Melancholy and Joy

DSCN0416As I stood at the window of a small barn located about half a mile from a Wyoming ranch-church camp, the sounds of shouting 7th and 8th graders floated through the ripped screen. I may have been missing evening games to do chores, but I could certainly hear the competition echoing across the plain. If I listened closely, I could distinguish cries of happy campers as they raced about the grounds. Their joy could not soothe a certain aching heart, however. Even in the quiet of a peaceful barn occupied by sleepy roosters, ornery donkeys, and a little goat named Bear, I could not escape the suffocation that comes when a heart does not share the enthusiasm of those surrounding it.

Have you ever sat in a room full of friends and felt completely alone? Waves of melancholy crash any potential pity party that you could have thrown for yourself. Such an energy sucker tends to silently scream for others to notice, but that isn’t the way these things work. You feel alone because you are—at least in your head.

One of the worst places to experience melancholy is while living in community. There are parts of me which cry out in frustration when the pain is not outwardly visible to the people who care about me. But there are also parts that wish to be left alone in my miserable existence until the mood passes. Neither side ever wins, however, because the two desires are equally demanding.

The problem with this attitude, though, is that I often forget to cry out for Jesus’ comfort and strength. When I see my friends laughing around the supper table and I begin to space off and feel quite alone, I should be reminding myself to plead with my Savior for deliverance from Satan’s clutches. Why settle for a melancholy quicksand when I could lay my cares on the back of the One who never builds foundations on sand?

In the end, Jesus will always be the hero of my story. Whether I allow Him to play that role in the middle chapters is a completely separate matter. Jesus brings joy, not suffering. He pours generously into our lives with the love that His name defines. In the words of Henri Nouwen, “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.–Romans 15:13



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