I will never forget the first time suicide came close to me. I met with a young woman who was leaving her mission work in Eastern Europe. She was haunted by an experience but could not even talk about it—my guess was that she was burdened by an inappropriate relationship with a young man who lived there.
Let me conclude our series by answering our letter writer’s final question: “What is life really like internally?” What should her emotional experience be like? It can be as variable as the psalms. Some psalms express the “minor key” of pain, threat, and need for God’s help. Some psalms express the “major key” of gratitude, joy, and confidence in the Lord who helps us, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121).
Our letter writer raises the question of how to sort out whether her sadness is more keyed to self-pity or to longing for Christ to return and to make right what is wrong. She suspects that her experience is not quite an undiluted version of either one. She is then rightly puzzled about how her relationship with God fits in:
What about the question of temperament? Do “people who tend to be more thoughtful also tend to be sadder”? From one angle that makes sense. For example, Ecclesiastes is a prime example of careful noticing and hard thinking about every little thing that goes on under the sun. One of Solomon’s conclusions is that “in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18).
Is it abnormal to feel saddened by the lovelessness and wrongness of much that happens in life? No. “Every little thing that happens” often contains sorrows. Even with lovely things, there is often a worm in the apple. At minimum, good things do not last—“Pleasures pass but sorrows stay,” as an old saying put it. And many everyday things are plain wrong: backbiting in the workplace, gossip and factions in church, arguing and indifference at home, deceptive dealings in money matters, ill health, friendships that drift apart or turn sour.