Melancholy Me and My God

In early November, I went to California for a writers retreat. There were only four students and the woman leading the retreat. I learned so much and hung out with a few other wonderful writers. And yet, the poem below is what I wrote the first night after our opening session.

The next day I read it to one of my new writer friends, a woman who has been on this writing journey for a lot less time than I have. She was touched because she had been feeling inadequate and that the rest of us were so much more accomplished than she was.

I do love when God allows me to remember the dark night of the soul in a way that brings cheer and blessing to others.

Why so downcast, Oh my soul?
I understand the psalmist's plea.
Here I am with new friends of gold
But feelings of sadness needle me.
Am I just a fraud pretending to be
One who has something worthwhile to say?
When truth be told, or a lie of old,
Never will I point to God's way.
How I feel runs hot and cold;
Now I am weak when once I was bold.
Powerless and useless are words I hear
Echoing deep in my mind as fear.
Wounds that run deep still bleed
I know they're not true, never were.
But still, still these words Oh Lord.
You are the truth, the life, the way.

Melancholy Beckons Me


Objectively speaking, my life is pretty good, for the most part. I have a good job, been married 25 years, have a wonderful creative son, a terrific church home and family, blood family that I love, a cute loveable dog, a nice house, plenty to eat — I could go on and on about the blessings in my life, and I do try to focus on the greatest blessing of all, my dear Jesus.

And yet melancholy beckons me. It bids me turn my gaze from the Lord and my blessings, and instead focus on the one thing that is not as I would like it to be.

I feel a bit like Peter must have felt when he looked down at the crashing waves instead of at Jesus. Yes, there was a storm all about Peter, but he was standing safely above it as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. Looking at the scene with the benefit of hindsight, I know that Jesus eventually calmed Peter’s storm. It was only when Peter looked away that he began to sink into the deep.

I know, too, that He will calm my storm. As the tempest rages and melancholy beckons, I know it is essential to keep my eyes on my Savior lest I sink into the deep. I know that I must trust in Jesus, and trust I do.

Still trust is so hard when tears well up behind sad eyes, when nothing changes and the storm continues to howl all around me. But in fact, upon closer examination, something has changed, and that is the tempest within. It is me He has changed as He strengthens my faith. He has changed violent anger and indignation to sadness and compassion, to melancholy.

Standing in the wings is indifference, worse even than melancholy, because indifference means giving up hope. It clings to pride and indignation, not wanting to let go. Indifference means a deliberate decision to not care about another, only self. But the change my Lord has wrought in my heart bids me stay clear of indifference. Melancholy is at least useful for self-examination and for reminding me of how desperately I need Jesus.

The Psalms are wonderful for times like this. Just this morning as I began my prayer time, I read Psalm 28 and came to these words of encouragement:

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
Psalm 28:6-7 (NKJV).

Melancholy beckons me, but though I succumb for a while I remember that my Redeemer will never leave me. Though my mind reflects with melancholy on what I pray He will change, my heart rejoices that He is faithful to keep His promises.


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