Sometimes it’s hard for us to muster up the joy-joy-joy-joy-down-in-our-hearts so many of us Christians sing about possessing. There are times when the peace-that-passes-understanding seems a gift given to other joy-filled Christians who seem to have the supernatural ability to sing ‘blessed be your name’, arms raised, refusing to let the doubts and depression and anger consume them. These joy-filled Christians are often going through big life-things, they are experiencing suffering and heartache: bereavement, facing their own mortality, marriage breakdowns, infertility, bankruptcy.
They have a right to be afraid, angry, sad, depressed.
But what about those of us who are just feeling … blue? Not because of any big life-changing events, not because we are suffering from clinical depression, but because life itself is happening.
Today is Blue Monday – a pseudoscientific gimmick first thought up by Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University who claimed today, the third Monday in January, is the most depressing day of the year. Apparently a series of factors – the weather, running out of money before payday, travel chaos, and broken resolutions – combine today to ensure we will feel a little more glum than usual.
I’d generally be described as a ‘happy’ person. But it’s true – I’ve had happier days than today. My feet are cold from my icy commute, deadlines are looming, I’m carefully monitoring my bank balance before its monthly cash-injection, it’s a month till my last year of my 20s, and I’ll have to go through another rubbish Valentine’s Day before that; oh, and I’m indulging in all of the above by listening to the whiny, depressive tones of Damien Rice.
When I first read Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s 1964 work Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures it was like a smack round the head. He pulls no punches in his claims that “a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor recommendation for the gospel”. He continues: “Nothing is more important, therefore, than that we should be delivered from a condition which gives other people, looking at us, the impression that to be a Christian means to be unhappy, to be sad, to be morbid.”
It reads like a command to look chirpy otherwise no one will want to join our club. But I think people are put off from joining us when we pretend the Christian life is all happy-happy-joy-joy. People can see through fake smiles and exaggerated rejoicing.
Because I agree with John Locke who in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding wrote that: “God when He makes the prophet does not unmake the man.” We all experience the blues because we are human.
Sometimes I’m glum – just like the troubled writer of Ecclesiastes or King David with his downcast soul in the Psalms. Our faculties and feelings are part and parcel of being human beings. Sometimes we sing the blues because we still live in a broken world, a world where our souls are still subject to melancholy. But with Christ comes the promise that one day things won’t be broken anymore.
As Francis Spufford writes in Unapologetic: “I want, I need, the promise of mending. Mended is not the same thing as never broken. We are not being promised that it will be as if the bad stuff never happened. It’s amnesty that’s being offered, not amnesia; hope not pretence. The story of your life will still be the story of your life, permanently.”
It’s because of this promise of mending that I will allow myself to momentarily be glum, but not to live in despair; to recognise what I’m feeling but make every effort to count my blessings, to rejoice because He will make all things new.
Check out this Blue Monday video from our friends at www.yesheis.com