STEADILY DEPRESS IN’, LOW-DOWN, MIND-MESSIN’
WORKIN’ AT THE CAR-WASH BLUES
By Jay Bowman
(Editor’s Note: one of my favorite chapters from the Jay Bowman book. See title and availability below.)
Sometimes we watch TV with perplexity and amazement. A troop of singers and dancers, cavorting across a bowery stage; slinking, gyrating. Net stockings, painted faces, skirts slit to the waist; wailing and beseeching, “Forget ya troubles, c’mon, get happy; you gotta chase all ya’ blues away. Shout hallelujah, c’mon, get happy, get ready for the judgment day”.
It’s a frequent theme with song-writers, particularly in musical comedies that “the blues” must be avoided at any cost. They are of the devil. But, merry-making of the kind here described is somehow “religious.” Wild hilarity, booze and frenzied dancing are said to be righteous, and “the blues” are the work of Satan. A diabolical lie.
But, it’s a good lie. No lie is effective unless it’s believable. None believable unless partly true. It is true that depression in the lives of people can wreak havoc with their faith and piety. How many times have you seen a Christian quit the Lord, maybe die unfaithful because of some difficulty in his life? Business failures, family problems, disobedient children, personal problems, all are means by which men’s souls are tried.
These are the explanations most often given for unfaithfulness. Or, even if not stated, they are usually the real problem.
Any experienced church worker can tell you that people become unfaithful in connection with disappointments, depression and problems, over and over again. There is a strange kind of logic that prevails in such cases, that blames God for our misfortunes, makes us want to withdraw from Him. A common and effective satanic device.
We must recognize and avoid such traps. Depression can and does cause people to sin, even deny the faith. Together with other forms of deception (e.g. “After I pout a while, I’ll get back to a faithful life.”) it sends millions to hell.
We should “count it all joy” when we fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of our faith worketh patience (James 1:2). We do this because we know God is mindful of us. We rejoice in spite of our troubles. We accept the temptations that come our way, and we live with the joy of trusting faith. But, we should not seek or desire to be tempted. Jesus advised His disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mat. 6:13). It is not wise to spend our lives wallowing in troubles.
A man must also avoid the dangers of ecstasy and elation. He who “has a ball” throughout life becomes first carefree, then careless, then insolent. He goes from joy to anomia to arrogance and derision. He devotes himself to pleasure and passion, never noticing that lust is insatiable and desire, a tyrant. “Losing the blues” as per the stereotyped musical is but an invitation to greater melancholia, to inescapable gloom.
The middle ground is the course to pursue. Neither wildly ecstatic nor deliberately sad. A man ought to be happy as he can be, consistent with God’s laws. Laughter is a good medicine (Prov. 17:22). Joy, to a man conscious of his Provider can evoke thanksgiving and pious communion.
But, troubles also can promote godly purposes “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better” (Eccl. 7:3). God loves the man who is conscious of his own unworthiness aware of his need for Him.
People who love to be melancholy are usually not contemplating their sins. The subject of such misery is usually “me”, how mistreated I am, how unfortunate. As the line in the 1950’s song ran, “Why is ev’ry body always pickin’ on me?”
It may not be good to be happy. It depends on the reasons, the means and the consequences of that joy. Nor is sadness necessarily pious or healthy. It depends on its causes and consequences. We must avoid the errors of either state. Our final destiny will likely depend on how we reckon with joy and sorrow. “Getting happy” will not necessarily take you to heaven. Neither will getting sad.
Available to order from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Book-a-Million, etc.