Now we all know that Jesus was entirely perfect and holy without sin; so to say that feeling sad is a sin or to be depressed means you’re not right with God is ridiculous. Believing such a thing would be implying that Jesus was a sinner, which is blasphemy.
Myth #2 –
If you’re sad or depressed, it means you’re not thankful enough for the things in your life.
While this might be true in some cases, it is unwise to make this assumption about someone based on a shallow judgment. Practicing thankfulness is a helpful way to overcome sadness and depression, but it is by no means a magical cure to solve all of our emotional problems. For example, if a family loses a loved one, they may be thankful for the time they were blessed to have their relative with them, but they would still feel a great deal of grief because that person passed away. In a more common situation, a person might feel very thankful to God, but still feel sad for whatever reasons or circumstances they’re experiencing.
A biblical example of this would be Job, who lost everything he had except for his life, and still refused to blame God. Job was a very wealthy man living in ancient times who loved God more than all his many possessions. When God chose to test his faithfulness by allowing Satan to oppress him, Job had every reason in his flesh to give up on God and question His goodness, but he didn’t, at least not for long. Job acknowledged that God had given him everything he had in life, and that it was His right to take it all away if He so chose. However, Job was extremely depressed and sorrowful after losing his family, just as any normal person would be. Being sad about his circumstances didn’t make him ungrateful or any less of a Christian.
It is very important for us to understand that how we respond to negative circumstances does not always determine our spirituality in other areas. We can still be thankful to God while not particularly happy about our given circumstances. It might not be easy, but it is possible.
Myth #3 –
If you’re sad or depressed, it means you’re being selfish or too self-absorbed.
Now I have heard this one too many times to count. It infuriates me to no end when I hear people display such ignorance and insensitivity. While experiencing sadness and depression can cause people to isolate themselves from others, it is not fair at all to automatically label them as selfish or self-absorbed. Even more outrageous is when people say, “You’re not the only one who’s gone/going through this,” or “There are so many other people out there who have it worse than you,” or “Stop being over-dramatic and exaggerating your situation.” Saying these things to someone who has a legitimate reason for being upset is distasteful to say the very least. For one thing, these statements and other ones like them are hurtful, because they invalidate that person’s feelings. They don’t hear it as encouragement or helpful words; they hear it as subtle criticism directed at them for how they’re reacting. For another thing, these statements diminish the seriousness of that person’s situation. Would it be right to say to a person who has cancer, “You’re not the only person who has this or has had it happen to them; get over it”? Of course not! People who are experiencing sadness or depression are dealing with a serious sickness just like cancer, except it’s emotional instead of physical.
In the Bible, there were many different people who were sick and needed Jesus’ healing power. Whether they were blind, crippled, leprous, or even already dead, they each had a serious need that deserved to be acknowledged and validated. When they cried out for Jesus to help them, did He talk down to them and tell them that their problems weren’t as important as everyone else’s? NO! Jesus displayed His infinite compassion for mankind when He was on this earth, proving His love for humanity. Even if some of His disciples tried to convince Him to keep moving and walk away from them, our Lord and Savior didn’t listen to them. He cared about every single person he healed, since he was acquainted with their souls before they were even born. Not once did Jesus ever criticize a person who needed Him and confessed their faith in Him. Jesus treated every person he healed with the same amount of respect and concern that he gave to everyone else.
We should all try to be more understanding of a sad or depressed person’s situation before we label them as selfish or self-absorbed. Just as Jesus had compassion and took pity on those who needed Him, we must do the same for those around us who are struggling with sadness and depression.
If you’re feeling sad or depressed, God understands, and it’s okay.
Now that we have debunked some of these popular Christian myths about sadness, hopefully you have gained a better understanding of how God views this emotion. It is completely natural to experience it, and it is NOT a sin. However, there will be some people who will try to quote Philippians 4:4, where it says “Rejoice in the Lord always” to disagree with this post. It is important to note the difference between happiness and joy: Happiness is a temporary state based on circumstances, while joy is eternal hope in spite of circumstances. You can still have your Christian joy while feeling sad at the same time. When Jesus’ followers witnessed His death on the cross, they were sad that He died, but they held onto His promise that He would rise again. That hope they kept was the definition of their joy in spite of the negative circumstances. I would encourage you to hold onto your joy, no matter how sad or depressed you might be feeling. At the same time, however, I’m here to tell you that there is no need for you to feel guilty or ashamed of being sad or depressed. God knows and understands your pain, and all the reasons for it. He is always there to comfort you and heal your heart. He wants to help you.
Here are God’s eternal words of promise and truth to assure you:
Psalm 34:18 ~ “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
Hebrews 4:15 ~ “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.“
Isaiah 53:3 ~ “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.“
Psalm 56:8 ~ “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?“
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ~ “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Psalm 55:22 ~ “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
1 Peter 5:7 ~ “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ~ “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
While it is not a sin to be sad or depressed, God doesn’t want you to stay that way forever. I want to assure you that no matter what you are going through right now, God is capable of healing ANY kind of damage within a human heart. The process cannot be rushed, though; He is a Master Healer that does things delicately with intricate care. You must be willing to trust Him and take His hand as He performs a beautiful miracle in your life. If you keep your eyes fixed on Him with steadfast, unwavering faith, you will be amazed at the wonderful things He can help you achieve and overcome. Trust me, He certainly will.
– Gloria D. Hopkins