"Tonight if I don't sit and watch Parks and Rec, I'll probably cry," I told my husband the other night. It had been a stressful day ending a stressful week, I had just read a heartbreaking book about a 12-year-old girl who died of cancer, and I was feeling a lot of sad emotions. Peter had to do repairs and I generally don't watch TV by myself, so I ended up staying true to my prediction and crying for a little while.
Sad story, right? But the next day I realized something beautiful as I was in the car with my 1-year-old.
She's the only one of my kids that has accepted a pacifier, and that has made her the easiest baby yet. I mean, wow, pacifiers work miracles. Eight months ago the doctor told me that I need to take the pacifiers away, but that feels almost impossible. She cries so much more when she doesn't have it.
But during this car ride I had successfully kept the pacifier from her, and out of nowhere from the backseat I heard a beautiful little voice singing. No words, just sweet, high-pitched sounds coming from my precious daughter's mouth. I realized something quite poignant about pacifiers in that moment: they might block the crying, but they also block the singing.
We as grownups are no different.
There are limitless ways to pacify ourselves, drugs and alcohol being the most obvious and Netflix and social media being the most pervasive. Though most of these things are not inherently bad, we are cheating ourselves if we use them simply to silence our feelings...or even our boredom. Study after study has been churned out in recent years (like those mentioned here) about how boredom is fertile ground for creativity.
Hopping onto Facebook during that minute-long red light might have prevented you from a brilliant and revolutionary idea. On the other hand, sitting on a bench and thinking about nothing in particular for even five minutes might inspire you in a way that you'll remember for the rest of your life.
In the same way, it's in those moments that we're weeping over a hard situation that we might have a helpful new thought of clarity about it. In my emotional struggles over the past several years, I began to really treasure the idea of my crying-closet as a crucible, a place where different elements are melted together to make something new. Thankfully, God has lifted me out of that dark time, at least for now, but I've come out of that season as a much stronger and more robustly happy person. The pain was not just worth it but necessary.
The Bible strongly supports crying; look no further than John 11:35 ("Jesus wept") or the entire book of Psalms, chapter 6 especially. The difference between self-pity and godly sorrow is that self-pity looks inward and around, but godly sorrow looks up. Godward crying---or even Godward groaning or blubbering or whatever undignified sounds and faces you make when you're sad---is a good and healthy thing. He's the one who holds the whole universe and has given you this situation with intentionality, wisdom, and love. He loves to help His people know His love deeply and personally. Our joy increases depending on our desperation.
This is one of the reasons I aim to have natural childbirth. I quite acutely feel all the pain of pushing out a baby (and I'm super wimpy about it), but that sense of awareness not only helps me focus on a healthy delivery, but it's replaced by unmedicated feelings of delight when my child is finally born.
If we never face our feelings of sadness head-on, we never learn to hope. If we don't look sin and death in its ugly face and say "You've really messed things up," we won't feel as much of a need to look Jesus in His lovely face and say "You've conquered death, soon it will be swallowed up forever, and You will wipe away every tear." (1 Corinthians 15:57, Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 21:4.)
So let's evaluate whether we're seeking a healthy enjoyment of good gifts or if we're trying to silence our feelings. If we're blocking our pain, we're probably also blocking our joy.
And please give me advice for how to wean a kid off a pacifier. At this point, she is definitely going to need braces. ;)
The Perfectly Written Sub-Sub-Sub-Plot That is My Life
This Life Is Not Our Rest
Also, I really benefited from this week's Phil Vischer podcast and the interview with Andy Crouch about how technology is changing us.
And Charles Spurgeon's commentary on Psalm 6 will blow your mind. Since it's so old you can read it online for free.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today