When I Feel Sad (With Chart!)

Here's a theory for you, at the risk of over-simplifying:

Emotions are like the instruments in my van's dashboard. They monitor the interaction between my engine and the ground and provide data about how that's going. My control panel can tell me how hard I'm pushing it the engine, the relative speed at which I'm cruising, and how much fuel is left in the tank for future adventuring. My check-engine light may come on to tell you something isn't quite right....and ignoring it may lead to nothing or to disaster. And yes, sometimes particular instruments or even the whole panel could be broken and need to go see the mechanic.

Even unpleasant emotions, I think, are gifts from God to alert us to something. So, anger can tell us that there's something wrong in the realm of justice that needs to be redressed or stopped. (I didn't invent that example; I heard it somewhere once....and have been chewing on it since. If I ever figure out where it was, I'll let you know.) Sadness can be our heart's cry over loss or disappointment; loneliness reminds us of our need to connect with others. The pleasant feelings are gifts to alert us also: feelings of happiness and love, for instance, point us to the awesome reality of God's love and presence, to the joy of being in healthy relationship with others; and to our hope for the moment when we will be made new!

What I do not do with my van's instrument panel, though, is assign a moral value to what it says. The tools are just there to help me drive safely to where I want to go.  I know I can get to the supermarket and back even if I'm LOW FUEL, so I can safely carry on until I get to the gas station. A  mood swing? Probably I can just deal until it swings back. A bad day? Sure; tomorrow will probably be better.

But what if I can't just keep on going effectively? If I'm suffering or limping along because of my emotions, it would be wise for me to stop and see if there's something that needs adjusting. Sometimes it can be a small adjustment, sometimes it's going to need to be a harder and deeper series of fixes, or maybe it's going to be something I have to learn to sit with for the rest of my life. For instance, I'd point you to Mary's insightful and grace-full posts about depression, anxiety, and other hard things. But it's okay to be feeling.

There have been so many times where I knew something wasn't quite right with me, but I didn't know where to start and didn't have the energy to figure it out. May I humbly offer you this little chart as a very basic tool if your dashboard is flashing "SAD"?


What other things might be helpful for dealing with sadness in its various forms? I'd be happy to hear your ideas in the comments.

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