My spirit alternates between languishing and struggling.
It’s hard to write in this state as I don’t trust myself when I’m so self-absorbed. Too much introspection is not a good thing; I wearied of myself days ago.
I notice the signs that point to my brand of blue melancholy. If they were neon and blinking, the signs could not be any more obvious.
- My sense of humor has packed up and left in the night.
- My smile is anemic.
- Everything is a chore.
- I am a martyr in my own mind.
- I don’t feel like exercising. I lean in the doorway. How could I possibly be this tired?
- I don’t want to write.
While there are others, those are enough for today.
I love to write about joy, and from where it comes. The painful rub is when I don’t practice what I preach. And these days I am a dry, joyless, and thankless Christian.
If I can sum up a struggle with the blues, it might be to say that certain questions loom more heavy in my inner spaces than they do at other times. “Is this how it’s going to be from now on?” I wonder. “Is this actually the way my life is going to be?”
These thoughts expand into every personal crevice. They press out delight and leaving no room for thankfulness.
There is intense pain, loss, and evil in the world, without doubt. Real suffering is impossible to ignore, and I don’t really trust the folks who can. Surprisingly, it can be the good things in life such as marriage, a new job, children, education, and wealth – wonderful gifts – that can also cause a deep internal struggle.
If we are even half-awake as we walk this planet, we can understand that even the best pursuits in life are also fallen and broken when we arrive there. We carry ourselves wherever we go.
“I know it’s all very good, but is this how it’s going to be from now on?” we say with some guilt. “Is this it for me?”
Guess who I read about this morning in Matthew 11? Here’s a hint from Jesus himself: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…”
OK, I guess that’s more than a hint.
John the Baptist, the fiery and fearless prophet who baptized Jesus is languishing in prison in Matthew’s account. Prison is not John’s sweet spot. John is a prophet, and a darn good one. He should be out speaking truth, exhorting the saints, proclaiming that the Messiah has now come and now everything has changed!
In this state of mental and emotional struggle, John sends a message to Jesus: “Are you the one we were hoping for, or should we expect someone else?”
It’s astounding he had the nerve. He must have been pretty blue. I am so glad for honest, brave, John.
John had seen the Son of God as a man walking toward him, and recognized him instantly. He laid his hands on him, argued with him, dunked him in the river to baptize him. Even so, nothing cosmic had changed at all since then. If anything, it was now much worse.
It was depressing.
Jesus, not offended with John’s honest question, says this: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the sick are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
Dear saints, this is at the heart of our joy, even while we still languish and wrestle in our souls. Jesus doesn’t ask John or me for anything, except to look up and notice. He doesn’t pile on the guilt or send a rebuke, he just asks us to see what happens when he is around.
Jesus gets it. He understands that it’s all very hard to reconcile: 1) things are not the way they ought to be, and 2) that’s why he has come!
The blind see, but not because of John or me. The deaf hear! The lame leap! The hurting are healed. The hope of the languishing world has come to make all things new, now or very soon, in the most surprising and wondrous way.
Peace, and may you know the deepest joy today.