Since my last post about sadness, I felt a prod from the heart to re-watch Inside Out. For me, Inside Out is not just another good-to-see animated movie – it speaks to the heart and establishes a fact that our emotions, be it joy, anger, disgust, fear and sadness are part of who we really are. We are wired by God with different personalities, and that includes our sometimes complex emotions.
The portion where my tears welled up while watching the movie is the moment when Joy finally recognizes that Sadness is also a part of Riley (the character depicting all of us) – that Riley cannot always deny the surging pain and frustration inside her. Life is not everyday bliss. We have to embrace the fact that inside all of us resides our version of sadness, and fear, disgust and anger. OK, I also cried too when Bingbong, Riley’s imaginary friend, disappeared like dust. It gave me the same chills like how half of the Avengers turned into dust in that great “Thanos Snap”
While I am preparing for a message outline for church, I had a chance to read the book of Job in one sweep. Yes, all 42 chapters in one sitting. I want to see the big picture how a righteous man, who fears and Lord and is full of integrity – descriptions coming directly from God himself (verses Job 1:8, 2:3), fared when all else were taken before him. I want to see how he managed his emotions amidst his depressing situation. Here are the things that I discovered when you cannot seem to find JOY.
Accept the fact that even in becoming a Christian, you will still face sufferings.
This is a hard truth to digest. Many are convinced with the idea that one you accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, life’s challenges will soon be gone. This is a shallow foundation to stand upon, and is obviously not true. If Jesus, the author of salvation, was not spared from sufferings, what makes us think we will be exempted? Isn’t the Bible clear in saying that “a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). We are not exempted. Job was a righteous person, but He did suffer. No one is like Job. He was God’s “trophy” back then, but still, he mourned, and wept and lost a lot of things. So we are not exempt from life’s bitter servings. By accepting this fact, you will have a better understanding of life.
People will mistreat, accuse or misunderstand you. Yes, even your closest friends.
Job, coated with boils, blisters and wounds, was accompanied by his closest friends. But their presence didn’t even soothe the pain he felt, but instead added insult to the wounds that he has, when he was accused of sins he didn’t even commit. God has punished him for an unconfessed sin, they say. Surely God has a reason for all his misfortunes, as God’s justice is always in effect. But Job clung to his innocence, and claimed he didn’t do anything wrong deserving of his sufferings. They had a heated argument – which did not help the person in pain. This is so disheartening, yet this is a fact. There will be people who will not empathize with you. There will be people who will not understand you. But you have the choice not to wear the sandals they are forcing you to wear. As long as you know you are walking within the circle of God’s will, though people do not understand what you’re going through, just tell yourself, “bakit ako matatakot?”
Cling onto hope – it will keep you strong.
Job was very resilient. But it doesn’t mean he is beyond breaking. And one good observation in his narrative is the hope he has in his Savior. In Job 19:25-27 it says:
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
It is no different with the Apostle Paul’s “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. This is more than positive thinking. Realize that there is no better time and place to exercise your faith than the time when all hope seems lost and all help seems gone. Job was looking forward to the day of his redemption – which may come physically to relieve him of his ordeal, or soon when he joins his Creator in heaven, which for him is a better deal! If you find that all joy is gone within you, cling onto hope – it will help you through. It will strengthen you.
Cry onto God. He is not intimidated with that.
I had a personal encounter with extreme sadness. Maybe some other time I’ll share my story. But to give a short piece of account, I suffered from depressing thoughts never I have expected to have. I confided to a mature friend and I was advised to jot down my thoughts – all of it, no holds barred. Being a writer, I wrote my thoughts in an orderly, somehow artistic and carefully-worded manner. But I was rebuked. I am not writing to impress but to express. That time, I am writing not for people, but for myself. So there has to be no more inhibitions, no more censorship, no need to be careful.
After jotting down all my thoughts, I realized, with tears flowing down my cheeks, that I was too tired and exhausted then. I had too many angst against people, against my situation, against my past decisions. It all welled up until it became too heavy to bear. I was caught off-guard by the excesses of life that I allowed my heart to carry. That exercise helped me unload some weight. I encourage you to do that as well.
But that was not all. I went to a solitary place to literally cry out everything. I went to Touch of Glory Prayer Mountain and there I confessed, questioned, and groaned unto God. It was a great experience, much like a spiritual detoxification.
Job did exactly just that. He cried unto God. He was so down and depressed that he already want to die. He was brutally honest –living with such losses, with boils and wounds and blisters and sores all over your body, being scorned by people around him, and being falsely accused by his “close friends” – for him, death would be a great bargain!
After jotting down all my thoughts, I realized, with tears flowing down my cheeks, that I was too tired and exhausted then. I had too many angst against people, against my situation, against my past decisions. It all welled up until it became too heavy to bear.
God is never overwhelmed by the weight of our prayers. He is not overwhelmed by our emotions. We can always be honest with Him. In fact, we can never hide anything from Him! He knows our thoughts, He knows our ways, He knows the deepest parts of our heart. He formed us and we are His. So cry unto Him. People might not understand what you are going through but trust me, He understands.
Remember: it’s OK to not be OK
If you are feeling down and low, it’s OK. It doesn’t make you less of a human when you get sad at times. When you feel frustrated over something, don’t brush your tears away immediately, don’t hide your pain. It is not a sign of weakness when you cry for something that makes you sad. What’s weak is when you deny it and shrug it off as if it’s nothing when it is really something. When joy is not around, embrace sadness for a time, and when you have already cried your heart out, get up and walk again. Pursue joy once more. Life is not a competition who is the emotionally strongest – for we can all be emotionally secure in the Lord. Life is best lived in a community, where we can all share our joys and sadness and grow in the likeness of our God.
At the end of their heated discourse, Job prayed for his friends, they were forgiven. Whatever Job lost was restored, in double portions. This is because he was standing on a solid foundation. He went through a very challenging ordeal. He was tested by fire, but he came our refined. All because he acknowledged that he was not OK and God was fine with it. God is looking for broken people. He is not impressed by strength. So if you are not OK, let God deal with you. He will see you through.
Just prior to writing this blog, I revisited the story of Elijah (1 Kings 18-19). He was a very powerful and anointed prophet. He won the battle at Mount Carmel where he defeated numerous ministers of the false god Baal. He was a very accomplished person. But when his life was threatened, all signs of strength quickly fade. The man who prayed for fire and rain now prays for his life. Obviously he was shocked, devastated, depressed and afraid. But God assured him – he was not alone.
For God is with us, even in times of brokenness, of solitude, of sadness. In fact, He is closer than ever.
Often we long for answers in the form of a storm, an earthquake, or a fire. We long to see God working in mighty ways that will take our breath away. While it is true that God is a mighty God and He can always reveal Himself in mighty ways, like in the case of Elijah, He may also reveal Himself in subtle ways like a whisper. Yes, a sweet, soft, almost unnoticeable whisper. Let us not despair the silent moments of our lives. Let us not despair the times when our sadness seem to take the best of us. Let us not despair our moments of solitude, moments when joy seem to be absent. For God is with us, even in times of brokenness, of solitude, of sadness. In fact, He is closer than ever.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18