One dreary day in March, I threw myself a pity party with all the trimmings. It included moping, tears of frustration and discouragement, and even a fight with my Dad over the phone. I felt stuck and the rainy, gloomy weather trapping me inside all day certainly didn’t help the illusion.
I had just gotten back from a fabulous vacation in California where I frolicked in massive fields of flowers on mountaintops, then drove straight to the beach and skipped in the waves with my toes digging into the sand, real deep. I’d had breakfast burritos with fresh salsa that were so big we could only finish half of them and enjoyed glasses of tangy sangria in the evening. The weather was perfect and my soul felt a blissful peace I only realized had been missing for a long time once I experienced it again.
Coming back to the reality of a dreary not-yet-Spring New York, where I was still unemployed and lonely was harsh. The stark contrast threw me tumbling into what felt like a mini-depression. Coupled with a yearning to be in California, the echoes of frustration and sadness in my soul felt deafening.
I wanted so badly to feel the same excitement about New York I usually felt when I came back. The friends and community I had developed were so rich and diverse – the kind of community that surrounds you, supports you and becomes woven into your every day, not just Sundays. I was planning on hosting a girls night for my Bible study that I had been so jazzed about, but found myself half-heartedly sending the reminder email the morning before. My inability to feel warm and tender feelings towards the city and my life here only made my frustration flare up even stronger.
I spent the day in solitude, as I often did in the midst of my unemployment. It’s tough to spend your day in company when all of your friends work full time and you don’t have coworkers. I worried about my finances, which were more than tight at the time and thought about how I wished I could just write and love people without worrying about if my rent check would bounce. I cried out to God in my journal at a coffee shop, wondering when this time of waiting would end.
I tend to be hard on myself. The nice way to say it is to call myself a perfectionist, though I would argue it’s a deeper-rooted sin than that. My pity party felt like all of my imperfections crashing down, and I was equally disappointed in myself that I couldn’t “choose joy” like the Christian I so badly wanted to be.
Jesus does call us to be joyful and rejoice in Him, always. But the thing with choosing joy is there is also time for mourning. There is time and space that God blesses us with to throw a pity party, to mourn the things we have lost and the things we thought we would have by now, but still don’t. Jesus happily attends our pity party and in the frustration and tears He mourns with us over this broken world.
The important aspect of a pity party is that, like all parties, it must come to an end at some point. And when the pity party ends we have to wipe up our tears and even if we can’t choose joy, we must choose hope. We have never-ending hope in Jesus, even when we’re unemployed, our bank accounts are empty and loneliness has become a part of our everyday routine.
The next morning I woke up, rolled over and remembered. The funny thing was, before I remembered the pain and heartache, I remembered the people who love me and care about me. I remembered the girls’ night coming up and the camaraderie of those women who walk through the mountains and valleys with me. Then when I remembered the frustrations and hurt, they didn’t seem so overwhelming.
Joy and pain are so often intertwined. Some days the pain wins out and we throw ourselves a pity party, but when that ends the hope and joy of life will always show up and remind us who we are and what we are worth. Jesus claims us as his precious children, worthy of love and sitting with at pity parties.