I have often lamented that in times when there appears to be little drama in my life, I often find myself unable to create or to write anything of substance and depth. Upon sharing this with a friend, she simply commented, “haha. tortured artist, you.”
I do not mean to minimize the value of joy and happiness nor imply that they are not worth reflecting on, but all of the things I have ever produced and liked have been borne of struggle. At the same time, I am told and have learned that indulging those emotions is unhealthy. These two extremes have often left me unsure of how to write in a way that is faithful to both my emotions and my faith. They have often left me paralyzed.
But as I pondered this tonight, it occurred to me that it is, perhaps, a false dichotomy, that I am missing the many shades in between. There’s a line from a song that goes,
“They say the road to heaven, it might lead us back through hell.“
The thing is, there is pain in life. There is much suffering. Yes, Jesus came to take that away, but while we live in this in-between place, we still experience that brokenness.
I have often felt as though, as a Christian, I ought not feel sad or hopeless, ought not despair for ‘too long.’ But the Bible is full of grief. The psalms are full of laments. The cross is full of pain. Jesus did not defeat death with rainbows and unicorns, but with nails in His hands and feet and a crown of thorns upon His head. The light and salvation came later, yes, but first, there was darkness. The great victory over death began with a soundtrack of insults, jeering, mocking voices. It began with the betrayal by those He loved dearly, with them calling for Him to be crucified. It began with shame and hurt and a lot of pain.
We are able, now, to see the hope in that and, perhaps, even the joy. But in order for that to come, there needed to first be a deep, deep sense of sorrow. So yes, as a Christian, I am not to indulge in my pain and sorrow, not to wallow in self-pity, knowing that morning will come and, with it, joy. But I am also not to bypass the darkness of that night. There remains much reason to be sorrowful on this earth, and it is only in knowing the pain that I may then know the sweetness of relief. Whatever I write or create can reflect that – both the pain and the relief, both the sorrow and the joy. Its power comes from the identification and reflection of our human brokenness, but it also speaks to the soul and it is there that I must speak words of life – words that know, deeply and intimately, the suffering of this life, but words that also know the hope that is in Christ.
Sorrow and joy, hope and despair, pain and relief. They aren’t as separate as I often think. Rather than oppose each other, each augments and, in many cases, produces the other. This is relevant, I think, not only to thinking about art, but also life in general.
There is beauty in the struggle. Don’t skip it.