Sad

I don’t know how long ago it was. Probably 2010. That was a big year for me. Not a good year. It was the catalyst for a lot of change. Not good change . . . I think I need to stop and return to this in a bit.

There are many of us that are prone to brokenness. I am not necessarily talking about this subject in a good biblical sense. Some people handle it well, but a lot of us remain confused, always waiting for the the next disaster. There is a deep mire in this world in which so many of us get caught. We are sad and grope for some light to shine through the darkness.

Personally, I attempt to deny my sadness as just being an itinerate foe that will leave soon. However, it never does. My wife and kids can see it in me. I try to hid it, but this unwanted friend has already made his presence known in a thousand different ways. There has been so much advice, so many interventions, but no one really knows what to do with me. They are often worried. I’m tired and find very little joy in my life. The most productive thing I do around the house is worry. I can’t find the peace that I preach.

Don’t get me wrong. Though my belief has suffered some terrible trials; and, this wrestling match with God has left me beaten and bruised. I know Whom I have believed. Yes, from time to time I have a bout with doubt, but it normally does not last. I am just sad. And everyone knows it.

Let me back up.

I think I remember when it started. It was not evident what I was doing, but it was a conscious willful choice. For years I had been strong (or so I thought). For years my faith did not flinch. I was so hurt and confused by my sister’s suicide, but I did not know it. Being so intimately acquainted with her issues and depression in the years before her death was more than I could handle (though I was not consciously aware of it). Standing strong and moving back home after my mother’s aneurysm damaged me (though I was not conscious of it). Watching my father waste away due to his sadness bruised my heart (though I refused to let myself recognize that fact). This is especially true because of my hope that I was going to bring Christ into his life through intentionally investing so much thought, time, emotions, and prayer. This hope (as far as I know) was never realized. Then he died.

Sometime in 2010, I became flaccid in my soul. What I mean is that I began to think I had some entitlements before God. I told God, “Hey, I am so tired. Can I take a break? I am not going to do anything very wrong, I just think that I deserve to have the opportunity to back off.” Progressively, I became spiritually lazy. Then I broke into a sudden depression that made me understand what Angie went though before the bullet went through her. I thought that the depression would leave, and I would learn my lesson. You know, so I could relate to others. Well, the depression has never really left. I know better how to deal with it, but it is still there. More and more, I backed out of things. You know . . . the entitlements I had. But these entitlements were slowly turning me into someone else.

I love God. However, He and I have a complicated relationship. My greatest prayer is that He shapes me into someone who glorifies Him and I continue to have hope for this from time to time. But, as I backed out of involvement in church (entitlement), became lazy (entitlement), quit working on my marriage (entitlement), picked up the smoking habit again (entitlement), and stopped investing so much in my kids life (entitlement), these actions only served to hurt my soul more deeply, and placed hope further and further out of reach. It was as if there is/was a part of my mind that needed to rebel and give God the middle finger for putting me through so much. “You are going to do this to me, huh? Well, how about I do this to You?”

Who I am today is someone who needs to hope again. I realized this as I was, of all things, watching the latest X-Men. You know, when Professor Xavier goes back in time and talks to his younger disenchanted self? He says, “We need you to hope again.” It struck me at that moment that this was me. I needed to hope again.

The Bible has so much to say about sadness. Even the kind of melancholy that does not leave. Christ says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). As best I can tell, Christ is not speaking about a transient mourning that comes and goes. He is speaking about those who progressively mourn. He is talking about those who have sadness that does not leave. Unfortunately, there are those who will forever be sad. And when we know what it is like to be sad—I mean really sad—it breaks our hearts. I hate sadness more than any other reality. I hate it in me and I hate it in others. But I know that God hates it more than I do. Christ was so tender to the brokenhearted. He was a man of sorrows. He was very sad, very often. The comfort that comes to sad people frequently comes in this life. The Psalmist says in Psalm 90:15 “Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.” I am so glad that I have recently became reacquainted with this verse. It tells me that there is nothing wrong in me hoping for a great restoration. However, I do live with the reality that we live in a fallen world. Other shoes are sure to drop all the time. And this may be the case in my life.

