Christians Should Be Miserable

I’ve written this and it looks ridiculous. But nonetheless, there’s a  bit of me that thinks it’s true.

I was thinking about it last night.  Glen and I were chatting.  Well, Glen was chatting and I was listening. (It’s nonsense that all Women talk and want to be Held whilst Men Build Stuff and Hide in their Man-Caves.   Sometimes Guys want to Share whilst Women want to Sleep in Their Lady-Sheds).

Anyway.  Glen’s was ranting about something random… why red skittles are better than green ones? No that was Sunday… (Stay with me people, I’m sure I’m going somewhere and if you don’t read, it’s just me and my crazy head). Ok, got it:

The night previous (he told me), he dreamt I’d had an affair with a hotel bell-boy who was – and I quote – ‘buff but dumb as a box of hammers’.  So the aim of his rant was to make me feel guilty and then apologise for something I hadn’t even done. The fact that I was innocent made no difference. So, I skewered him with a red herring.

‘Honey’ (says I – always a bad sign),

‘Are you – Happy?’

Well.  You’d have thought I’d professed undying love for ‘buff but dumb’. Husband stopped, mid-sentence, choked and then made a spluttering noise.

‘What sort of question is that?!’

Another Pause

‘Hap-py’. (Rolling it round like an exotic fruit). ‘Er – yeah.  Think so.  How about you?’

In truth, I’m not sure how I’d answer.  I approach the word ‘happy’ like our cat investigates a stranger’s shoes.  Interesting – and worth a sniff.  But unfamiliar and possibly dangerous too. What are the ingredients?  How do you know when you’ve got it? What happens if you get it and then lose it – or if someone takes it off you?  No-one wants that. Or if you get too happy – is that a bad thing?

‘Happy’ is too easy. People off the TV, hugging and enjoying uncomplicated relationships with other people. Dogs romping through toilet rolls.  Menstrual women, jumping out of airplanes. Dads getting Christmas socks.

Is ‘happy’ me?  Doesn’t feel like it. Truth be told, I want it but I’m afraid of it too.  Hope and joy are lovely – but they’re not safe.  Best to seal off that aspiration and settle for “busy” or “plodding along.”  Except that – as with so many things in life – I try to whitewash my temperament with my faith.  I’m not grumpy – I’m biblical – and I roll out verses about “suffering” ,”persecution” and “cross-bearing” to prove it.

There’s no doubt that these things are a part of following Jesus, just as the Bible speaks of and to depressed Christians (of which I am one).

But.

It’s easy for me to make Christianity in my own image.  Jesus however, is not grumpy! He’s a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.  He suffers, cries and dies. And yet…  He’s also full to overflowing with the Oil of Joy (Psalm 45:7) – the happiest person on the planet.   He’s not throwing me a series of fiendish challenges just to see if I’ll break.  He wants to bless me – in this life, as well as the next. To share the full measure of His eternal joy with us! (John 15:11)

So what should I do with my depression?  Ignore it and sing a happy Psalm?  Indulge it and murmur, “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen?”

Is there a third way?  How can the joy of Jesus interact with the sorrows of our circumstances, and our psychologies?

Over to you…

 

 

8 thoughts on “Christians Should Be Miserable

  1. Happy – a feeling, showing or causing pleasure or satisfaction. it’s interesting how this is most often used in the context of someone else – “I’m really happy for you… you make me happy”, which makes me think about the difference between an immediate ‘moment’ to genuine, lasting joy of the kind ascribed to Christ regarding His looking past the cross to the ‘joy’ (redeemed creation) that made such devastating suffering bearable. Lots to unpack there, I think.

  2. Aha, I have also been pondering on such issues of late. I intend to write some posts on them, but I am still formulating what I think.

    In short, I think that some Christians are rather more miserable than they perhaps need be and others are just too darn happy.

    I can justify that theologically, but it might be tenuous!

    I always think it tricky to work out our expectations. What comes down to personality and what is to do with mental health, and what is to do with the spiritual aspect?

    There’s an awful lot of folks in the Bible that don’t seem particularly joyful – Jeremiah is a right old moaner, for example…

    I don’t know. I laughed at ‘I’m not grumpy – I’m biblical’ – prob cos I recognised myself in it. But I think our society gives people a lot of stick for being grumpy, and puts happiness as the all-time goal. John Piper not-withstanding, I get twitchy when people say that joy is our all-time goal. It does not sound healthy to me.

    This is rambly – this is why I need to collect my thoughts before I write my blog posts (and potentially get shit down in flames…)

    Will be interested to see your conclusions!

