I am not sure if many know this about me, but I used to be, and sometimes still am, a pretty dramatic person. I used to do a lot of crying in my room, whenever I felt that I had failed, whenever I felt as though no one cared about me, or crying due to struggles with mental illness. I’d say my crying schedule would commence every two weeks or so. After becoming a Christian, these crying sessions decreased in frequency to about once a month. Then I went through a year when I fell into the trappings of religiosity, or religious OCD rather, and started thinking God didn’t love me because I kept making mistakes, until I returned to grace and my confidence in my faith improved. However, I’d still inevitably continue my crying sessions!
One day I asked God, “Why can’t I just be happy and stay happy?” And during the next several crying sessions, I felt God kept whispering to me, “Because you prefer to be unhappy.” Boy was that a revelation for me! At first I thought, rather indignantly I should say – how could anyone want to be unhappy? Why would anyone enjoy wallowing in misery – enjoy crying? I certainly felt that I was miserable and it didn’t feel very enjoyable. But slowly and surely, I came to the realization that misery was rather comfortable – that happiness was difficult to maintain and involved a good bit of courage and faith. Misery, on the other hand, was certainty, familiarity – “rational.” It seemed rational to me, whenever something went horribly wrong, to be sad about it.
I remember my father telling me about his father, who was an alcoholic and a heavy smoker, and each time I asked him why he never wanted to stay sober, to which he replied, “Because he loved indulgence more than he loved his own life.” Even in the face of certain death, of tuberculosis and later lung cancer, the man continued to smoke. Still, it never quite sunk in for me that someone could want to cause so much misery in their wake. I always wanted to rationalize it. I again made the same mistake later on, when I was trying to comfort a friend who often complained of depression, of insomnia, of never being at peace. I thought I gave her such good advice, such good methods to follow to become happier, and yet she pushed them away! Certainly, it would seem that she, too, loved to be unhappy.
It is a sick, perverse thing, but finally I agreed with God that I enjoyed sadness, that it brought me a sort of relief from the struggles of life, and it was easy. The answer, of course, was to accept grace all over again, but this time I knew I had to genuinely desire it, to want to be joyful, even when it was difficult. I had to be like Paul, who found joy even in prison. I had to love happiness more than I loved sadness, to choose the harder, yet more fruitful, way. I’m still working on it, but I’m starting to notice that life is overall better, when facing a distressing situation, to first understand how to gain joy from it, and to do that, of course, one must understand how to properly respond to the situation in the first place.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)