My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:17-18 (ESV)
I remember falling off a horse once. I flew through the air and fell flat on my back. I gasped and struggled to breathe. Normally when a person exhales, the diaphragm pushes air up out of the lungs. Getting hit in the back can cause a spasm in the diaphragm. That means your muscle contracts instead of doing its usual thing to help you breathe. If this happens to you, sit up and slowly breathe. It may be a bit terrifying, but it isn’t life-threatening.
However, what do you do when life knocks the wind out of you? To put it in emotional terms—what do you do when you feel deeply sad—sorely depleted—and just plain joyless?
A friend introduced me to the term an·he·do·ni·a — which means the inability to feel pleasure. The symptoms of anhedonia include social withdrawal; a lack of relationships or withdrawal from previous relationships; negative feelings toward oneself and others; reduced emotional abilities, including having less verbal or nonverbal expressions; difficulty adjusting to social situations; a tendency toward showing fake emotions; and persistent physical problems, such as being sick often.
Research reveals that anhedonia can have causes that aren't due to underlying disease. Examples include overwork, a recent traumatic or stressful event; a history of abuse or neglect; financial problems; and even bad weather, or boring activities. The Lamentations passage above reveals that Jeremiah, the prophet, was not experiencing much pleasure. Can you name a person you know who hasn’t been discouraged by life’s difficulties?
If you have lost interest in life—you may be suffering with anhedonia—which is a symptom that something is very wrong. Stop and consider a physical examination along with a spiritual checkup. Here is my prescription for the latter. Right now, bow down before God. Open your heart before Him. Invite His light to flood every corner. Submit yourself to His will. Surrender! Now ask your Heavenly Father to help you find joy again! Move out in faith. Create a bucket list. Appreciate the small things. Surround yourself with positive people. Laugh more. Love more. Repeat, as necessary!