At a Christian women’s conference I attended some years ago, the keynote speaker said that she was naturally a melancholy person. I was shocked to hear her make this announcement to the crowd, especially since most of us knew she was married to the worship leader at a very large church. I thought at the time that this was way too much information. I wanted to believe that she was a gleefully happy person. How could she, a solid Christian woman, and the wife of a pastor, suffer from depression?
However, the more she talked about how she felt, both mentally and physically, the more I realized that I – and probably many other attendees did as well – felt the same, a lot of the time. It’s hard to describe the sort of melancholy she talked about, but it’s sort of like waking up with a rain cloud over your head.
How this came about for me, I’m not sure, except that it began when I was a child. My parents were not joyful people to be sure. I don’t remember laughter in our home. I was taken to dance lessons, the library, to Piccadilly Cafeteria and to the Majestic Theatre – treats for kids in Houston at the time. We watched The Ed Sullivan Show, Disney, and I Love Lucy, Bob Hope, and the Danny Thomas Show. But….I just don’t remember…happiness.
Maybe as a result, through the years, I have grown to see the glass “half empty.” Even as a Christian, I have remained in this unfortunate state at times. And to make matters worse, I tend to be unable to hide this from people I come into contact with. I have, in fact, refined the art of complaining. The worst part of this tendency, is that I often feel the need to educate people about the great injustices taking place in the world.
Until recently…ta DA!
The big change occurred during a conversation with a true complainer I’ll call Nancy. Nancy complains a lot – about e v e r y t h i n g. She also shares gory, sad, depressing, heartbreaking stories from the news – in great detail. Each conversation is such a downer that I try to avoid them. However, the last time we talked – it became glaringly obvious to me that I can be a lot like Nancy. Instead of bringing heart, life, light, laughter, and love into conversations, I too can bring despair – either mine, or that of the various peoples and or animals of the world.
It’s called “raining on your parade” – and I can be a Grand Marshall at it.
It’s one thing to be compassionate – and I am that. I care a lot about people and about animals. But there is a difference in being compassionate and being Debbie Downer – or Molly Morose – or Carmella-is-going-to-share-yet-another-sad-tale-which-will-ruin-pretty-much-everybody’s-mood.
After hearing Nancy go on and on with not an uplifting word to be said, I was brought up close and personal with a truth about myself – and for that I am GRATEFUL. We can, to a great degree, control the state of our minds – and hearts. Obviously, we will face grief and will struggle to get through it. We will have challenges, sorrows, and often times, a broken heart.
Graham Jackson, family friend of the Roosevelts, at FDR’s funeral.
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 says “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Many Bible stories demonstrate how God comforts His people in times of sorrow and loss. Job clung desperately to God, despite catastrophic loss and unhelpful friends. David, a man after God’s own heart, openly grieved the death of his son.
Jesus is our best role model for combining faith and grief, as revealed in John 11:1-45. When Jesus saw Mary and Martha in anguish over the death of their brother Lazarus, He wept. Although Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He still allowed Himself to feel – and express – the depths of human sorrow.
Complaining is negativity in action. Football coach Lou Holtz captured it simply when he said, “Don’t complain. Eighty percent of the people you complain to don’t care and 20 percent are glad you have problems.”
So, I’m happily leading the parade to a different tune now…want to come along?