The New Year started a few days back. It’s a celebration outside, but on the inside, who knows what it is in everyone’s soul?
This New Year’s Eve and the first day of the year have been great for me. I have spent them with my husband and our dogs. We are building a manufacturing shop, so we made plans and reviewed the progress that we made in the previous year. I had cinnamon tea and we watched movies. It was a peaceful holiday, and my soul was satisfied in God. He gave me all these; He gave me a second time to experience what I call “heaven on earth”.
Not all new years started like this. In fact, only three years ago, I dreaded having to wake up to a new year. It was yet another very bad new beginning of a yet another bad year, like the previous 6 years.
My first husband died 9 years ago on Christmas Eve, and the mourning and pain cast thick shadows on all the holiday celebrations; it felt like the celebrations were part of a reality that was parallel with my reality. My reality was that I was crushed. And celebrations only reminded me how crushed I was and how deeply I have been wounded.
I remember looking in the Psalms so many times; looking ad David and wondering about his praises. Wondering how or why was he praising God from the caves that he was hiding in; his father in law was trying to kill him but David was praising God. I heard so many interpretations of the psalms. So many bad sermons about how you need to smack yourself into happiness. And the truth is, sometimes it really doesn’t work to “decide” to be happy. When you are barely dragging your legs out of the bed in the morning, hating that you are alive and your lifetime partner is not; when you ask yourself “why him and not me?” – you cannot drag yourself into happiness. And quite frankly, I doubt David had any super-capacity to drag himself into happiness; I don’t think he was dragging himself into positive thinking and into positive feelings. I think he was commanding his soul what to do. He was not dragging his heart – he was pulling it.
The difference between dragging and puling? The direction. When you drag yourself around, you have no direction. When you pull yourself, you do have a direction.
You see, David was not dragging his soul into happiness. We don’t know what happiness is. We might think we do, but we were created to be holly, and true happiness is only to be found in the presence of God, as we reflect Him. But nobody’s heart defines happiness as holiness, although that is the only happiness that is real – and not barely a mirage. David was not telling his heart to praise God so that his heart would be dragged into happiness. David was telling his heart to praise God because his heart was wounded and he needed a doctor. God lives in the middle of the praises of His people. When we praise God, we open the door to the doctor. God doesn’t need to be praised. We need to praise Him. And when we are the most hurt and the most wounded, e need the doctor the most. That is what David was doing.
The way people picture David is either forgetting his humanity – that pat of him that was scared, hungry and confused – or forgetting his spiritual being that cannot be dragged into happiness, just like ours can’t. Hence, David becomes either this forever young, curly-blond, blue eyed baby-faced model who pets baby lambs, or this self-denying ruthless worship leader who is a religious fanatic.
I think David was just like me. I think he felt the way I do; he felt the fear, he felt God’s promises slipping away from him, he experienced doubt and has been wounded. He was just as sinful as I am and he lived in a world just as filled with sins as I do. My heart is not forever blissful and undisturbed; dragging my heart doesn’t work. And it definitely doesn’t work for those who fight with depressions. We need something greater than we are to take us out of the state of sin and death that we are born in. We need Someone grater than our sins. We need Someone greater than the sins of those around us. We need Someone greater than the consequences of our sins and the consequences of the sins of those around us. We need Someone greater than our pain, because the pain of widowhood can be greater than we are.
What works – and what David did – is to tell our hearts where to go. We cannot stop our hearts from hurting or for crying; but we can tell our hearts where to go and cry. We can tell our hearts Who to go to and cry.
If 2018 started with sadness, don’t waste the tears. Chase the days – if not with laughter, with directed cry. Direct your cry to Jesus. He knows what to do with it, even when you don’t know what to do with it. Regardless how great your pain is, Christ is greater.
David is not encouraging his heart to praise. He is not encouraging his heart to be happy for the sake of being happy or thinking positive thoughts. David is encouraging his heart to praise GOD. In other words, he is telling his own heart, just like he would tell someone else: “You are hurt. We’re going to the doctor NOW. ” He is not saying: “Pretend to be happy, even if you are not happy and even if you hate it.” Every single praise out of our mouth is a recognition of the fact that we need Him. It is a kind submission to Him, a willful sacrifice.
Sometimes, praising God does not mean laughter, but tears. Cried praise is just as valuable as laughter praise. When you can’t drag your legs, pull your heart towards Jesus.