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
Hey, Baby Boomers, you may not want to admit it, but you know where those lyrics come from. Yep, you remember Hee Haw, the archetype series that set the bar high (or low, depending on your perspective) for every let’s-make-fun-of-the-South series to follow. Hee Haw was an over-the-top parody of Southern country culture and music. It was set in the fictional Kornfield Kounty, where I think “korny” humor must have been born. Hee Haw debuted on CBS in 1969 and lasted decades in syndication. The gloomy lyrics were the genius of show co-hosts and country music pioneers Buck Owens and Roy Clark.
The series was, indeed, a corny and lighthearted portrayal of a people and a time that allowed us southerners to laugh at ourselves and at those who laughed at us. We really didn’t care much what the rest of the world thought of us because we knew life was good in 1970. Furthermore, we have always known that beyond any gloom and despair, there is redemption available.
Falling in the hole
I recalled these lyrics a few weeks ago when I began reading my friend Michael Mason’s book Deep Dark Holes. Right up front, he confesses, “I find comfort in knowing that most of my heroes in the Bible were, at one time or another, in a hole. That gives me hope.”
I like that.
How often do I – and I’m pretty sure you – find comfort in the fact that David, “a man after God’s own heart,” once found himself in a pit of adultery and murder. How often do I – and I’m pretty sure you – gladly remember that Paul the Apostle was once a persecutor of Christ followers.
If those two stalwart soldiers of the Christian faith have checkered pasts and seasons of struggle, then I know there’s hope for me too. That eternal hope is what Michael illuminates for me and encourages me to cling to. Subsequently, with laser-beam precision, he focuses a brilliant spotlight on examples of men who found their way out of the darkness. Whatever hole we find ourselves in, we can find our way back into the light of Christ.
I confess that I’ve led a life without a lot of deep dark holes. But I’ve had seasons of darkness, seasons of insecurity and fear, seasons of rebellion against God, a painful business failure and bankruptcy. And certainly, I’ve had my share of countless shallow dark holes, those short-lived challenges that God resolved in quick fashion.
Finding purpose in the hole
Citing various biblical heroes, Michael reminds me that those heroes had their deep dark holes – and eventually discovered that they served a great purpose. For example, Joseph, unjustly imprisoned; Jonah in the belly of a whale; Daniel in a den filled with ravenous lions. But these men and many others in Scripture later saw God’s big picture and how their dark holes served a purpose in their lives and their witness. In fact, there’s no safer place than a lion’s den if I’m in God’s will and dependent – totally dependent – on Him.
What I think I’ve learned through my decades of experience (and what Michael reinforced for me) is that I need to look at my dark holes as opportunities to learn and grow. God allows my dark holes, God can give me victory over every one of them, and I should never live in fear. As the psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear … ” (Psalm 46:1-2a, ESV).
Maybe I’m in a hole because of personal sin or disobedience to God. I don’t have to be afraid. It’s an opportunity to repent and be restored to Him. Maybe I’m in a hole because of someone else’s sin. I don’t have to be afraid. It’s an opportunity to forgive and reject holding a grudge. Maybe I’m in a hole because God simply wanted me out of a spiritual routine that’s grown stale and lackluster. I don’t have to be afraid. It’s an opportunity to refocus my mind and heart on Him.
Yes, I understand that some of you may be swallowed up in a dark hole right now, a hole you think you can never climb out of: an unfaithful spouse, terminal disease, a lost job, rebellious teens, prison, a home repossessed by the bank. I know I can’t offer the perfect words to encourage you. I can only offer Christ.
The bottom line is … well, the bottom line is not the bottom of a hole. I’m grateful for this little book that brought this all into clearer perspective for me. Despite Hee Haw’s hopeless “gloom, despair, and agony,” there is hope. The bottom line is that a deep dark hole is nothing less than an opportunity for me to listen, learn, grow, and become a stronger follower of Christ.