“Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning;
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
We were discussing Biblical Wisdom Literature today in class, which includes the book of Ecclesiastes. In general, this book conveys a rather disillusioned and pessimistic view of the meaning of life, or the lack thereof. It was obvious from the class discussion that many people find this book disturbing, and I have my moments when I’d agree.
I also have plenty of times when I’m grateful for its inclusion in the canon because I find it comforting.
I know that sounds odd, and perhaps it is (it wouldn’t be the first time), but I often find myself wrestling with the question of the meaning of life, and my conclusions are not always optimistic ones. This is particularly true during the seasons of my life when I’ve struggled with depression. During those seasons, the reasoning of Ecclesiastes’ author makes a great deal of sense to me. All of life does appear to be vanity and a chasing after the wind. And in those times, this book provides me with the comfort of knowing that I’m not alone.
Those times of life are not easy ones to pass through, although each passage through that dark terrain is easier because I’ve come to be familiar with the contours of the land that help me to navigate that road even in the darkness and fog. I am better able each time to hold onto the memory of sunlight even in that dark place. But it is still a difficult journey.
And yet, my travels through the dark valleys of sorrow, mourning, and depression have hollowed out a greater depth within me for a richer inner life than I would have had otherwise. And for this, I am grateful.
It is not easy to feel gratitude for the sorrow when I am in that veils of tears nor for the bleakness of depression when I am caught in that grey cloud of hopelessness, but I can practice gratitude for the journey once I have emerged from the other side. And remembering this gratitude for earlier dark nights may help me to find at least small glimmers of gratitude even in the darkness in the future that allow me to relax into the abyss without fighting it.
In this way, my heart may yet become wise and may yet become glad even in the midst of the black seasons of life, as the disillusioned author of Ecclesiastes seems to have discovered on his own journey.
And so I am making space today to be grateful for my bouts with depression, for my heartaches and sorrows, for my wounds and my mourning. For in that space of gratitude, I am able to claim the blessings and riches that these gifts bring.
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