Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair and agony on me
(“Gloom,Despair and Agony on Me” from Buck Owens and Roy Clark’s television show “Hee-Haw,” 1969-1992)
I can’t blame my dad for loving this song. Grown men clad in blue overalls chugging jugs of joy juice as they comically clowned their way through their contagious composition — who wouldn’t love watching them? Not to mention they filled each intermittent pause with howls of feigned pain (and an occasional cue to the greyhound lying beneath their feet). So grateful for You tube.
And though this was written for entertainment purposes, it carries a message that, for many of us, is all-too familiar and quite serious. This olden golden tune from two comical hillbillies of the T.V. show “Hee Haw,” albeit silly, carries a predicament common to the human race.
Have you ever put your heart and your soul into something, prayed over it, plugged in at it, persistently, conscientiously (because you believed you were doing a wonderful thing) only to watch it “run aground”?
I cannot begin to adequately describe the discouragement, the dismay, the disheartening despondency that I feel (and maybe you do, too) when this, or something like this, happens — when our ship runs aground.
My phone companion, Alexa, helped me find a word that encompasses all of these feelings —
It’s reasonable to get down when we lose something that has been a recipient of our our hopes, dreams, money, time. But how do we grant ourselves space to mourn over this significant loss of ours without permitting it to run us aground with it?
If we don’t keep ourselves in check, we may sink! WOLFRAM ALPHA (an online dictionary/thesaurus) actually listed a result of despair, and that is desperation.
Let that sink in for a minute. For me, at least, those numbers of times when I have allowed despair to lead to desperation, my demeanor, my attitude and my life becomes (borrowing from T.L.C.) so “damn unpretty.”
But my desperation doesn’t sound as eloquent as T.L.C. or as entertaining as the group of men from Hee Haw.
For my bellow is not on key.
WOLFRAM ALPHA delineates despair as “a state in which all hope is lost or absent,” and “the feeling that everything is wrong and nothing will turn out well.”
So, it follows course that if we think that all hope is lost and feel that everything is wrong and that nothing will turn out well, it is the next logical place to stick our head into the sand, sinking into miry clay.
And that clay forms numerous molds, as it has for me: isolating from anything life-giving and insulating with anything life-escaping.
Not to mention bitterness and resentment that often accompany the gloom, despair, and agony on me.
But it doesn’t have to be this way…
Morrie, a sociology professor and Tango aficionado who loved his body and loved his wife discovered, after sudden bouts of labored breathing and choking, that he had been inflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Lou Gehrig’s disease, described as a “brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system” (Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays With Morrie, New York: Doubleday, 1997, page 7).
On his second Tuesday spent with his dying professor and friend, Mitch asked him if he felt sorry for himself. Here is his response:
“I feel around my body, I move my fingers and my hands — whatever I can still move — and I mourn what I’ve lost. I mourn the slow, insidious way that I am dying. I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me…on the stories I’m going to hear. On you…”
Morrie told Mitch he didn’t allow himself any more self -pity than this — just a few tears each morning and that’s it.
How does he do that? How do we do that when we have put our whole selves into a project or investment or a person — only to find that it he or she or it has…run aground?
For the past year, I’ve had a few things run aground (though none of them hold a candle to what Morrie faced), and it seems that when I think I am taking a step forward with my life, my costly investment (the one that remains grounded after ejecting shards of my hopes, dreams, money and time) smacks me in the face with more shrapnel.
I got a fresh trajectory yesterday, and it stings. I could feel my mind, body, and spirit sinking into that trap of despair.
And to be honest, although this “loss” has been costly, I am no delusion that many, many others have lost far more than I have — they just handle it better (on the surface, at least). Yet, when I get a fresh smack of shrapnel, I spiral into doom and gloom.
On the morning following my most recent smack, I was desperate for answers: how do I live amidst this disappointing “thing” without, as Roy and gang would howl it, “excessive misery”? So, I scrambled around, shuffling through my pile of half-opened envelopes and cluttered papers that had not made it to the recycling bin in search of my Elisabeth Elliott book or one that could give me a more hopeful perspective.
There, in a tiny corner of my coffee table covered by just a few piles, I spotted my emergency book. I turned to the day’s date, July 16:
“SELF-PITY IS A SLIMY, BOTTOMLESS PIT. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire. As you slide down those slippery walls, you are on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound “ (referenced below)
Had the author been reading my mind?
Probably not. But Someone has.
“Your only hope is to look up and see the Light of My Presence shining down on you. Though the Light looks dim from your perspective, deep in the pit, those rays of hope can reach you at any depth” (referenced below).
I checked out the references provided at the end of the page:
“He heard my cry…”
“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay/And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”
And finally, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”
I was immediately lifted. I then knew what my calling was: ask, wait, trust, pray, and sing. He does hear my cry; if I trust Him, He will bring me up from my miry clay and set my feet on solid ground.
This is all I have right now — and if you are in a similar predicament, this may be all you have as well. I don’t know what prayer He will answer or how He will provide, and I don’t know whether or not He’ll show me some hidden treasures on my wrecked ship, but hope can reach me at any depth. I need this tattooed on my heart.
I don’t believe it yet, but somehow I know this is all I need — this is all you need.
So, friend, if you, like me, have had a recent or ongoing shipwreck and feel stuck, tempted to place your feet into the miry clay, then maybe you can learn this new song along with me —
with or without banjos.
We may never sound as fine as those stellar studs from Hee Haw, but we can learn to make a joyful noise.
“Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we were so keenly longing for….’Running aground,’ then, is not the end of this world. But it helps to make the world a bit less appealing.”
References regarding Morrie are taken from the following reference (in order):
Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays With Morrie, New York: Doubleday, 1997, page 7.
Albom, Mitch. pages 36-37.
Quotes that begin with “Self pity-profound” and “Your only hope -depth are both from the following reference: Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. Thomas Nelson: Tennessee. 2004. Page 207.
Biblical references: Psalm 40: 1-3; Psalm 42: 5; Psalm 147: 11 (NASB)
This final quote, typed in bold, is from the following resource: Elliot, Elisabeth. Keep A Quiet Heart. Vine Books: Michigan. 1995. Page 28