This is by far the longest and most extended period of my life where melancholy has been the most consistent theme of my mood.
Its fair to say, I am not up yet. But my mind is. Maybe my mind never went to bed. Anywho. Anyperson. Anywhy. Anywhom. Lastly, anywhen.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
— Philippians 4:13
Before you get all excited about strength and all things. Let’s examine what comes before this famous verse:
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
— Philippians 4:12
I fished out the translation that said “brought low.” Another said abased.
I want to rip this out of context and apply to feeling emotionally low or down or whatever else but really it talks about need and not having. Humility from being in a state that lacks abundance.
It’s not an exact match of the root of my melancholy because I honestly can’t say that I lack. I may not have the cash that matches my desired state but I certainly don’t lack. The point stands though. Because the verse before 12 doesn’t distinguish:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
— Philippians 4:11
This feels like exegesis like I am expounding on scripture and not writing from my heart. Hang in there I am setting a table.
Why is it important to be content with WHATEVER?
- If whatever doesn’t include the downward spirals, the deflection point, the moments of weakness, the period of loss, the season of turmoil, and whatever classifies as low for you. Just because low for Paul was financial doesn’t exclude whatever low is for you.
- This bullet point is just to prevent having a list of one.
Why was it important to establish that what he was saying wasn’t tied to being in need ?
- I think it was important to connect circumstance with the WHATEVER.
- I think it was important to establish the timelessness and agelessness of the need to be CONTENT in ALL seasons.
- There is a link between always CONTENT and JOY. They have a root in constancy.
- Joy is the disposition that does not depend on anything. It is what it is because He is. No other excuse or reason to be.
- Always content speaks to being the trend line through the oscillating experience especially circumstances.
- If circumstances were the stock market, contentment is the trend line always pointing up not lost in Tesla’s big dip or Bitcoin’s big spike. And Joy? She is the reason to gather the neighborhood every Sunday to eat bacon and egg + play snake and ladder. Joy just don’t care what the news says. It’s gonna cook and serve the heck out of life.
The genius of Jesus isn’t one thing but in my season of melancholy, it’s dope to read about how much sorrow He must have endured. So much so that sorrow was synonymous with Him.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
— Isaiah 53:3
There is so much promise of a good life attached to scripture and Jesus without the elaboration on what His definition of a good life looks like.
A man who was beaten, scourged, spat on and crucified. In my modern definition of good life, will not qualify. It’s really sad sometimes how much I don’t want it to sink in just what I subscribed to, really, when I said yes to Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think my suffering, pain and loss are tied to any good or worthy reasons but the key point still stands. Melancholy as a season of life, however extended, is not inconsistent with the best examples of Christian living. In fact it is almost a staple of good.
That verse is beautiful.
- His community: despised and rejected.
- His experience: a man of suffering and familiar with pain.
Pain and suffering hurts deeper when their origins come from rejection; one which is on display in the eyes of those we long for affection. To behold their disdain of Him in their glances, their whispers, their chose of words towards Him, their apathy to opportunity to love on Him, their ferocity against Him.
These four phrases for me cover melancholy entirely. There is the reasons to be sad and there is the feelings of sorrow. It’s not always that sorrow comes from being rejected and despised; just as being rejected and despised doesn’t always lead to suffering and pain. He relates with both.
If Jesus is a depiction of a perfect life then suffering and pain need a rebrand because He embodied it. I know this is not far fetched because Paul actually desired this same thing:
“I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”
— Philippians 3:10
Not that suffering because a girl rejected spending the rest of her life with me is comparable to suffering as an expression of life spawning out of service to others.
Not that suffering because I want passive incomes to safeguard my ability to puff my chest and be with a woman I can promise to live for her dreams and worry no more about the financial consequences.
Not that suffering because I long to see my father after 12 years of grinding to secure my future left me deprioritizing family to the extent that my emotional tank is beyond overdraft.
… whatever version or cause of suffering. I first must remember that suffering and pain in of itself is not unbiblical, unscriptural, ungodly, or unholy. Suffering and pain is not some reward for the bad and unrighteous. Suffering and pain is a staple. They are purposeful, designed adequately to enrich the potency of our testimony.
- No Jesus without the cross.
- No Mother Theresa without lack.
- No Ghandi without deprivation.
- No MLK without jail.
Now insert yourself and next to it, the reason for your suffering and pain. Then let it sink in. The cross is a symbol for the rejection and disdain. The cross was reserved for people whom the crowd wanted to see dead as an example of who the community had rejected and despised.
Yet, it’s the same cross that makes Golgotha elevate Jesus.
So why do I keep thinking or wanting pain and suffering for someone else not me. Why do I want pain for my enemy. Why do I see pain as a reward for sin only.
Pain made Jesus; suffering is the heat that makes my soul malleable. It is the mechanism for the Potter to mould a useful clay.
To a soul in sorrow:
- Don’t run.