Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is less than three weeks away. Signs of Christmas are all around us: Christmas music, movies, decorations and sales. It’s that time of year when everyone is in the Christmas spirit, or at least they’re pretending to be. Unfortunately, I believe Christmas time is filled with as many fake expressions of joy as real ones.
Human beings are complex animals, capable of feeling a vast array of emotions, many times experiencing contrasting emotions simultaneously. We are capable of being truly happy and truly sad at the same time. Human emotions are not simple and neat. They are complicated and messy. And nothing seems to amplify this more than the holidays.
For most, the holidays are a time to be with family and friends. And few things elicit as many emotions as family and friends, because those we love and care about are the ones who can make us the most happy or sad. They are the ones we allow to get close enough to us to truly hurt us.
It is also the loss of family or friends that brings such sadness to the holiday season. Losing someone that you had a good relationship with is so hard and brings such sadness, but losing a family member or friend that you didn’t have a good relationship with can often be more depressing, because, as long as they were alive, there was this feeling that there was still time to reconcile and repair that broken relationship. But now that they are gone, there is no more time. There will be no reconciliation. And their memory will always carry with it a deep sense of regret.
Maybe your depression has nothing to do with family or friends. Maybe you are depressed because of an illness you have that holds you captive and feels like a prison or a death sentence.
Maybe the source of your depression is that secret you hold. You can’t even look at your spouse and smile at them without a lump in your throat because that secret haunts you. You want to enjoy the holidays with them, but you can’t enjoy anything.
Depression is a miserable thing, whatever the reason. And Christmas time just seems to magnify it. It’s no surprise that the suicide rate goes up during the holidays. Sometimes the weight of depression just seems unbearable, and a person may believe that it would be easier to end it all.
Have you ever felt this way? That it would be easier to end it all rather than go on living like this? If you have, I am truly sorry for your pain and sorrow. If you would let me, I would like to share with you what God’s word says about your situation.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
― 2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB
According to God’s word, there are two types of sorrow. One is a “sorrow that is according to the will of God,” and the other is “the sorrow of the world.”
To understand the difference between these two types of sorrow, we need to understand why sorrow exists in the first place. When God finished creating the world, he looked at it and said it was good. Sorrow was not a part of God’s original creation. God created us humans with the ability to love and obey him or rebel and disobey him. We chose not to love and obey him, and instead we sinned, which brought death and sorrow into the world. We are the reason death and sorrow exist in this world. We cannot point the finger at others and blame them for death and sorrow, because we are all equally responsible.
I know these are hard truths to hear. I do not find any pleasure in sharing them with you, but my love for Christ and for you compels me to share them with you. It is important to understand that all the brokenness and depression you feel is a result of your sin against your God. There would be no broken relationships if we had all loved and obeyed God. There would be no secrets that haunt us. There would be no disease or death had we not brought sin into the world. We are all to blame for all the brokenness and sorrow in our lives.
Now let’s look at the difference between “sorrow that is according to the will of God” and “the sorrow of the world.”
If we are depressed because of the pain we have experienced in our lives, that is worldly sorrow, which is self-focused. We are not focused on God and how we have offended him. We are not sorrowful because our rebellion against God has brought all this brokenness and death into his creation. We are sorrowful because of what has been done to us.
“Sorrow that is according to the will of God” is not self-focused, but God-focused. This sorrow comes from knowing that, even though all the brokenness and pain you are feeling is real and it does hurt, you are ultimately responsible for it because of your rebellion against God. This is a sorrow for what you have done to God, and not what has been done to you.
“Sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation.” This sorrow leads a person to repent of the life of sin and rebellion that led to all this brokenness and pain and throw themselves upon God’s mercy and cry out for salvation. This sorrow is a gift from God that leads one from death to life.
Worldly sorrow “produces death.” Earthly death for those who choose suicide as an escape, eternal death for all those who never repent and believe unto life.
I know all the brokenness and pain can be unbearable. I feel it too. It is real. It hurts so much sometimes we can’t stand it. My prayer for you is that you will listen to what God says about your brokenness and pain, and where it comes from, and that you will not experience a worldly sorrow that will lead to death, but that your sorrow will prove to be according to the will of God and will produce in you a repentance that will lead you from death to salvation.
Sorrow and pain in this life are unescapable, especially during the holiday season, but eternal death is not. I pray this holiday season that you will experience “the sorrow that is according to the will of God” that “produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation.”