Guest Post – Sarah Moon

Many thanks to Sarah Moon, author of the blog “Ponderings of a Christian Skeptic: Thoughts about God, the Church, and the adventure that is life.”

I found Sarah by reading one of her comments on someone’s blog. She was witty and her sarcasm came across perfectly. I had to read more of her stuff! After reading about her blog I was very impressed with her transparency in dealing with her own struggles. I strongly recommend that you take a look at her site (after reading this article of course) and add her to your RSS feeder. I especially liked her post entitled “I like to worship, but I don’t like worship songs.”

I wrote Sarah after reading almost every single one of her articles. I took a chance by telling her about my own blog site and what I am trying to accomplish at “Graphic Grace.” I asked her if she would be willing to submit a guest post and I am so happy that she agreed! We may never meet face to face, but I thank God for directing me to Sarah’s blog. I hope you enjoy this and I pray that it touches you as deeply as it touched me! Here you go…

Happiness Never Was a Requirement

I know that, as a Christian, I’m supposed to have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where?). But I’m not always happy. I’m an optimist, so I put a great deal of effort into being happy. But it doesn’t always work that way, especially since I have depression. Too often, life resembles a different song- one by King David himself. “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (Psalm 6:6)

Even though the Psalms are filled with similar verses written by this man after God’s own heart, the Church seems to frown upon those who struggle with depression. “Depression is a Christ deficiency,” a fellow Christian once told me. “So, you’ve been praying for God to take this depression away. Well, if you have sin in your heart, the Lord won’t hear you,” a Christian counselor reminded me. “I am suspicious of anyone who says he is a “Christian” but can’t show the joy of Jesus on his face,” a pastor preached.

But I’ve prayed, I’ve read through my entire Bible more than once, I’ve repeated the “salvation prayer” a hundred times. But I still get depressed. Life still feels hopeless sometimes. I still feel the need to turn to self-injury. God doesn’t look down from heaven, see that I’m doing the “right” things, and magically make me happier.

Am I telling you all this to make you feel sorry for me? To invite you to my pity party? No (though, if you do show up to the pity party, it starts at 7. Bring your own chip dip). But I believe my experience reflects a deeper problem in the church. Is depression, or sadness, or difficulty, or a hopeless situation really a result of a Christ deficiency? I believe the majority of Christians would answer no. Yet, we seem to perpetuate this mind-set by ignoring the problems. We would rather pretend that Jesus made our lives perfect than admit our struggles to one another.

Why do we do this? I’m sure everyone has his or her own reason for doing so. But it seems like the main reason is that we feel the need to defend God. One of the biggest arguments for Atheism is the fact that God allows suffering in the world. When faced with finding a rebuttal, we Christians often react with denial- “What? Suffering? Happy am I! I’ve got the joy of Jesus! O, it is wonderful to be a Christian!”

But, even though Jesus is a great source of joy and comfort, we have to start facing the reality that bad things happen in the world. That Jesus isn’t a fairy godmother who makes all our dreams come true. That our faith in Christ is not a means to happiness. God doesn’t want us to pretend that he’s something he’s not. He doesn’t need us to lie to ourselves, our fellow Christians, and the skeptical non-Christians in our lives. He’s God. He can defend himself. What he wants, what is healthier for us Christians, and what is more attractive to non-Christians, is honesty and transparency.

David’s Psalms aren’t your typical up-beat, positive worship songs. When he was happy, he rejoiced. When he was sad, he cried in desperation. When he was angry, he challenged God.

And like David, I can’t always be happy. But that’s okay. Happiness was never a requirement. I can have comfort in Christ’s love, and I can have hope for a coming kingdom. But God is not disappointed in me when I am depressed. I can come to him with honesty. I can cry to him, yell at him, swear around him, and question him. And as Christians, we can be transparent with each other. We can bear one another’s burdens, and that’s a wonderful thought, because life is too hard. We shouldn’t have to do it alone.