I am learning to hope again. But if the sadness does not leave, I must look ahead rather than looking behind. Paul admits his imperfection, then tells us what he does: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended it, but this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13). The things that are in our past can destroy us. Entitlements sound good, but they are only a guardian of evil that forever binds us to the reason for the entitlements. We have all been hurt. It is so easy to put the past in front of us rather than behind us. We just stare at all we have been through and dwell on how things fell apart. But this is a fallen world. The only way for us to make it is to forget what lies behind. We must stop staring at our pain.

My greatest prayer is for you and me to hope again. And I know we will, one way or another. Until then, let us allow no entitlements and lower our fists away from heaven. God knows our sorrows. This is why he must make all things new. But it is not until the resurrection that he will wipe our tears out of our eyes. Until then, let us have hope in his love.

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    31 replies to "When the Sadness Doesn’t Leave"

    • William Orris

      Years ago Watchman Nee made an observation pertaining to the Christian Life, based on his study of the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He observed that each of these pilgrims represent phases if you will that we pass through in our spiritual journey. It was of interest to me that when we get to a point where Jacob was…wrestling with God over what ever issue confronts us that when we surrender the outcome fully to Him, we will also walk with a limp having been touched by the savior. No more being clever, no more manipulation of external circumstances to adjust things to satisfy our understanding, just fully surrendered.

      In the New Testament, Jesus was told by someone that they would follow Him wherever He would go to which Christ responded, “The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. An observation…what Jesus was saying was that if at the end of the day you have absolutely nothing to show for following Me , Is that OK with you? The call to following Jesus has more to do with surrendering all outcomes to Him regardless of weather we are satisfied with having nothing but Him.

      A fellow traveler, still learning to lean

    • Rebecca

      From what you have said in your posts, I get the impression your family was dysfunctional. I think there would be a lot of anger behind your sadness. Lately, I’ve heard people say to forgive people for what they have done to you without any apology from them. That may work for some people for some things needing forgiveness, but it doesn’t work for everyone. You can admit to yourself your anger. It is not as if you can harm the people involved with being angry with them, as they are in another place. Get angry to yourself, about things done to you before the big stressor, and get it straight inside. You had a lot hit you at once, and it may take longer for you to get over it for that reason. People in the past, took way longer to mourn. Today, we have celebrations of life ceremonies, instead of allowing real grief and loss. I’m happy to know you feel things. I often wonder about the insensitivity of many people today. Four years to mourn the loss of three people, it could take longer. Hang in there. I’ll pray for you.

    • Alex

      Thank you for sharing, Michael.
      Praying that the Spirit would continue to fan the flame of hope in your soul.

      > Alex

    • Jason

      Thank you for sharing. There is a fairly new book out by Pete Wilson called Let Hope In. I believe it would be worth checking out 🙂

    • Chris

      Thanks for this candid and insightful post, Michael. I can so relate to what you say about entitlements. That is a problem that I have experienced in my own spiritual life, and I appreciate your honest description and reflections. And thank you for underscoring hope — we truly do need to do that. I am recommending this via social media to other Christians going through long bouts of grief.

    • Kathy

      It is comforting to hear a strong Christian speak about this. Sometimes, my sadness affects my assurance. I wonder how I can be so fearful when God is so glorious. But the feelings linger, despite my prayers and attempts to rest in Christ’s finished work. It is right to realize that although the feelings are only for a “season”, that can still mean many years. We can only look forward to our ultimate resting in Christ in that day.

    • Stacy

      Thank you. I know it is probably little comfort for all that you’ve suffered, but this helped me spiritually today…many of your posts do

    • Anon

      I completely understand. I embraced entitlement after life circumstances turned dark, without even really realizing I did so (pride is like that, I think… at least, for me). God has begun to draw me back and help me see. I hope in His mercy and grace, because it will take both for me to surrender to His story for my life and to let go of mine.

    • Missy M

      I may end up the most hated woman this side of the blogosphere, if so, so be it. Your problem isn’t sadness, that is a symptom of a greater issue; you, my friend, are an injured narcissist.

      I have read your multiple articles about your depression and all of the family events you relate to it and one thing remains both prominent and constant in them all which is that it is about, “you”.

      You need, in the least, therapy and therapy from a source that will force you to face your narcissism if, indeed, you are willing.

      As for ministry, that is between you and God but if all you offer is sad consilatation and resignation including a peace you claim exists but escapes you, I certainly would not lead a soul to such crippling discipleship.

