Have you ever experienced a time when everything around you seems dull and lifeless, the gloom so real and overwhelming that you can feel how it embraces you and convinces you that he is your friend willing to follow you wherever you go? You look around and see everyone around you wearing a smile, but unfortunately for you, you can’t seem to find any reason to wear one. You did not intend to succumb to the embrace of gloominess but you can’t shrug it off as well. You see yourself a victim.
Happiness is relative. Some people find happiness in simple pleasures such as having a new toy, gaining social media attention, finishing another book or the just the scent of fresh flowers. Some are hard to please – they are constantly chasing for material things, prestige, or new relationships. While the things that make us happy vary, we can all agree that the satisfaction brought about by these things is fleeting. Happiness doesn’t last. One day you’re OK and the next day, you begin to sulk.
I have my share of my lowest days. I call these days sepia moments, just like the feeling imbibed by just looking at old pictures. When you are at your lowest, you are most vulnerable. You are easily convinced by the voice that says you are worthless, good for nothing. Your worries seem insurmountable and you feel defeated. Even simple problems turn gargantuan.
On one of my shower ruminations, I have thought of three reasons for occasional sadness that I feel. Again, these are personal insights but I think these may also apply to anyone.
- Whenever I obsess myself with the accomplishments of people on social media.
Yes, social media envy sometimes gets the best of me. It starts with a simple peek at one’s post, liking one’s vacation or one’s recent purchase. Then another post pops up with news of job promotion or an engagement. Posts and tweets pile up and soon I find myself envious with my “friends;” highlight reel. I emphasized the word friends because most of these people I get envious of are not really my friends in real life! But why do I feel so affected with whatever happens to them when they don’t even care about what happens with my life? I guess this is the irony of social media friendships, as Dave Ramsey notes: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” And it is a sad reality to accept.
But why do I feel so affected with whatever happens to them when they don’t even care about what happens with my life? I guess this is the irony of social media friendships
- Whenever I measure my worth based on what people say, think about me.
I am a people-pleaser, and I am very much aware of that. I can’t sleep well if I know I have offended or have not responded to someone who asks for favor, especially if within my capacity to help. I tend to think over and over of things I might have done wrong, or words I shouldn’t have said. This is emotional torture, I think. But the pain doubles when someone has told me something I least expect to hear. I end up feeling unloved and unimportant. I sulk over things that I know are not true. I measure my worth based on what they think or say about me, which are not necessarily true. During my high school years I believed I am up to no good just because a classmate had told me so. I carried the weight for a couple of years until it shaped my motivations and view of self. It’s all by God’s grace I was delivered from that unnecessary weight.
- Whenever there are unconfessed sin that I try to rationalize or hide.
The weight of sin carried from day to day is enough reason for me to get anxious and depressed. I have heard a teaching that if there are sins that you keep to yourself, sins you choose not to expose in the open, chances are, you’re gonna repeat the same sin over and over. Sin takes us on hold us until we share it with a trusted person who will pray for us and with us and challenge us to overcome it. How often I find myself bugged down by my struggles just because I am too proud to share my weakness with my friends. But as soon as I share my issues with my trusted friends, not only do I find myself co-laborers with the weight I’m bearing, I also find people who makes me realize that I am not supposed to walk this life alone.
- When I choose not to spend significant time with God
I am often victimized by this seemingly harmless neglect. I used to tell myself: “just this one time”. One skip, followed by another, and soon I find myself losing touch with the Source. If you identify yourself as a Jesus-follower, you know what I am saying. Spending time with God is our lifeline for joy and spiritual sustenance. Sever your connections with God’s word and your joy will soon fade. I know because I have been in that situation – a couple of times. One painful rebuke I have read from Jim Cymbala’s book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:
“If we don’t want to experience God’s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we don’t enjoy being in his presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would he send anyone there who doesn’t long for Him passionately here on earth?”
The key here is not just to read the Bible and ticking a checklist on your reading plan. Neither it is about uttering a hurried prayer then you’re done. The point is cultivating a relationship with your Maker through meaningful spiritual conversations and yielding to His will. No wonder because of my continued “just this one time” moments, I often end up as a wilted plant.
These things may also be true to you. Perhaps the things I have mentioned are also the reasons why you feel sad and gloomy and lifeless at times. Or you could add more to the list. But I don’t want to end up with just diagnosing the causes of my gloominess. I don’t want to be overcome by sadness that all I can see is the rain and not the rainbow after the rain.
I have two important disclaimers here:
First, the sadness or gloominess I am speaking of doesn’t necessarily mean clinical anxiety or depression. I may have described similarities but it is not my intention (yet) to cross over the topic of depression. Perhaps in the near future, when I have gathered much information about the subject matter.
Second, the sadness I am speaking of is viewed in the lens of spiritual context. And the causes I have cited are detrimental to one’s spiritual health. However, being the reflective type of person, I recognize that there is a kind of sadness that makes us appreciate life even more. One that is best portrayed in the animated film Inside Out. There is a form of sadness that makes us more human, gives us a moment to slow down a notch, and think about our life well. Let me quote Sadness, “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”
If not for God’s grace, perhaps gloom has devoured me completely. But thankfully, in the deepest, darkest and messiest point of my life, rescue is still available and joy awaits. Lasting JOY – not just mere happiness, which is temporal and fleeting. Joy that freely given to those whose lives are surrendered to Jesus.