  3. I find interesting reading your thoughts on this subject. In the last few days as I watched my co workers laughing on everything in a very childish way I realised this is what I am missing. To meet, to see really joyful people. I meet them so rare. I meet often people who run after money, position, success, etc…. but joyful people?! No. Sadly, I don’t think is very different in churches. You can find striving, showing off, but that real childish joy … many times is not there, it is missing. I have to admit, it’s missing from my life, too. I would love to feel it day after day. To smile from the depth of my heart to the sun or rain, to everything around us and let the burden to carry themselves.

  4. “How can the joy of Jesus interact with the sorrows of our circumstances, and our psychologies?”
    Great question – I’d love to know the answer! Some things that came to mind (not at all well thought-through or developed, but):
    – we so often (and sub-consciously) look for satisfaction, security & significance in things which, while they may be good things, cannot give us ultimate satisfaction, because that is only found in the Lord. When we are satisfied in Him, is that when we are able to feel true joy & contentment in everything, because then our joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances? (I can feel a guilt trip coming on as I type; I need to ask God to do this work in my heart rather than feeling guilty at how far short I fall in this…)
    – I think you’re right that many of us are afraid of strong feelings of happiness/joy (or any other strong feelings come to that). Dare we ask God to produce the whole fruit of the Spirit in us – including joy? It feels risky to ask Him to transform us in our emotional-life, not just in our words and actions…
    – feelings do change massively, rapidly and as a result of apparently small triggers (or even no obvious triggers at all). We often separate thinking and feeling (‘head’ and ‘heart’), but the Bible doesn’t, and experience tells us that our feelings are the outworking of our thought-life (eg thinking about cooking Christmas dinner for 13 results in feeling anxious!!) Yes, circumstances are of course relevant too, but it’s our thoughts about/responses to those circumstances that result in the feelings we feel. Therefore, shouldn’t dwelling on, meditating, thinking about God – who He is, what He has done – affect our feelings too? (ok, so it’s far far easier to dwell obsessively on Christmas-dinner-for-13, so on that note I’m off to put some music on that will get my thinking onto something more fruitful!)

  5. PS. I fear my last comment was too trite and sounded as if all we have to do is think about God and our depression will magically disappear, which is not at all what I meant… Sorry.
    I too easily dismiss or disapprove of my feelings, rather than acknowledging them and talking to God about them – as the writer of Psalm 88 did when he told God all about his utter despair. I have a lot to learn.

  6. So encouraging Emma! When I’m not joyful (as I struggle with depression/anxiety) I love to think of Jesus being joyful on my behalf. That he is joyful towards the Father for me…and then it is more likely my own joy will follow. What a great gift that we have a Saviour who not only dies, but also lives on our behalf. Thanks again and love to you and Glen from us

  7. As someone who also struggles with this kind of stuff, I guess my initial thought is that there is a difference between ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’. As I type this I realise it wouldn’t stand up in an argument but really, it does seem to me that happiness is a bit flimsy, kind of like the fancy but on a cake, whereas ‘joy’ is a bit more… earthy… a bit more eggs n flour… I guess I’m saying that one is a slightly simpering giggle and the other, a deep belly laugh.
    Happiness feels like it might fade fast, belonging to a moment or a situation, whereas joy seems more lasting, more dependant on an overall attitude.
    Dunno – I may be talking a load of crap but it’s just what strikes me.
    Joy feels more embedded and, if that IS the case, even when we feel unhappy, we at least have the propensity for joy some place deep inside us.

    As for the Christian part of the whole topic… I give up trying to make sense of it.
    For a long time now I have struggled with the fact that church seems to be full of people who are ‘happy’ and smiley and all the things I don’t necessarily ‘fit’ into.
    I would say though, despite depression and anxieties and the ED, I often have joy somewhere in me, on some level, visible or not.

    Sorry this is such a long ramble!

  8. Thanks – been mulling over your comments and they’ve really helped me think these things through. Especially:

    Howard: the way we often use ‘happy’ in relation to other people.Not sure why, but it’s got me pondering.

    Tanya: ‘that some Christians are rather more miserable than they perhaps need be and others are just too darn happy’. spot on.

    Kinga: the childlike element to joy: unselfconscious and spontaneous and receptive

    Debs: the riskiness of asking God for joy and the ways we separate our thoughts and actions

    Si: that Jesus is joyful on our behalf – so liberating

    Wonderingsoul: love your cake analogy – and the reminder that joy can be quite deep within us, even through depression and struggle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *