Read Isaiah 55
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength."
Funk. It is defined on Dictionary.com as "a dejected mood." Funk's synonyms are: gloom, misery, and despondency. I'm feeling better already [insert sarcasm here]. Defining the mood "funk" is one thing. Getting rid of it is another.
This despondent, dejected mood doesn't need a reason to come settle over me like a rain cloud. Everything is going along fine. Okay, fine-ish. I can't name "one thing" that is just horrible. It's a bunch of little things. I feel sorry for myself. Blame it on the hormones. Maybe my feelings were a little hurt. My kids are just pushing my buttons. I'm discontent. There is a hole in my sock. The weight of the world creeps in and makes ugly faces at me.
Irony is alive and well as I wrestled with God about this topic. "This really isn't a good time God. I'm kinda in a funk. I'm feelin' a little despondent. I don't feel like writing. At. All. Let alone writing about getting out of a bad mood."
I'm pretty sure God could have found someone feeling cheerful to write about this. But then again, it wouldn't ring true if you didn't know the advice-giver struggled with the medicine first.
So, I told God I wasn't in the mood to get out of my bad mood. And he said too bad. Why is hanging on to gloom satisfying? A bad mood feels like my right sometimes.
There is a story of a man in the Bible who was an invalid for 38 years. Jesus came along and asked the man why he hadn't gone into the healing waters, just steps away. We don't know the extent of the man's disabilities, but Jesus knew he could make it to the water, but didn't. The man made excuses, "There is no one to help me. Someone always gets in my way." Jesus, the Great Healer asked him a question:
"Do you want to get well?"
The answer seems obvious. A disabled man who spent 38 years suffering, of course he would want to get well. But maybe, like many of us, that man hung on to the misery instead of desiring change.
I'm not suffering a true disability. My problems are tiny, but still I can wallow all day long in my dejected mood. All week long even. "Woe is me. My life is so hard. [Sniff, sniff]. Nobody loves me." Will I accept it when Jesus comes along and asks, do you want help?
With a bit more struggle and angry eyebrows, I accepted it. I wanted out of the funk. Okay, now what?
These are the ideas that came to mind and I practiced them. Tried, tested, and approved:
- Pray for joy. Step one, desire change and let go of the dejected attitude. Pray for God to restore a good mood.
- Intentionally count blessings and write them down. I found a piece of scratch paper and started writing. Gloom keeps us from seeing the good things. Intentionally looking around and seeking to see blessings is like water in a drought. It is impossible to be discontent while dwelling on thanksgiving.
- Meditate on Scripture. My very first desire when I am in a bad mood is to avoid the Bible. "Don't open it. Don't read something convicting. Don't learn. Don't grow," these grumpy thoughts feed my despondency. It is an act of will to pick up a Bible, read and retain. I read this and took it to the bank: "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12).
- Serve others. I fought this one because I can name many things I've done recently to serve others. No one ever serves me [more grumpy thoughts]. My service was done with the hopes of being compensated in some way. It wasn't done in love so I left empty. Service done God's way is fullfilling. Jesus asks us to "serve one another humbly in love. The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:13-14)
- Plan something fun. In highschool I used to literally cry into my pillow because no one called and invited me to do anything fun. "No one loves me" became my excuse for a bad mood. Over the years I've learned that I can't blame my lack of a social life on other people. It might be insanely difficult (if you are an introvert like me), but it is worth it. A play date with friends, a shopping day at the beach, a family outing to the park. Having something to anticipate is wonderful medicine.
The biggest lesson I learned through all this was that gloom for no good reason is a choice. The funk I wear is not necessary and is especially not beneficial. Like the man sitting beside the healing waters, I could get up, but it is easy to make excuses. Even though I went kicking and screaming, the other side of despondent is a lot more fun.
"You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace."