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My Heart So Sad

September 11, 2022

My Heart So Sad

Preacher:
Passage: Psalm 42-43
Service Type:

 

Nine months ago, Cheslie Kryst jumped to her death. She was a beautiful woman, the winner of the Miss USA 2019 competition. She was a successful model and journalist, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, a graduate of both the University of South Carolina and Wake Forest. She earned her law degree and was an advocate for social justice.

 

But something was going on inside of her.

 

Why are you cast down?” is the question we might have asked her. Perhaps her friends and family did. Perhaps she asked herself that question. What is going on inside of me. Why do I feel so bad on the inside? Sometimes people can keep it hidden so that nobody knows.  Ms. Kryst jumped to her death from her condominium on the 29th floor of her building in New York City: 400 feet. 5 second.

 

Why are you cast down? Here was a woman with reason to dance and rejoice! Young, beautiful, successful, at the front end of life. Her colleagues issued this statement: “Cheslie was one of the brightest, warmest, and most kind people we have ever had the privilege of knowing.”

 

But her heart was so sad, her soul distraught, her spirit crushed. She saw no way forward. Perhaps she was asking herself this question: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?”

 

I.

 

We know this condition as depression. We are cast down by grief, darkness, and circumstances of life. Great Britain is grieving this week and so are many of us. The beloved queen has died. I lost a good friend this week, Norm Lytle. He was our welcome crew and travel guide in Israel on my first trip there. Sixteen years ago this week, 40-year-old Dr. Stephen Tilford, professor of piano at Georgetown College, died. I conducted the service in the chapel of the college.  There is a lot of grief on any day of the any year. Grief can throw us into depression.

 

Darkness can crush the spirit: not inner darkness but outer darkness. For nine years we lived in Pittsburgh. It is a wonderful city, and we enjoyed our time there; but only Portland has more cloudy days than Pittsburgh. Some people are pushed under by the grey days, the cloud cover, the absence of sunlight. The condition has a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Some people take medicine, and that helps; some people travel to Florida or Arizona, and that helps; some people move to California or St Simons Island, and that helps!

 

Sometimes it is just the circumstances of life: frustration or failure, illness or alienation, shame or shunning can crush the spirit and cloud the sun, and pull us down under, into the darkness of depression. Judas is the classic example. He failed spectacularly and publicly; he wept bitter tears, the Bible says. He took his own life.

 

There were others in the biblical narrative that offer us examples. That is why these psalms were written, and recited, and sung, and treasured.  Psalm 42 and 43 are connected, There are three versus and one chorus repeated twice. “Day and night, I have only tears for food,” verse one declares. “Now I am deeply discouraged,” verse two reads. “Why must I wander around in grief?” verses three asks.

 

The chorus of these ancient people is the chorus of modern people, of all people suffering inside and looking for help. “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise God again—mu savior and my God!!

 

We gather today because we believe God is here, present in kindness and understanding. God the ever-living, ever-loving power of the universe is in this very room, hearing your cry, feeling your pain, knowing your struggle. Eric Clapton, in a crucial period of desperation, wrote the lyrics to his famous song, “Holy Mother,” They read, in part, “I need your help this time. Get me through this lonely night. Tell me, please, which way to turn to find myself again.”

 

We want to sing for joy, even in dark times. We want to live with hope, especially in the struggles of the soul.

 

II.

 

Depression can lead to death. Failure and shame drove judas to death. Struggle and anxiety push Elijah to the cave where he announced the end of life. We don’t know what pushed the beautiful Cheslie Krist off that balcony nine months ago.  Something flung all of these people, and thousands more, into despair and desperation

 

Wyoming, Montana and Alaska lead the country in suicides. There are three reasons, reasons that challenge us here in North Carolina, reasons that challenge all communities of faith and practice, all congregations that seek to sing with joy and live with hope.

 

First, social isolation. In these three states and in many other places, people are isolated. Small populations and large distances between towns and villages isolate people. Some people move there for that very reason: elbow room, cried Daniel Boone! Remember that childhood poem? Some people want to be out in the wilderness, off the grid, away from the noise and messiness of community life. There may be a bit of that in you. It is not a bad thing. But given other circumstances, it can be a dangerous thing.

