Sorrow in my life comes several different ways. If I sin, fall short of God’s standards, then my sin makes me sorrow. If I hold onto sin, then my depression deepens, eventually becoming a “new normal.”
The only cure for this sort of sorrow is change: Jesus releases me from the guilt and empowers me to live a new life. I can recall the calm and joy settling on me when I gained victory over sin’s sorrow. Only a fool is his own lawyer or his own confessor: when I struggle with sin I talk to my earthly father, who is very wise, and a spiritual father.
And yet, as my wife experiences, not all sorrow is the result of sin: some sorrows or depression are biological. Such sorrow is disconnected from behavior and holiness will not help. Medicine cannot cure a soul, but it can help a body misfiring in relation to a soul. When I have had sorrow that behavior change does not change, then I turn to the medical doctor.
Self-mediation, through eating, alcohol, or drugs, is very dangerous, I need expert help from someone not awash in my pain!
Spirituality is no less dangerous. Awakening the soul would be safe only if all spiritual powers were good for us or meant our good. Experience shows this is a lie. Devils exist and they don’t love humans. Sometimes I have been sad and turned to spiritual fathers and mothers for prayers of deliverance. I have felt the release of spiritual oppression lifting and known that not all gods are good.
Still a priest and a doctor are not enough: some sorrow washes over me, because of the way of the world.
How can be happy when so many hurtful things are done? People lie, cheat, steal, hate, and kill. The bad news washes over me every day and it can paralyze me. It isn’t just my sin, it is the sin of billions over thousands of years and all the complex suffering it causes.
How can I be happy when people are starving, hurting, or dying?
Jesus wept. We see the same world, with less power, and weep.
There is no cheering up from this sorrow: it is the constant undercurrent of pain that must exist before Heaven.
No Christian, no human being, can know evil exists and be totally cheerful. The only way we survive is the hope grounded in knowledge, faith, that God will rectify all pain and suffering. Part of being a child of God is resting in His care, but part of being a man or woman of God is knowing everything will not be alright this side of death.
There is a reason the symbol of the Christian faith is a cross: we are on the Cross side of reality, but know that joy is coming. Life will win, life has won, but we do not experience that timeless reality yet.
The older I get the more I miss friends and family who have gone ahead and the more I realize that perfect happiness will only come when my term in this life is ended.
This all sounds cheerless enough, but knowing it has actually helped me. There are many times, in fact most times, when soul and body are in good order and when in this life I catch a glimpse of love. The image of God is in every person I see. The creation of God, even if shattered by sin, still is very good. Jesus lives in my heart and so I can sing His song, even in exile.
This world is not my home, but it is enough like my heart’s true Home to help.
And so when asked, “Are you happy?” I often pause. “No,” I think, “not so much,” but then I reply, “Mostly, yes.”
It is true. My happiness is in goodness that is so deep in the cosmos, humans cannot touch it. My happiness is in beauty so real that sin can only partially obscure it. My happiness is in Jesus: a person who always speaks truth.
Sin, biology, devils, and the world can make me sad, but my feelings are more complex than one emotion. Salvation, biology, liberation, and creation can make me glad now and it is joy to know that the happiness will grow and the sorrow pass away.