Or has the Blues got me...?
David sure had the Blues... Just read some of those Psalms...
Jeremiah sure had the Blues... Just read some of his story...
Jonah sure had the Blues... Just read some of his story... Three days and nights in the belly of a big fish (it never says whale!)... Now that’s not something you hear every day, and if you ever go missing for three days and three nights I wouldn’t use that as an excuse. I certainly wouldn’t. Not after last time.
But it’s certainly true that some of God’s holy men (and no doubt some of the ladeez, too) had the Blues, some kind of depression and stress in their lives, trying to live for God, ironically enough within the tribes of Israel who knew they had a special calling on their lives from God, yet time and time again, they went massively and painfully astray and God had to send prophet after prophet to warn them of the dire consequences of not fulfilling their part of the covenant. Many of the prophets were killed or beaten or wondered deserts alone, wretched and no doubt miserable having to chide and speak against their own people. How difficult that would have been. Now if some religious types knock on the door, usually people shut the door in their face or someone in the back room tells them to bugger off (or words to that effect), but back then it would be getting stoned to death, sawn in two or some other equally horrible death. That would definitely put a downer on the whole day, I fear, especially if you’d made plans for the evening.
I am one of those people who have suffered with depression in the past and still occasionally suffer with it now and then. In the past it was very bad and a bout of it might last for months, now it comes and goes fairly quickly. But sometimes it can be a problem. Damn right I get the Blues, from my head down to my shoes. I get the Blues over poverty, I get the Blues over war, I get the Blues over unemployment, I get the Blues over many things... You get the picture. I even play the Blues on my many guitars, sometimes quite well, sometimes, well... hmmm. Anyway.
But suffering is a part and parcel of human life. In fact, how could we really see the good of our lives without understanding that there is bad, sickness and suffering? Of course, most of us in the West, like America, much of Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other advanced and wealthy countries have lots of things to be grateful for.
I have been suffering at times quite awfully with chronic fatigue syndrome, and sometimes it seems to get better and then it gets worse again. Most days I wake up, I don’t feel good at all. I usually ‘thaw out’, so to speak, after being up for an hour or so, but the biggest problem I have is fractured sleep. I don’t get really good unbroken sleep unless I take quite a powerful sleeping tablet, but the Dr only gives me five at any time. Also, I only take one if I have to be up, I don’t just take them because I can’t sleep. So, my sleep isn’t good at all and this exacerbates everything else. Syndrome just means an illness with a number of symptoms, and I do have a number of them, none of them pleasant. I truly wouldn’t wish CFS on my very worst enemy.
I’m beginning to try and understand what a long period of illness, or depression, or unemployment and/or just general struggle in life really means when you are a Christian. On the one hand you have hope unending, at least in your head, but on the other you are stricken with something not knowing when it will end. It is then we start to ask ourselves, perhaps before we even ask God, what is life all about? What is our life all about? Constant or ongoing suffering, particularly when it lasts for years can make people very philosophical. I have begun to think that such trials and tribulations are not only sent to test us, to see what we are made of, but also to bring us back wholeheartedly to God. And, not to bring things to a fine point, but if you are indulging in some kind of sin or sinful practise, and suddenly have found yourself suffering in different ways, I feel God may be asking you a question, and that question will very probably be: ‘do you want to keep living in sin, or do you want to follow me?’ That, in the end, is the question God will ask all of us throughout our lives. We all sin, we all have a tendency to be disobedient and do our own thing. Illness, or some kind of suffering, that we certainly would not choose given a choice, may be God trying to get our attention. But, it may be something else, too. For a Christian, I do not believe things just happen by chance.
It may be that right now you are going through the worst suffering or illness or some other painful and depressing ongoing experience. I know how you feel even though obviously I don’t know what you are going through. I’m not going to offer you platitudes, you’ve probably heard enough of them already, I’m not going to patronise you either, because you’ve probably had enough of that as well, but in my own experience of suffering, which I am going through right now even as I type this post late night watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, I can tell you I am pissed off with it all. I am either suffering physically because of my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and then when that passes for a day or an afternoon, I am becoming depressed with the whole thing. I am angry at the illness, angry at myself and most of all angry with God, really f***ing angry with Him. I kid you not. It might be that you feel exactly the same as me. Well, at least you know you are not alone in that. I’m not a middle class middle England vicar, or one of those reverends from some nice, quaint affluent town on the Great American Plains somewhere, I’m just an ordinary person, and I am not going to pretend I am not really upset and fed up and be really nice and wise and measured about it all, because that’s not how I feel.
’12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’ (1st Peter 4:12-16)
I need the scripture, I need the Bible and I need God to keep me on the straight and narrow path, but sometimes like everyone else I feel overwhelmed and have to vent my spleen. Anyway, I’m hanging in there, and I do advise you do the same, no matter what you are going through. Keep praying, keep asking God for help in every moment and even at the worst of times.