 

We live in top ten state, population wise. Ten million strong and growing. Three hundred people a day are looking for housing or land in Henderson County. I am one of them. In a few years, North Carolina will be number six in population, and some of us will be looking to move to Montana!

 

Whether in Montana or Carolina, the need is the same: we humans need gathering, eating, singing, working, laughing, playing, together! We need community. WE need friends. We need people calling and checking on us. We need people who know our name when we show up and miss us when we don’t. As pastor, and as a person, I feel this way every week. It is one reason I like this small church, this micro-church. I miss you when you are not here, and I hope you miss me. If I don’t show up some Sunday, I hope you will check on me. No, I don’t want you all up in my business, as we say. But I do want you to miss me!

 

The bottom line is this: singing for joy makes it easier to live with hope. When we gather to sing and pray and eat and play and laugh, it feeds the soul and heals the spirit. It don’t have to be religious songs or sermons that do the trick; but lifting our voices in some version of Psalm 42 will help us stay alive, stay healthy, stay happy: “I will put my hope I God! I will praise God again, my savior and  my God!

 

III.

 

Second, help.  There is little help in places like Alaska and Montana.  Better to say, there is little help. Some states especially rural states have few mental health professionals. In addition, some states have political philosophies that push back against government getting involved in health and wellness. Just like some states refused to embrace the Medicaid expansion, they also refuse to approve funding for mental health professionals.  The very places that need it most refuse to create the help people need.

 

Two weeks ago, I had my annual Medicare physical. They ask about my medicine, family history, and recent surgeries. I had to tell them about my eye trouble, the loss of most of the vision in my right eye. Then they asked a series of questions:

Over the past 2 weeks, how often have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless? Over the past 2 weeks, how often have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things? Have your feelings caused you distress or interfered with your ability to interact socially with friends?  During the past 6 months, how often have you felt sad or depressed? In general, how satisfied are you with your life?

 

They are screening people for mental health issues. The isolation and stress of the pandemic and the tension and torture of political division have intensified mental health demands.

The message from your doctor and from your pastor is the same: Go see somebody. Find a counselor. See a therapist. Talk to a friend. And in the larger picture: vote for people who will support mental health resources in our schools and in our communities.

 

I saw on Facebook the notice that the young adult daughter of a dear friend is entering the university doctoral program in educational psychology. I know that has to do with performance and adjustments and aptitude; but it also has to do with mental health, with healing and happiness, with contentment and companionship, with motivation and meaning, with joy and with hope.

 

We want to be a Christian community that helps you put your hope in God and in us, your friends. WE want to be a Christian fellowship that finds healing through praise and prayer.  We want to be a people singing with joy and living with hope, a people that will help carry you through dark times, doubting times, depression times. We want to say with the Psalmist, I will praise God, our savior and our God!

 

Third, guns. Gun violence is a national pandemic. Murders, accidents, and self-defense account for only 40% of gun deaths.  The majority are suicide. In 2019, 24,000 people took their own life with a gun. Few jump off ledges. Most take a gun that is handy, in the drawer or the trunk and in a moment of frustration.

 

People keep a gun in the house, they contend, for “defense.” But statistics show that the people most at danger are the people who live in a house with a gun.

 

Jesus’ command “put away your swords” is translated today “Put away your guns.” Your house is safer without guns your family is safer with guns. The community is safer without guns. Let the professional people carry the guns; let public safety people carry guns and use them when necessary.

 

Let us as Christian people renounce the use of guns. We do not need them to hunt or defend ourselves against lawless people. We do not need to carry guns downtown or to pump gas, as I saw somewhere just last month. Guns kill, and guns kill our friends when they are laying around, easy to reach when people are looking for quick way out.

 

A few years ago, a young man whom I baptized at the North Park Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, part of the young group with my own children, took a gun and took his own life. His parents were crushed and we all grieved. Yes, there are other ways to end a life, but 60 percent of people who take their own life use the gun.

Put away your guns and take up the praise of God.

Put away your guns and take up the prayer to God.

Put away your guns and take up the cultivation of friends.

Put away your guns and invest yourself in the local school, the community, the church, the neighborhood.

 

There is an old gospel song I love to sing.

“Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feeling lie buried that grace can restore. Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, Chords that are broken will vibrate once more. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.”

 

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