      No doubt you possess the spiritual teaching gift but you need a great deal of growing up and self-adjustment in your current state of emotional, psychological and theological inadequacy before you will be the reliable and persuasive teacher and example God intends for those who accept such ecclesiastical and public roles.

      • Rebecca

        Way to go Missy. I think “physician heal thyself,’ would be appropriate here. We all are supposed to be Christ centered, not self-centered. From the possible second most hated woman.

    • C Michael Patton

      Amen Missy. I am definitely messed up.

    • Missy M

      Okay Michael you’re entitled to be, “messed up”as you say. Now what? What are you going to do? Your problem is highly psychological in nature. Are you willing to see a competent therapist? Are you willing to face that the issue may lie within? Or will you only lament? I want you well for the record but using your ministry and blog for long laments and people patting you on the back telling you how brave you are for revealing your inner anguish isn’t going to resolve your ongoing sadness, depression or melancholy.

    • C Michael Patton

      Marcy, I understand how you might see these things, but blogs like this are VERY intentional and understood by the whole staff at Credo House to be such.

      You may not believe this, but these laments are truly helpful to a great number of people and have been for quite some time.

      I think you probably ought to try to understand this in a way not unlike David or Jeremiah. By the way you sound (and believe me, I do understand) you would probably chastise them for what they wrote? If not, why.

      So too often we feel as if we have to protect our image my keeping things held down and secret to the public. I don’t think this is healthy.

      I know dozens of church leaders and theologians who feel this exact same way. They contact me very often about their sadness. I encourage them to learn to expose their weaknesses and I am learning to do.

      As hard as it is for you to believe, there is no sense in which my laments are cries for sympathy. They are cries to so many who feel so alone in their pain and sadness to say “You are not alone.”

      And to assume for some reason that I am not getting help is pretty amazing.

      Maybe I am not the one who needs to keep my eyes off myself as much as someone else?

      But I do think it is important for me to communicate this very thing to my audience. I don’t imagine you are the only one who gets this impression.

    • MissyM

      Marcy, I understand how you might see these things, but blogs like this are VERY intentional and understood by the whole staff at Credo House to be such.
      You may not believe this, but these laments are truly helpful to a great number of people and have been for quite some time.
      I’ll let Marcy know when I see her. But just in case, great, they claim it helps them, how? A lot of thing seem to help people like adultery, pornography, drugs and so on. Claims of help mean little if it isn’t the right kind of help.
      I think you probably ought to try to understand this in a way not unlike David or Jeremiah. By the way you sound (and believe me, I do understand) you would probably chastise them for what they wrote? If not, why. Well, first, it appears what they wrote and what you wrote are two separate classifications, one is Scripture the other is not. That biggie aside, if they wrote what you wrote, yes, I would chastise them but they didn’t. Their laments were categorically quite different. Jeremiah’s laments were toward Israel and when they were personal it was with respect to those seeking to abuse and murder him because for speaking God’s truth and that no matter what he did to shut it up he could not.
      David’s laments were either over his sin or the difficulty from those pursuing him and seeking to harm him and his crying to God for aid in song and praising him in anticipation of his response.
      Your lament is so far removed from this I am stunned you imagine it is contextually similar, thus, justified.
      So too often we feel as if we have to protect our image my keeping things held down and secret to the public. I don’t think this is healthy.The Bible calls this discretion.
      I know dozens of church leaders and theologians who feel this exact same way. They contact me very often about their sadness. I encourage them to learn to expose their weaknesses and I am learning to do. I pity them and their unresolved conflicts and inability to find the peace they preach about as you stated is your case.
      As hard as it is for you to believe, there is no sense in which my laments are cries for sympathy. They are cries to so many who feel so alone in their pain and sadness to say “You are not alone.”
      And to assume for some reason that I am not getting help is pretty amazing.
      I believe you are fooling yourself, then, at least in part. I assume you aren’t getting help because you have yet to demonstrate or communicate any resolution in the least. The help you are getting needs to be fired.
      Maybe I am not the one who needs to keep my eyes off myself as much as someone else? You could be correct but I am not the one writing a blog of sadness and the inability to practice what I preach to your students and disciples. You brought yourself into the picture, smack dab in the center.
      But I do think it is important for me to communicate this very thing to my audience. I don’t imagine you are the only one who gets this impression. If there are others like me that get this impression they ought to speak up.

