“Feeling Bad” Isn’t Bad

The weather has continued to be unseasonably warm and clear. I’m glad it hasn’t been a “full court press” by Team November. Still, I feel my heart pulling towards melancholy. It often does at this time of the year.

The sunshine and 70s cannot hide the fact that the leaves are falling and the trees are growing bare. I’m encouraged by the results of the U.S. Presidential Election. I’m excited to hear the news of a highly-promising COVID vaccine. Still, these developments cannot hide the fact that we still have two months of Donald Trump’s increasingly-belligerent leadership. Several months of sickness and death ahead of us before anything approaching an eradication of the virus. I feel heavy-hearted, even as I walk through these mild November days.

Still, Ecclesiastes is teaching me that melancholy and heavy-heartedness aren’t bad things. They may even be necessary elements of the human experience.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…” This stands out as one of my main takeaways from the last couple weeks’ reading of Ecclesiastes. In the midst of all the meaninglessness and despair of this life — the futility of political power, personal wealth, the earth’s natural cycles, and even the development of wisdom — there are a few islands of hope and meaning. “Enjoy food and drink and… find satisfaction in work… These pleasures are from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24). “God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). “Fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). “Remember your Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). We can hold onto these truths through all seasons of life, through all circumstances and emotions.

So I don’t need to feel bad about feeling bad.

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes says, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us” (Ecclesiastes 7:3). Jesus himself bore the mantle of melancholy: “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). So why not learn to identify with Jesus? Why not be refined by this present melancholy? I feel as though God is regularly reminding me of this perspective these days, and I’m strangely happy to feel sad.

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