Sadness is a normal part of the human experience. We tend to see sadness as something to hide from, run from, or fight. It doesn’t feel good. It hurts. It takes away our energy and strength. For those who have experienced the dark pit of depression, it may be frightening and anxiety producing. Expressions of sadness and pain are often discouraged and pushed away by those around us. No one likes to see people we care about in pain. It makes us uncomfortable.
Others may want to help, but they just don’t know what to say or do. Our sadness may even trigger feelings within others that they’ve been avoiding. We may feel ashamed of sad feelings, and may even see them as weak or sinful. We don’t want to be seen as wallowing in self-pity. We know that we have many things to be thankful for, and being sad in any way may feel unappreciative and disrespectful to God. Our Christian culture sometimes communicates to us the idea that we should feel joy at all times and to do otherwise is a lack of faith. Doesn’t the Bible tell us to rejoice in all things? But this doesn’t make us feel better. It may only serve to compound our sadness with guilt and shame.
We aren’t promised a life of constant joy. Christ wept, and David lamented. Grief, hurt, disappointment, discouragement, and loneliness are feelings we all have and are not only normal but necessary. How could we have compassion and empathy for each other if we never experienced heartache ourselves? It is in our pain and struggle that we grow depth and strength.Just as with our physical bodies, there is no gain without pain.
Sadness isn’t one thing. It has many names and forms. It is experienced in a multitude of ways with varying lengths and varying depths. It can be obviously attached to an experience such as a death or loss, or it can seem to appear for no reason. It can sit with you on a dreary afternoon, steal your energy during a difficult week, cover you during a period of grieving, or hang over you for long stretches of time. It can be sudden, deep, and intense or creep up, be below grade, and be dull. When sadness becomes depression, everyday life can seem like a mountain to climb. Just getting out of bed in the morning can take a tremendous amount of strength and courage.
In the field of mental health, we measure symptoms of depression in an attempt to distinguish normal feelings of sadness from clinical depression. This helps us to understand if this is something a person is experiencing that we can process and walk with them through, or if this is something that requires a more direct intervention in order for a person to move through it. It’s important to know that, while sadness and pain are normal, depression is something more. If sadness is the flu, depression is more of a chronic illness.
Depression manifests physically, mentally and emotionally, and intersession can take place at any or all of these points. Exercise has been shown to be as effective as anti-depressants. Talk therapy and anti-depressants together have been proven to be more effective than either alone. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can challenge thoughts that keep us stuck and confused. Prayer and meditation can bring great comfort and serve to center and calm. Giving ourselves some space and time to feel difficult, painful feelings honestly, rather than running and hiding from them or denying them via business and unhealthy coping mechanisms, allows us to move through them and move on. I often think of the summer camp song, “I’m Going on a Bear Hunt” when painful feelings come along. In this song, as we are going on our bear hunt, we run into many obstacles. As the song goes, “We can’t go around them. We can’t go over them. We have to go through them”. Everything we use to avoid or hide from the pain just prolongs the inevitable and may even serve to push it down so deeply that, when it seeps to the surface, we no longer remember the experience it was attached to. We simply feel sad, hurt, discouraged and confused.
We believe we are called to walk with people through their periods of sadness, spiritual deserts, or in the depths of depression. We strive to hear you, validate your experience of pain, help you untangle your thoughts and emotions, and help you find your way forward. If you are stumbling through a period of sadness and pain, keep walking, but you don’t have to walk alone. God has not forsaken you. We can walk with you. You are not alone.
Mary is a phenomenal intern who serves at Beacon from May 2019 to May 2020. When working with clients, she loves working with couples, individuals, really anyone! In her free time, she loves hanging out with her pup, husband, and sons.