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8 Responses to Guest Post – Sarah Moon

  1. jen manly says:

    Thank you for sharing, Sarah. Powerful post! As hard as it is to be transparent, you nailed it. We are called to carry each others burdens, and God knows our hearts. He is never surprised when we are sad, or happy, or even angry. We are made in His image. Jesus, was full of emotion. He wept bitterly, delighted in others, felt overwhelming compassion, and I would imagine he probably came across as a touch angry when he drove out the money changers with whips, and turned over tables….even fear as he faced the cross, he fell on the ground and prayed…”that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba”, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.- Mark 14:35-36
    To think because we are Christ followers means that we should be in a state of radiating “happiness” is not really. Only through our transparency can other see our HOPE! Our hope that is in our amazing father.
    Thanks again for your post!
    Jen

    • moonchild11 says:

      Thank you! Ah, yes, I never thought about Christ as being filled with emotions too. You’re absolutely right, though. Very interesting!

      Also, thanks to Adam for the opportunity to guest post!

  2. Pingback: Guest Post on Graphic Grace! | Ponderings of a Christian Skeptic

  3. Anonymous says:

    Amen, Sarah. Here’s to our God who knows what it is like to be human. I believe one of his comments was something like, “In this life you will have trials…” Well, I’m sure that cancer, broken bones, depression and other medical maladies are certainly some of those trials. AND they all have the potential to bring us closer to our loving, merciful, empathetic God. We’re not home yet….

    Lesly

  4. Rebekah says:

    Sarah, I loved when you said, “That Jesus isn’t a fairy godmother who makes all our dreams come true. That our faith in Christ is not a means to happiness.” I couldn’t agree more and you put it so perfectly. We do not have to be happy all the time and just because God loves us does not mean he is at our disposal to magically make us rich and satisfied. I do believe that through suffering, pain, depression and anger we find a true and real relationship with our loving father. He can take everything we have in our arsenal and loves us anyway. If we can’t be real with Him then who can we be real with? David was authentic in his faith and relationship with God. I think the important thing is that even when we don’t “feel” good about God or anything that we remain faithful to Him – just like in any relationship. I find it most helpful that in my darkest hours, after venting or feeling sorry for myself, I stop and think of something wonderful about God and choose to praise Him anyway – even when I don’t feel like it. Somehow, proclaiming the truth of God’s magnificence makes me feel better. A couple years ago, I went through a very dark time and every day I struggled to get up and going. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day. The pain was so heavy is covered me like a wet blanket. Even though I didn’t feel like it, I went to the window and looked out and started telling God how wonderful He was. I started with the trees, the flowers – anything I could see in creation. I moved to His love and tenderness. I couldn’t pray or read my Bible during those dark times but I could point out God’s creativity and majestic glory. Doing that daily gave me the strength to get through that season of great pain in my life. Even now, when I am having a bad day, I have learned to start finding ways to praise God and it miraculously lifts my spirit. Even David, in the Psalms, would start out in despair but end up saying that God delivers him or His loves endures forever. No matter how bad and ugly life gets, God’s love doesn’t change and that brings me comfort even when I am not happy :)
    Thank you for your post.

    • moonchild11 says:

      yes! despite my physical battle with depression, I am always an optimist. “No matter how bad and ugly life gets, God’s love doesn’t change and that brings me comfort even when I am not happy” -so true!

  5. hrh413 says:

    This is so true. It makes me so sad that Christians feel the need to put up a front both with God and each other. God wants us to be real with Him and each other, so that we can get through life on this suffering-filled earth together. I wish more Christians were as authentic as David, including myself!

  6. I echo Adam’s comments concerning Sarah’s blog articles. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon her writings but my life has been enriched, must’ve been a God thing.

    I’m not sure but I think that the early church father Gregory of Nyssa would tell us that the experience of the elation some Christians always insist on us feeling is due to an immaturity of faith. An immaturity when our faith is all about feelings and emotions, an emotional response to God. That some are called to further experiences. St. Gregory looks to the life of Moses. On the plain everything is all warm and fuzzy elative experience, but then he begins his ascent of the mountain and is in the clouds. On the top of the mountain Moses sees God in the “Thick darkness” (Exodus 20:21 NRSV: Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.)

    The 16th century Mystic, St. John of the Cross wrote a poem, The Dark Night of the Soul, then an expository book so we can understand his poem. That the first of the dark nights is to purge one of the sensual, the emotion driven faith, the false idea that one must be happy and elated if one is a Christian.

    There is a rich tradition within the church catholic of those who suffer in the darkness. Mother Teresa suffered such as related in Mother Teresa: Come Be my Light, the collection of her private correspondence. So, it really chaps my hide when those in these dark places are told that it is a result of sin or some other defect of character or faith. These responses, even if born of good intention, are uncharitable, unloving and the result of an immature faith.

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