Melancholy has been my friend, since childhood. I am drawn to grey seascapes and misty mornings. Sad endings to books and movies often resonate more than happy ones.
An exchange from one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who (yes, I am that nerdy) sums up my natural feelings quite well when Sally Sparrow says:
I love old things. They make me feel sad.
Kathy: What’s good about sad?
Sally: It’s happy for deep people.
I would argue, even, that there is a Divine Melancholy that comes from seeing the deep truth of our world. Our wide, great earth is irreparably broken. We have been irreconcilably cut off from our Creator, the source of all love.
One can imagine the great melancholy falling on Adam and Eve as they dug in the dirt with bare hands, knowing any garden they grew would never thrive with the same lushness of the garden they had left. One can imagine the despair as they lost two sons, weeping over Abel’s red blood on the ground, watching Cain’s back as he fled to a far country.
Jesus, too, felt it. Our scriptures tell us he wept at the sting of death, in spite of his power to reverse it. He had compassion on the crowds, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
And in the dark Garden of Gethsemane, a shadow version of Eden, he sweat blood and cried to his Father in anguish, knowing the end of sin would come to rest on him alone.
I’ve come to be grateful for my faith in the dark, the way my soul connects with Jesus most when he weeps, when he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is a gift to recognize even in the hopeless moments, our Lord is with us, bearing with us all generations of suffering.
But like most good things, my penchant for melancholy can be corrupted.
The other side of the coin is Divine Joy. It’s true that we live in an irreparably broken world, but it’s true too that our Father in heaven makes things new. All broken hearts are mended, all tears are wiped away, all death is turned to life.
Perhaps we couldn’t taste Divine Joy without first knowing Divine Melancholy, but the melancholy on its own is an empty truth. It’s sweetness is the longing for joy that will be fulfilled, but sometimes I settle for sadness.
It’s easy for me to sit too much in the dark of my own life and live out of that half truth. I focus on the moments that have made me feel small and discarded and unworthy.
Recently I’ve been listening to a sermon series out of Woodland Hills Church that teaches an important truth: we have power over our own minds, though most of us rarely use it. Each of us plays the movie of our lives in our heads, and usually we end our movies in the wrong places, believing the end is the darkness.
The dark moments can’t be flippantly dismissed, but if we regard them as the end of all things, we stay chained to our hurt and suffering.
But scripture commands us: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Phil. 4.8)
What is true is that I am a child of God, created for love and to be loved. What is true is that however broken our world is, however discarded and however unworthy I have felt in the past, it won’t compare to the eternal glory of life in the presence of Jesus.
I have wept in the grey valley of the shadow of death, but I will run hand in hand with my savior through lush gardens and golden pine forests, beside the blue and ever-gleaming sea.
It is our grave responsibility to think of such things, to train our minds to live out of the whole truth.
You are loved deeper than all oceans and wider than the expanse of all galaxies. That is the deepest truth about you.