I have a little dream of writing a short Kindle book all about being sad. It is the kind of book I would like to have read when I was depressed. But it will not be at all miserable or insular.
It goes without saying that I can not help but make it about God; he is the only response I have to the whole emotional-spiritual game they call sad. The writing is hard. I do not want it to be harsh, a hard task master to those who feel wounded, rejected or misunderstood by the church or the world or their own families and friends. For it seems to me that so much sorrow originates in these kinds of rejections and misunderstandings. If the book could just be a welcoming place for people who feel excluded because of their low mood and struggles with depression, I would be content.
Today I was writing a piece on prayer for the book and did it with great care because the last thing a sad person needs is another ‘to do’ on an impossibly long list of demands. I asked my friends to tell me how they prayed. Wow! They are the people after God’s own heart, the people after my own heart, because they told their stories and didn’t make it sound hard or exclusive at all.
They are the people living on the far side of “it is done”. They have learnt to rest in the full acceptance that followed the death cry of Jesus on the cross. For this is where all of the important parts of our story await us. When we pray from a place of rest in God, there is peace and love and freedom. When we don’t there is shame and guilt and a crushing sense of defeat. The Spirit did the hard work for us, the Spirit does the hard work for us. He brings good prayer out of us and he can bring good prayer out of our previous poor experience. Good prayer will come from a trusting heart like water from an underground spring or a bowl that is full to the brim.
I only have a few words on how to pray and all the best ones went into the chapter. I do however have some quotes: two from Scripture and one from Saint Isaac the Syriac. I hope they encourage you to pray happy and good.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11.28-30 The Message
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Romans 8. 26-28 The Message
When the Spirit takes its dwelling-place in a man he does not cease to pray, because the Spirit will constantly pray in him. Then, neither when he sleeps, nor when he is awake, will prayer be cut off from his soul; but when he eats and when he drinks, when he lies down or when he does any work, even when he is immersed in sleep, the perfumes of prayer will breathe in his heart spontaneously.
Saint Isaac the Syrian