PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Don't give me that face


There are two great lessons for me as far as my experience at this point in my life are concerned. One is that people change, God never. The second is never, ever allow yourself to willingly fall into, or wallow in, sadness.

Experience had taught me that depression attracts the devil more, instead of God. God is merciful, yes, but the requirements of mercy are repentance and faith. Repentance is the acknowledgment that we are always unworthy of God, that perhaps it is our sins which ultimately cause our sadness. Faith is the belief that we are forgiven, the belief that God's love and mercy are boundless and He can forgive us anything.

If we need to be sad, then we should be sad with the Lord. And it should only be a sorrow for sin and the absence of God in our lives. We may call this holy sadness; as for the rest, we can call it "the devil's grimace."

"While I breathe, I hope." This is how God wants His children to behave - strong, joyful, at peace even in the middle of trials. This is martyrdom in small scale. It is martyrdom because there is a sizable decision-making involved, a "leap into the dark." Those who do it are rewarded greatly. Those who are victorious in trial get so overwhelmed by pleasant surprise.

I used to love being depressed, revelling in it, believing that it would bring art into my life. I was wrong. It brought not art but infection, not beauty but the devil's grimace. It's not true what they say: Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. The truth is, despair is infectious; it leads others to despair. What's more, you are not alone because someone is behind it, one who wants others to share his despair.

Those who wallow in self-pity can then expect their self-inflicted punishment: a multiplication of their ills, a personalized Pandora's box. Their cache of viruses infects themselves all the more and other people as well as it multiplies fast in any host that is hospitable.

Any rendering of sadness for sadness' sake, be it in prose, poetry, painting, sculpture, or anything will only be of good use if couched in not in cynicism nor nihilism, hope and trust, in the belief that things will ultimately get better, more so now that they have reached rock-bottom.

One mark of a true Christian is joy - one coming from the wellspring of inner peace, the belief that we are loved, that we can be secure in God's love no matter what. The joy that cannot be extinguished because it comes from a wellspring of child-like trust.

When stricken by the blue funk, I suggest reciting the "Jesus I Trust in You" prayer. I don't know about Buddhism and its "nam-myo-ho-re-nge-kyo" or Hinduism's "auhm" but mantras really work. Lift up your troubles as oblates of atonement. Or play good music. Read the psalms. Dance. Still doesn't work? Talk to a friend. Or write down what's bugging you, though oftentimes you don't know what it is. Do something, anything that would force you into staying out of the pits.

The most noble thing to do, they say - and I agree - is to stop focusing on yourself and start reaching out. More than looking at the brighter side of life which gets clouded over in times like these, look at other people's misfortunes and find how you can draw from your own pains together with theirs, how you can share in others' pain with authenticity (you've personally been there, that's why). Try to go out of your way to reach out to people in need of more urgent help than you do. Perhaps that's what holy sadness do. Grieving with the Lord can only bring about compassion, communion, solidarity.
2.23.2001


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