    • William

      Missy
      Appreciated your frank appraisal, however, he hasn’t fully surrendered to God and no amount of psychology will ever cure the heart…only the head. He needs to deal honestly with God, confess his situation with him and the great physician will cure him eternally.

      • Rebecca

        Sometimes the head has to be dealt with first before the heart. Especially if he has tried the heart already, as he seems to have done. Good comment.

    • mark

      True success lies in transparency. In becoming whole, no discovery of introspect is ignored. King David knew this all too well.

    • Zane

      i think back to a Farside cartoon where a buck has a bullseye on his hide and hips fellow deers response to him is “bummer of a birthmark, Hal”.

      Michael not a day goes by that one of your posts doesn’t at least challenge me, encourage me, or remind me to “keep things real”. Thank you for following Jesus in a transparent way both in heart and mind!! Thanks for putting yourself out there on your blog. And here is a thanks to those “Job-type” friends that make the book of Job more real 🙂

    • Eric

      Wow William. I’m still looking for that person who is “fully surrendered” to God. As far as I can tell, there was only One who could ever say that in truth. I could tell you awful stories of some of the nastiest things done by people “fully on fire” or “sold out completely” for God. And then there’s always the dreaded, “God told me to tell you this.” Christians are those who realize their need of a Redeemer, and cry out to Him, not those who strike a quid pro quo deal with God. Life in this fallen world isn’t as buttoned-down or neat and tidy as we would like. May we all realize the blessing of drinking deep from the well of God’s grace, no matter what circumstances or difficulty we find ourselves in.

    • Scott Miller

      “he hasn’t fully surrendered to God”?
      Michael is a “narcissist” stuck on himself? Whaaat?

      With (Job’s) friends/brothers like this, who needs enemies??!! in Missy et. al.’s book, David would be stripped of his kingship and his ministry, and Jeremiah deserved to be thrown down the well.
      And, news flash, only dysfunctional narcissists have “celebration of life ceremonies” instead of mourning funerals.

      If you don’t feel like Michael, watch out you in your ivory tower, for every one us will feel it sooner or later. Our very existence ends in pain and death. Which is why the Resurrection is important to us, praise God.
      Unless you are a narcissist and you have a Christianity of convenience.

    • Missy M

      Great now not only are Jeremiah and David’s contexts appealed to but now Job’s, too, by Scott. The megalomania continues and won’t help.

    • RW

      Michael, first of all thanks for being honest. I think that is severely lacking in most Christian circles and churches. I too have a dysfunctional family, I suffered from and intense anger and fear of emotion that kept joy out of my life. A Christian therapist helped me see these things: Most important – I had to forgive God for giving me this life. I am not entitled to a great mom or my father’s approval, a certain standard of living, etc. All I can count on is God’s love, the rest is sprinkles on the cupcake. I needed to seek the good in these trials and really recognize that God had every right to ask this of me and not others. Calvinists are all about sovereignty, but this is where the rubber meets the road. (You’ll know you are there when you can look at these trials and honestly and sincerely thank God for them. I don’t mean be glad you sister committed suicide but be grateful for the good God worked in you as a result of that.) Then you need to work on your “log” (Matt. 7:5) and just duck when others swing theirs at you. You can’t fix others, you can try to comfort them, and help, but help is the eye of the beholder, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit. It isn’t your job to rescue people from the consequences of their sin. Sometimes you have to leave them alone with no one but the Holy Spirit to talk to. Finally, really consider if you have a demon and cast it out. I had a hard time with this one because I found out I didn’t really believe in them but when I allowed myself to and cast out the one feeding on my anger, I got results. I still get angry, but it isn’t the same. It it is a physical emotion I experience and sometimes act on, but it is distant from my soul and doesn’t block me from experiencing the fruits of the Spirit. I am not a happy happy joy joy person and don’t like to hang out with those folks, but I do have peace.

    • mbaker

      Michael,

      This is an exceptionally wise, timely and compassionate post, which I believe will touch hearts that have been closed off by the modern day lack of real compassion in the body of Christ when people face serious life issues. Thank you for sharing the deepest parts of your soul.. I believe you have opened a door that needs to be opened in Christianity, that of real transparency. I have been where you are, and what helped most was the people in my life who didn’t lecture or say ” Just get over it and move on”, but those who were honest and acknowledged my doubts,and admitted to losing their hope at times too. Thanks again brother.

