There is, within the world of Christianity, an unwritten rule that says we're always to be happy. "Life is good," we're expected to say–even when it's anything but good. The realities of sadness, anger, depression, and uncertainty are not allowed for the Christ follower, and if you feel them creeping in, well then you must not have enough faith.
But what do you do when sadness is the only reality you can muster?
When depression makes sense
In Nehemiah's story, the nation of Israel is a wreck. Their sin has led to trouble, shame, and exile. Nehemiah himself is a wreck. When he learns of the deplorable reality of his people, he can't help but mourn and weep for days (Nehemiah 1:4).
The story continues, and after months of patiently praying, Nehemiah's moment finally comes for his prayers to be answered, but this doesn't change the fact that he's still deeply depressed over the exiled condition of his people. Nehemiah is in fact so overwhelmed with sadness that his face can't help but show anything else. King Artaxerxes asks, "Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?" (Nehemiah 2:2)
Nehemiah responds, "Why should not my face be sad..."
The reality of life is that sometimes deep sadness, depression, and anger is all you have to give–and it's okay. Sometimes sin (your own or someone else's) has wrecked your world so bad that depression is the only response which makes sense. This was certainly the case for Nehemiah.
Hear me on this: your sadness, depression, anger, and uncertainty with life doesn't make you a mediocre Christian, and it doesn't make you any less a child of God.
Hope For Joy
Jesus was a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). When he witnessed the death (the ultimate sting of sin) of his friend Lazarus, he wept (John 11:35). Before his crucifixion he was so overcome with agony that he was sweating drops of blood from his forehead (Luke 22:44).
"It is good" was not Jesus's cry from the cross.
His cry from the cross was, "it is finished." The work Christ came to fulfill is done, and by faith in this work, everlasting joy is yours.
In his finished work, your joy is solidified. It's no longer dictated by the circumstances you face, but by the circumstances he faced. This doesn't mean you won't ever again face difficult circumstances. It also doesn't mean that all the rest of your days will be lived with a smile on your face and a skip in your step. It does mean, however, that you have hope for a future joy.
The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus means you have a future day of unimaginable eternal joy awaiting you. That eternal joy, though still marred by sin, begins now, and it will be fulfilled when you finally stand before King Jesus face to face. Standing before him, you will not be asked questions about a sad face. Instead, your King will look at you and say, "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest."
Because of his work, tears, sorrow, and ultimate victory, it will be good once again!