Have you heard of the phrase toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity occurs when people—especially during challenging times in their lives—push themselves to feel and “be” perfectly happy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt the pressure to be this way during quarantine. Social media gurus are telling me to “take advantage of this time” to do all the fun art projects I’ve been putting off. Others are telling me this is the time to buck up and finish my screenplay. Well-meaning friends talk about focusing on the bright side as if that’s the only side worth mentioning.
I’m not saying there isn’t goodness to these things! It’s healthy to remember what we’re grateful for, to create things we love, to hold onto hope. But the trouble begins when we shame ourselves and others into only focusing on these things. This is when positivity becomes toxic, and when the hope we cling to becomes more and more hollow.
Hope and Sadness Can Exist at the Same Time
Are you feeling the pressure to feel happy, hopeful, and productive? You’re not alone. And I’m here to tell you: all your feelings are OK! You’re allowed to feel sad, frustrated, afraid, disappointed.
Even David, God’s chosen king, felt these things! In the Psalms, David grieves, laments, and cries out to God for hope. We can do these things, too. When we take the time to feel our feelings, we can share those feelings with Jesus. He will listen, hold us, and give us hope even when we feel scared and dejected.
Here’s the beauty of God’s love for us: he doesn’t require us to be happy! He simply longs to offer us hope amidst the struggle. We can laugh and we can cry. We can experience fear and know that God is with us. We can ache over all the pain in the world and be enveloped by the comfort only God can give us.
If you’re feeling sad today, take some time to tell Jesus. Find a quiet place and pray through Psalm 22, a psalm of lament David brought to God. As you read, you can bring your laments to God, too:
God, sometimes I feel so alone and scared. Sometimes, it’s hard to feel your presence.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come. During the day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer; I call at night, but get no rest. —Psalm 22:1-2 (GNTD)
Still, I remember all the ways you’ve been there with me and for me in the past.
It was you who brought me safely through birth, and when I was a baby, you kept me safe. I have relied on you since the day I was born, and you have always been my God. Do not stay away from me! Trouble is near, and there is no one to help. — Psalm 22:9-11 (GNTD)
But, right now, I just feel weak. Everything around me seems to be falling apart.
My strength is gone, gone like water spilled on the ground. All my bones are out of joint; my heart is like melted wax. My throat is as dry as dust, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have left me for dead in the dust. — Psalm 22:14-15 (GNTD)
God, I know you are faithful. I know I can be honest and share all these feelings of disappointment and dread. I also know you can give me rest amidst the chaos.
O Lord, don't stay away from me! Come quickly to my rescue! Save me from the sword; save my life from these dogs. Rescue me from these lions; I am helpless before these wild bulls. — Psalm 22:19-21 (GNTD)
Lord, I trust in you. I choose to hold onto your goodness today. Help me feel your peace and bring my sorrows to you. Thank you for loving me all my life. Amen.
I will tell my people what you have done; I will praise you in their assembly: … Future generations will serve him; they will speak of the Lord to the coming generation. People not yet born will be told: “The Lord saved his people.” — Psalm 22:22,30-31 (GNTD)
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