    • anon36

      Though our personal experiences differ, I’m at that same level that you are at.
      I feel I can deal with my depression a bit better than before but that lack of hope makes it seem so impossible to overcome.
      I’ve questioned the meaning of life so many times in this position and I’ve even considered if like is really worth living. Is God really here and all sorts.

      I came across a phenomon known as the Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross which is really interesting. If you haven’t come across it before check it out (but be wary of the many New Age and spiritual mystics who have hijacked the phrase too).
      Reading about the dark night of the soul, I sometimes feel like that’s what I’m going through, but as harsh as Missy’s comments might sound I think there is some truth in what she’s saying. I definitely need to be more God-orientated rather than self, and that is a key step in progressing through the dark night.
      Another important thing as mentioned here is to be able to open up to people about what you’re going through. I kept it to myself for a long time and when I finally told family and a few close friends I felt a bit more relief and liberated that I didn’t need to hide myself.

      I still have a long way to go but I hope that any one else going through something similar can keep holding on too.

      Matthew 24:13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

    • AmandaO

      Thank you!! I loved this!

    • Tiago

      Michael,

      Thank you for sharing this. I really needed to read it today, i was getting hopeless… I have also been struggling with depression crisis since about 2010, but only this year it got really bad and I finally accepted it and decided to get help. But even tough the meds are helping a lot, they only go to a point. My relationship with God is also very complicated… most of my prayers are either me fighting, angry at Him or desperate cries for help, followed by days of silence. I cant even care anymore to pray for common things, like for my job, someones conversion, or even for the church. Speaking about it, I have also backed out from being more actively involved. I know part of it is entitlement, but really, mostly is because I simply dont have the energy, the strength, the head to do it. When most of my prayers are like that, its really hard to “fake” a happy thankful prayer among my brothers, and I end up trying to sneak out of it. Its funny to think some years ago I was another avid young, restless, neo-reformed calvinist, and now I see how most of that was so superfluous… Anyway, I was trying to find some hope again, and this text you shared is helping a lot.

      Keep the faith, and dont listen to “Job’s friends” 🙂

    • Matt Jenson

      This is great stuff, man. Thank you for writing from your own sadness. It’s a comfort.

    • Precious

      Thanks for this post ….. it’s helping me. Please I have a serious problem of addiction to masturbation, I just can’t break free from it no matter how hard I try and I don’t know what to do…. I feel worthless. Again, I always look God as one who cannot help and find it hard to read articles like this ( i dont even know how I read this, honestly). Please assist me & save a dead soul……… give me articles to make me believe in God & could help me kill this carterpillar in my life, masturbation. Please, help before it is too late ……… *sad*

    • AmandaO

      In response to Tiago, I know what you mean! But have you noticed the book of Lamentations? It exists. And Psalms has so many desperate prayers. Do our churches reflect the desperation of our existence ever? No, not in the music at least, and this is a problem. We are not called to be happy always so our Sunday morning services shouldn’t be happy always. I hope you don’t feel bad for not being able to go to church cause you don’t want to pretend to be happy. In my estimation it is the church who it at fault for not creating an atmosphere where more than one emotion is allowed. There is a time to lament! We should never pretend. This world is awful, many times. So perhaps we can work to I corporate lament and true oppenenes about pain into our church cultures. Because you should NOT feel the need to be happy at church all the time.

      Michael, in response to “Precious”, can you see if this person is willing to take this conversation offline? You can pass them my email. I feel most would not necessarily want to see this conversation publicly but I can speak to all these things.

    • @Amanda0

      I am doomed …… I just masturbated again & I feel like I’m dead. I just get the urge to do it & even if I don’t get the urge, I just feel I need to & I always yield…… please help, I am thinking of the option to just leave this world for good, you know.

    • Julie

      I just saw someone shared this post from 2014. It hit the spot for me. My brother committed suicide one year ago and it’s been a dark year. I am cautious to blog unless I can give hope. I do blog because christian vulnerability, when pointing to Christ, is what we are called to do. To give hope. Thank you for sharing this 3 years ago…I needed it today! My recent post was “I Only See Trees…someday I will see the forest again.” jeasmus.blogspot.com It is of a similar vain. I am not promoting my post at all. I just know any other way to connect with you.

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