Sadness

We all feel sad sometimes. Sadness is a normal emotion that can make life more interesting. Much art and poetry is inspired by sadness and melancholy. Sadness almost always accompanies loss. I have written several poems following the loss of a girlfriend. When we say goodbye to a loved one we usually feel sad. The sadness is even deeper if a close relationship has ended or a loved one has died. Sadness also helps us appreciate happiness. When our mood eventually changes from sadness toward happiness, the sense of contrast adds to the enjoyment of the mood.

There are ways to experience normal sadness in a healthy manner and to allow this emotion to enrich your life. Allow yourself to be sad. Denying such feelings may force them underground, where they can do more damage with time. Cry if you feel like it. Notice if you feel relief after the tears stop. If you are feeling sad, plan a sadness day. Plan a day or evening just to be alone, listen to melancholy music, and to observe your thoughts and feelings. Planning time to be unhappy can actually feel good. It can help you ultimately move into a happier mood. Think about the context of the sad feelings. Are they related to a loss or an unhappy event? It’s usually not as simple as discovering the “cause” of the sadness, but it may be possible to understand factors involved.

Sadness can result from a change that you didn’t expect, or it can signal the need for a change in your life. Change is usually stressful, but it is necessary for growth. Know when sadness turns into depression. Get help if this happens rather than getting stuck in it.

People deal with sadness in different ways, and it is an important emotion because it helps to motivate people to deal with their situation. Some coping mechanisms could include creating a list, getting support from others, spending time with a pet or engaging in some activity to express sadness. Some individuals, when feeling sad, may exclude themselves from a social setting, so as to take the time to recover from the feeling. I tend to isolate when I’m sad. Any thought of facing people causes me to shut down. In the past, I dealt with sadness by drinking or getting high. The irony here is that alcohol is a depressant.

While being one of the moods people most want to shake, sadness can sometimes be perpetuated by the very coping strategies chosen, such as ruminating, “drowning one’s sorrows”, or permanently isolating oneself. As alternative ways of coping with sadness to the above, cognitive behavioral therapy suggests instead either challenging one’s negative thoughts, or scheduling some positive event as a distraction.

Being attentive to, and patient with, your sadness may also be a way for you to learn through solitude; while emotional support to help people stay with their sadness can be further helpful. Such an approach is fueled by the underlying belief that loss (when felt wholeheartedly) can lead to a new sense of aliveness, and to a re-engagement with the outside world. Take for example sadness that accompanies the loss of a loved one. It is possible to come to terms with the fact that he or she is in a better place, at peace, no longer in pain.

Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.

The benefits of sadness have their limits, of course. Depression, a mood disorder defined at least in part by prolonged and intense periods of sadness, can be debilitating. And no one is suggesting that we should try to induce sadness as a way of combating memory decline, for example. I’ve read that mild, temporary states of sadness may actually be beneficial in handling various aspects of our lives. Perhaps that is why, even though feeling sad can be hard, many of the greatest achievements of Western art, music, and literature explore the landscape of sadness. In everyday life, too, people often seek ways to experience sadness, at least from time to time, by listening to sad songs, watching sad movies, or reading sad books.

The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote, “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” I like the designer Bill Blass’s quote: “Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.”

When dealing with sadness in your life, focus on the good and move on. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get on with things. There is a contemporary Christian song that includes the lyrics, “A man who walks by the side of the road can turn himself around. Pick himself up. Dust himself off. Start all over again.” Before you know it, you’ll be happy again. After all, you have so many things in your life to be happy about. Appreciate those things, and suddenly your sadness will feel smaller and your happiness will grow larger.

Overcoming Depression

Nearly everyone at one time or another experiences sadness. Most people get over it with the passage of time. But for some, the sadness continues. It just seems to linger. It covers some people like a wet blanket. If you are caught in a prolonged period of sadness, you may recognize one or more of the signs that accompany depression: a growing distrust of God; resentment of others; difficulty making decisions; guilt; inactivity; sleeplessness or oversleeping; not eating or overeating; doubting; complaining; worrying; hopelessness. It can feel like you’re in an inescapable pit.

Thankfully, as desperate as everything may look, there are real reasons for hope. God loves you. He wants to fill you with peace and joy and happiness. The Bible says Jesus came that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly. Abundant life means bountiful, plentiful, more than enough. It means amply sufficient. John 10:10 in the Amplified Bible says, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that you might have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, until it overflows).” Certainly, depression is not abundant life. But you can be assured God wants you to find his peace and joy. He will help you because you are very, very important to Him.

When you accept Jesus as your Savior, your Sacrificial Lamb, and turn your life and your will over to Him, you become a new person. But you need to learn a new way of living. God will help you. Luke 11:13 tells us that our Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him. The Holy Spirit gives you the power to live like God wants you to live. The Holy Spirit guides, comforts and teaches. He empowers us and produces within us the actual characteristics of God. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, which His presence within us produces, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (that is, meekness and humility), and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22-23). It is when you are living the way God wants you to that you will experience the full and joyful life God has for you.

