Play for Fun| By Ellie Saul

Have you ever met someone gifted, successful, sharp, smiling, convincingly charming and delightful even, on the outside… and then in one question realize she is barely hanging on to a glimpse of a thread for dear life in so much pain?

What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

Within minutes of meeting Mrs. P, I knew a few things about her. She is poised, manicured, dressed to impress and ready to tell me all about herself. Mrs. P has a very successful husband who is older than her, a grandson she teaches all about the Bible when she keeps him once a month, and her favorite thing about herself to mention is that she is the piano player at a large, prominent  church. She plays for multiple services and in impressive choral groups and even travels with her talent. She actually works hand in hand with “the” pastor.

“Oh wow! You’re amazing!” I said, “What’s your favorite song to play?”

She looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “I can play anything they tell me to.” 

“That’s so awesome! When no one is asking you to play… what do you like to play for fun?” I asked innocently.

She looked at me like there was an unfamiliar foul smell she couldn’t describe… puzzled… and quickly replied, “Oh no, I don’t play for fun.”

My heart broke. She doesn’t play for fun.

 Her elevator speech self description of prestige and success would make anyone feel like she has it all together… I couldn’t even respond, but she sure did… I think my question opened the flood that is really in her heart because she started talking about losing a child, losing her parents, and losing her job in one year with a stoic, emotionless face. Quickly she described again all of the work she is doing with music now that she is retired against her will. She listed countless tasks, travels, and ministries concluding that her faith is what keeps her. 

My heart broke again. That doesn’t sound like faith at all…it sounds like work

She is grieving and hurting and only has the words to describe to me that being very busy every day with important tasks with important people at important places and playing the piano **not for fun** is the “faith” that helps her cope. 

When we are grieving we can easily come to a place where we “survive” by working and filling our day with importing tasks. I’ve done it.  When I was grieving I needed to hear that I had permission to fall apart, permission to drop every single plate I was spinning, permission to seek counsel, permission to rest, permission to mourn… and most importantly for me... I needed permission to play for fun, to experience guiltless joy again. 

Sometimes grief makes us so sad and so lonely and we don’t even know how it happens… but somewhere we start feeling guilty for joy because it feels somehow disrespectful to the loss or grief we are experiencing.

If you are hurting today… If you have an amazing elevator self-accolade speech that holds the rivers of pain in your heart back only long enough for a stranger to ask one innocent question that opens the flood of grief you have… let me give you permission today to do 5 things from the Bible. 

  1. You have permission to fall apart. Mourning is not weakness, it is a vehicle God can use for us to be comforted and heal. (Matthew 5:4)
  2. You have permission to drop every spinning plate (you can pick them up later if you even want to pick them up again. Even if they break, someone can sweep them up for you for now) (Proverbs16:9,Exodus 14:14)
  3. You have permission to seek counsel. Experts can help you talk through things and look at things in ways you never imagined. (Proverbs 12:15)
  4. You have permission to rest.  Sometimes resting is discipline and learned and can feel like a punishment if you are a go-getter… it’s for your good. Our bodies literally heal when we rest (Matthew 11:28)
  5. You have permission to PLAY FOR FUN! You have permission to laugh, sing, jump, clap, and have guiltless joy even if you are suffering loss. Joy does not diminish your grief or make your hurt any less significant. It just releases strength that you very well may need to get through this pain. Jesus Himself considered JOY on the cross experiencing the deepest pain of His life on earth. (Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 4:4, Nehemiah 8:10)

Joy Comes in the Morning| By Gabby Jones

Feeling stuck in life is not the easiest place to be. You begin questioning yourself and questioning where God wants you, but you cannot seem to put two and two together. Do not be discouraged in this season, but let God continue to shape what He has for you. God does not have you between a rock and a hard place. He is preparing you for this next season coming up.

After graduating college in 2017, God was throwing open door after open door for me, and I was having a great time walking through each of them. At the time, my friend and mentor Amber seemed to be clear from cancer, a guy was pursuing me, and I had some amazing friends. However, it all came to a crash by the end of the year. My beautiful Amber passed away from breast cancer, the guy decided not to continue his pursuit, and I lost a great friendship to confusing and unfortunate circumstances. Life did not pause for me, but I did stop. I stopped embracing everything God had for me.

For a year after that, I sank low in depression and just wanted the world to stop so I could mourn the many losses I had in such a short amount of time. God was still beside me, but I could not fathom how He would let so many things fall apart after He opened so many doors beforehand. In those moments, I just wanted to close those doors and stay in my bed forever. I had enough energy each day to get out of bed, go to work, and come home to lay in bed again. I did not make any effort to ask God to remove me from depression, but my spirit was crying out. 

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18‭-‬19 (NIV)

In December of 2018, God asked me what my heart wanted, and He broke through my depression and tears and made my heart beat again. I felt alive, and I felt like I could finally breathe. After God broke depression off of my life, I was ready to take on the world, but that did not happen. Months passed by, and I began to realize how much I was not doing with my life. My personality had gone from extrovert to barely leaving the house, I stopped serving in the many areas I was in, and my friend circle was smaller than it had ever been. I was no longer who I was.

When these truths hit me, I began crying out to God. I wanted to feel the Joy of the Lord again. I wanted to be the Gabby I was before tragedy overtook my heart, but that is not what God has planned for me. God has a new and fresh perspective for me, and He does not need the old Gabby to fulfill it. He needs who I am now. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

I was still wrestling with feeling stuck, up until a few weeks ago when I realized something; I was the reason I felt grey! I had begun to take a step back from God, and all the while, I was questioning why He was not there! I was feeling the pressure of depression because I decided to not seek God for His joy. God revealed this to me, and I began worshipping who He was and what He had done for me.  I felt his joy rain down on my life again. 

If you are feeling stuck in this season, I encourage you to hold on and continue praying that God will reveal His will to you. This is not an easy season, but God promised to be there with you no matter what. Keep seeking the face of God as He brings you out of this season into something new. Keep seeking His joy in your sadness, His peace in your chaos, and His love in your loneliness.

“Wait for the Lord ; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord .” Psalm 27:14 (NIV)