Be Happy Again
The article on depression was really powerful. But turning on the light seems easier said than done. After a night of weeping, morning never brings joy. Instead, it just begins the start of the same old thing. I will keep praying. Am I ever going to feel happy again? I feel like all I do is paste a fake smile on in the morning, let it all out at night, and then start it all over.
The answer is, "Yes! You will feel happy again." It just may take a lot of work to understand how to turn on the light for good and not just use a dimmer switch. The bigger answer and maybe the harder, yet eventually more comforting, answer is that you have to get the answer from God yourself. Each of us has a direct line to God. We all can hear Him tell us how much He loves us. You're doing the best thing to keep praying. There are a few different issues though, so here are some possible ways to "work out your own salvation" (Phil. 2:12).
- asting on a fake smile is not always the best thing to do. It often means we're just glossing over a problem and not getting to the bottom of it. If every time we didn't understand a trigonometry problem, we just wrote down the answers from the back of the book rather than worked hard to understand the principle behind solving the problem, we wouldn't be able to pass a test. We wouldn't understand how to solve the problem. Our lives are more important than math problems. So, we have to be willing to understand the principle behind our lives. That principle is God, who is the source of who we are. We have to work daily to understand who God is. Our article on "Identity" may be helpful to read.
- You may want to ask yourself why you're putting on a fake smile. Is it to hide from friends and family members what you're really feeling? It's important not to try to solve all our problems by ourselves. It's important to let family and friends help us out of depression. I've known too many students who have tried to commit suicide. Thankfully, siblings or friends have found them or called just in time to save their lives. And the individuals are very grateful to be alive. They are grateful for their friends and family who are now helping them find solid and lasting happiness.
- However, we don't need to let the whole world know that we're unhappy. We don't want to go around with a frown on our face, either. We don't need that kind of attention drawn to us at all times. Plus, if we're always frowning, we're no fun for ourselves or others to be with. So, we may have to learn to act. That does not mean to be fake. Acting is a very difficult thing to do well. It takes a lot of courage, imagination, and practice. When actors are really good, they genuinely feel the feelings they're supposed to feel. So, practice feeling genuinely happy. That should put a smile on your face that you can wear without feeling hypocritical.
- Putting on a genuine smile can help pull us out of the pit of despair. In the movie, "Princess Bride," Wesley gets the life sucked out of him down in the "Pit of Despair." His friends find him and take him to Miracle Max, who explains he's "mostly dead," which means "partly alive." When Miracle Max asks him what he has that's "worth living for," Wesley replies, "True love." Wesley does come back to life. Now, we may or may not have the true love of a person, but we all have the true love of God. And God's true love is definitely worth living for. That should make us smile. That could be our "patronus" (Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban).
- You may want to take some time and write down things that genuinely make you smile, make you happy. Don't give up if you feel you can't think of anything. Brainstorm! Write down whatever silly things come to you. It's a start. Keep the list with you at all times so that when you get desperate, you can refer to it.
- Read Psalm 119, especially in The Message, if you have it (or go buy it). The psalmist's prayer is genuine, heartfelt, and honest:
I'm feeling terrible-I couldn't feel worse! Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?... My sad life's dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your Word. Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with your clear revelation. I choose the true road to Somewhere (25, 28-30).
Isn't it neat that the psalmist asks God to "barricade," block the "road" to "Nowhere," to death? The psalmist doesn't claim that he himself can fix his problem. He's pleading with God. Even though he feels down-right awful, he still trusts God; he still believes that God can and will save him. He wants to be free and happy. In fact, he chooses the road to "Somewhere," to a meaningful life.
- One of the most important things we can do is want to be happy -- to make the decision that we want to be released from the slavery of depression. Depression, sorrow, bad feelings, hopelessness, all that stuff, can be very addicting. It feeds off of itself, and then it feeds off of us. I heard a story once of a reporter who wanted to understand the homeless situation better. He (or she, I can't remember) decided to live with the homeless for awhile. The atmosphere that surrounded the homeless was incredibly heavy. He started feeling lethargic. He didn't want to do anything, didn't feel any purpose in life. He almost lost it. He finally was able to break the mesmeric trance (I believe by relying on God). Then, he wrote his story. Depression was no part of him, but when he allowed himself to sink into its hypnotic atmosphere, his entire experience was negatively affected; the will to live was sucked out of him. So, we have to resist the temptation to be pulled down into depression and away from God. We may need to put up a fight, a strong fight. Nicotine, caffeine, alcohol addicts explain how very difficult it is to break an addiction. But, there have been instantaneous healings for people who suddenly lost the urge to smoke or drink after realizing that their identity was fully maintained by God and that they didn't need anything but God to sustain them.
- We can trust God, as the psalmist trusts God: "Let your love, GOD, shape my life with salvation" (The Message, Psalm 119:41). Allow God to form and fashion you. Allow God to love and comfort you.
- You may want to look at how you're praying. Let's go back to the trig problem. From what basis are you starting? Are you trying to understand the problem or trying to understand the solution? Are you spending a lot of mental time on why you're depressed, why you've gotten the answer wrong? Or, are you looking at the solution and trying to understand why the solution is right, why you deserve to be and are happy? When we shift our focus, it's amazing what we see. A God-focus brings God's blessings into our lives.
There's no pat answer. But your willingness to discover who God is will help you understand who you are. As a result of your consistent and constant prayers, you will find that you no longer need to paste a fake smile to your face. Your smile will indeed be genuine.