Cyclical Sadness

By Randy Kosloski

I once knew a man, Don, who was having a mid-life crisis at the age of 21. Don had a liberal amount of disposable income, a lot of time on his hands, good friends and a close family. Nonetheless, he was unfulfilled, but didn’t even realize it. All he knew was that he was depressed.

Generally speaking, men often seem to be “emotionally constipated.” Many men feel emotions they dislike, and at some level they know the root cause of those emotions, but they are often too invested in the issue to appropriately address it. The root of the problem can easily cause them to question their values, beliefs and fundamental life choices. As men, we typically have too much pride to accept that we may be wrong about such elemental parts of ourselves. So, we frequently contort our emotions to make it easier for us to believe that the root cause stems from other people and not something within us. This seems to make sense, but since we haven’t directly dealt with what is actually causing the particular emotion, it returns again and again. This process makes it simple for us to justify, for example, getting angry at others.

In Don’s case, the emotion that kept surfacing was sadness. Don was smart enough to understand that there was something wrong in his life. He could not explain his sadness since he had everything a person usually wants in life. So he hoped a counselor could solve all his problems, and right all his plans.

In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When we make our plans, however, they often look more like Don’s plans than what the Lord has in store for us. Don’s plans were selfish, designed for comfort and void of challenge. His plans did not give him hope or a future, but left him feeling depressed, dissatisfied and alone.

For example, Don felt it would be a waste of time to achieve a post secondary education, so he took a job immediately out of high school. Since he did not really have any aspirations, he didn’t waste any time pursuing them. Later, he was able to buy a house in a strong market. When Don came to see me, he was already making good money and well on his way to paying off his house—but he was miserable. He provided many examples to describe his life, such as, while constantly watching NBA games from the front row, he only wanted to go home and sleep. How is it possible that a young man with ample freedom, money, and time could be so unhappy? He must have understood at some level that he was wasting away his gifts along with his life.

Life is precious. At some level I think that everyone understands this. But we often lose sight of this fact: Life involves everyone around us, so if we isolate ourselves, it is not life anymore. If it’s anything at all, perhaps it’s just a slow comfortable death. Don probably could have been a good father, a good career man, a good missionary, but he chose to live life by taking as much out of it as he could while putting as little of himself back into it as possible.

In his book, Submerge: Living Deep in a Shallow World: Service, Justice and Contemplation Among the World’s Poor, John Hayes writes about the importance of completely investing in our calling. He advises that if we stick only a toe in the pool of life while drawing out as much as possible, our reward will be a lonely life full of regret and sadness. For men, we will likely convince ourselves that our sadness is actually anger and that we are angry because of something someone else has done to us. Then we can allow ourselves to feel anger toward that person making things seem safe and uncomplicated. Unfortunately, in only a short time, we’ll end up again in sadness.

Jesus tells us that with the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. Maybe if we lack the faith to believe Jesus, Dr. Seuss can help. In his book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss encourages us saying, “Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way.” Seriously, we know that Jesus is the only one who can help us fully invest in our calling, and since He promises us a future full of hope, what’s stopping us from taking that promise to the bank? Trusting in His plans, we can avoid the hopeless cycle of a self-centered life, and get on our way.

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