But what if you are now a Christian and you are depressed? You are not alone. Many people of faith have experienced periods of deep depression. The Bible stories of Moses, David and so many others show us how God’s love continues even during times of great sadness, and that He eventually brings great hope. What can you do to overcome depression? It depends on why you are depressed. There are many possible reasons. Some depression is caused by physical problems. Improper diet, lack of exercise and not enough sleep all can lead to depression. So if you are feeling “down,” make sure you are taking care of your body.

In addition, many illnesses can cause depression. Others may be caused by depression. Also, some medications can cause depression. But remember God can heal any physical problem, including one that is causing depression. (See Psalms 103:3) If your doctor has diagnosed a particular problem, ask your prayer partner, pastor, Christian counselor or other believer to pray with you for God’s healing. (See James 5:14-16)

When something you see as bad happens to you, it’s normal to feel hurt. You might have lost your job or financial security. You may have been wronged in some way, recently or in the past. You may have a bad relationship with a friend, family member or spouse. A loved one may have died. Or you may be hurting about something you’ve never had, but always wanted. It is okay to hurt over a situation like this. Tell God about your hurt. He already knows what’s going on, but it is important for you to talk with Him about it. Also, tell a trusted friend or pastor, or consult a Christian counselor. Allow yourself to cry if you want to. Normal grieving, including crying, is healthy. Just remember, the Bible says that Jesus bore our griefs on the cross. (See Isaiah 53:4-5) He feels our pain as strongly as we do. Give your hurt to Him. Then resolve not to dwell on it again.

Sometimes depression is rooted in sin. You will never know peace if you ignore something in your life that you know is displeasing to God. (See I Tim. 1:19) If you know you are doing or have done something against the will of God, admit to God that it is wrong. Then ask His help in doing what is right. If you admit your sin and turn from it, God has promised to forgive you completely, and cleanse you from the sin. (See I John 1:9) Trust Him to do it. If it is an ongoing sin, and seems too big for you to deal with, just deal with today. This moment. Tell God that with His help you will do the right thing right now. In addition, you may need to take some action to make up for your sin with those you have wronged. Making amends. You may need the help of your pastor or a Christian counselor to help you decide what to do.

Don’ forget to obey God in the small things. Very often it is because we choose to ignore Him that we slowly slip into deeper problems. You can reverse this downhill slide. If you obey God in the small things, it will help put you back on track with the bigger things. What about wrong thinking? What do you think about right before you feel depressed? Do you think things such as, “I’m no good,” or “I can’t do anything right?” Perhaps you think to yourself, “This situation will never change.” It is vitally important for you to find out what God says is the truth about you and your life. Read the Bible closely to find out what is the real truth. (See Ephesians 1:18-19) Once you find out the wonderful things God says about you, meditate on them and stop repeating negative things to yourself. Instead, memorize and repeat to yourself the truths you find in the Bible that contradict negative thoughts. Write theses truths down as daily affirmations.

Fill your thoughts with such truths as “For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and the power.” (See Phil. 4:13) The Bible says it is Christ who will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. (See Phil. 4:19) The Holy Spirit does not want you to be afraid of people or situations, but to be wise and strong and to love people and enjoy being with them. (See II Tim. 1:7) Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. (See Rom. 8:37) He personally carried the load of our sins and iniquities in His own body when he died on the cross so that we can be free of sin and live a good life. His wounds have healed ours! (See I Pet. 2:24)

Rebuild your spiritual life through Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians. If your depression continues, seek help from a qualified professional. There are answers for your depression and sadness. However, finding the root of the problem does not always happen overnight. As you pray, ask God to reveal specific thoughts and actions He wants you to change. Agree with Him when He points out sin in your life and ask Him to help you change. Forgive others who have wronged you. Do not harbor resentment. Thank God for His love and ask Him for healing and a renewed joy in your life.

Some tips for managing your depression include not expecting too much from yourself too soon, which will only accentuate feelings of failure. Avoid setting difficult goals or taking on new ambitious responsibilities until you’ve settled on a solid treatment plan for your depression. Break large tasks into smaller ones and enjoy the small victories along the way. Recognize patterns in your mood. Like many people with depression or chronic sadness, the worst part of the day might be the morning. Participate in activities that make you feel good. Try exercising. Participate in church or Christian activities. At a minimum, such activities may distract you from the way you feel and allow the day to pass more quickly.

You may feel like spending the whole day in bed, but don’t. Do not get upset if your mood doesn’t improve right away. Feeling better takes time. Don’t get discouraged if you start feeling better then backslide into a sad mood. Sometimes the road to recovery is like a roller coaster ride. This is true emotionally and spiritually. The devil will want you to fail and remain defeated. He does not want you empowered by Christ and leading a spirit-filled joyful life. If you do that, he loses. People around you may notice improvement in you before you feel it. Encourage feedback from your significant family members, Christian friends and others.

Lastly, do not expect to snap out of your depression on your own by an exercise of will power. This rarely happens. Reach out and ask for help from others. Remember to remove yourself from negative situations and keep your faith in the Lord. Always remember to pray. Recognize that even Christians can suffer sadness and depression. There is a way out of the storm. Remember Peter? Keep your eyes on Jesus and you can walk on the water and wade out of your depression.