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SAD and how God meets us in dark places

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A short talk for the Sunday Breakfast

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Blue Monday 18

Last Monday was a designated a special day on our calendar, do you know what it was?
It was ‘Blue Monday’, nothing to do with the band ‘New Order’, but a day worked out by a rather dubious equation that said statistically people feel more depressed and down in the winter, and that the 15th January this year would be their lowest point.
What you may not know is that this equation was invented and the term ‘Blue Monday’ made popular by Sky Travel, in a cunning attempt to sell you a mid-winter holiday in the sun!!
Well, the equation and reasons behind Blue Monday may be suspicious but it is absolutely true that in the bleak midwinter people do suffer from depression and feel down more than any other time of the year, especially in January when Christmas is done, and we face the new year with long, dark nights.
Of course, we won’t admit to it because we are British, but I bet there are more than a few people here today that suffer in this way.
My mum has suffered from what we now call, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) since I can remember. The single parent of three boys, I constantly in awe of the way she coped despite feeling as she did. My mum has also been a Christian for as long as I can remember as well and she would take us three boys to church (very bravely now I think!).
At this time, I was told that being a Christian made you happy, so I thought my mum wasn’t a very good Christian at all .. how could she be? She never seemed to be happy?! And I wasn’t sure at all about this Christian faith with the false smiles and nicety, whilst frowning at my mum as we made the slightest noise in church.
But over the years as I got older, and possibly a bit wiser, my opinion changed. Because my mum, around this time every year would get very depressed no matter what anti-depressants or treatment they would give her. The one thing that got her though was her faith.
She didn’t tell me this, it was just the way she lived her life. God was her anchor and the lower she felt, the more she seemed to recognise this. She would cling on to God until spring would start to show its early signs and that sense of hope would start to bubble up to the surface and she could start to prise her fingers away just a bit more.
She to this day still inspires me and my faith.
I have also come to appreciate that happiness is overrated!!
The culture that we live in tells us that the whole meaning of life is to be as happy as possible, and to do things that make us happy.
But life is not like that – and I don’t think that Is the purpose of living. If it was we would all fail at it for big chunks of our lives … and I think some people feel like a failure for exactly that reason. They or a family member is not happy.
Instead, we should think of those unhappy times are a valid stage of our journey, and whilst I don’t feel like celebrating them I don’t think they are something to be avoided or get rid of as quickly as possible or something to hide... but as part of that journey of life Where God reveals himself to us in new ways that take us into new areas.
I constantly work with people who are in that place – rock bottom. And its helped me realise that happiness is not even in my top 5 priorities in life! I constantly glimpse profoundly God at work in their lives which has inspired me in new ways. How privileged I am!
Of course, there is a place for the happy times in our lives, but we should not be surprised that God meets us more profoundly when we are at out lowest - Christian faith has never been a ‘happy’ religion. On the contrary, it turns our perceptions of what life should be on its head.
Constantly and consistently the characters we meet in the bible meet God in new and profound ways, not during those happy times, but in the dark nights. The time when they feel broken and lost.
And the new testament is mostly concerned with Jesus doing just that as well – meeting people who really are at their lowest ebb, or telling stories about people who cannot find God but do so when they least expect or deserve it.. not when they are happy with life but when something happens inside them and they feel the darkness descending.
And that can change our life – spring always comes, even if winter seems to never end = and when spring comes a deep sense of joy that trivialises happiness and brings us to a new place
So, if you are feeling at your lowest ebb. If you are at rock bottom. If you can see no way out. God has a special place for you today and it is where he loves to meet you.
It’s not just if you are feeling or suffering from SAD. You may have some stuff going on that you just don’t know what to do with.
You may have someone you know who is at their absolute bottom – know that God is with them as well.
Know that God sits alongside you today.
And that we can remember those dark moments when spring arrives. buds appear .. signs of hope that bring deep, fulfilling joy. The kind that only God can bring.
Candles on table
Light them now
As Gods light bursts into being in our own darkness
And the darkness of those we love
Keep focussed on the light of the candle
Image its warmth
Moment of quiet
Lord God – thank you that you meet us when we need you the most.
Today we pray for ourselves or someone we love – that you will meet them today and wrap your arms around them with a deep sense of joy and comfort.
Amen.
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