“There is sunshine in my soul today.”
There are not many hymns in our hymnal that are more unabashedly happy than this one. Sunshine in my soul! Music in my soul! Springtime in my soul! What could be more cheerful than these?
And yet as I prepared to examine this hymn, the first question that came to mind was this:
How does someone who struggles with depression find meaning in this hymn?
As much as we’d like to believe that obeying God’s commandments will bring us complete and immediate bliss, we still live in a mortal realm and we still struggle with the perils of imperfection. We face sickness, fatigue, frustration, and loss, and sometimes we’re just sad or apathetic with no good reason for it. Life is difficult at times, and we should not expect otherwise.
In fact, even in the eternities, there is disappointment and sadness. Enoch was surprised to see God himself weep over his children. (Moses 7:28) So why then do we go on about sunshine in the soul, as if it comes merely by singing about it? Why do we sing that life is light, when life is often so, so heavy?
I hope you’ll stop and think on that for a moment. I don’t think we do it mistakenly.
The hymn itself contains a few answers. In the chorus, we sing “Oh, there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine, when the peaceful happy moments roll.” In every life, even those filled with frustration and heartbreak, there are occasional peaceful happy moments. Sunshine may not always fill our soul, but it certainly will sometimes. Seeking God’s guidance will bring us more of those happy moments than we might otherwise have.
These happy moments come because “Jesus is [our] light.” In the same way that we learn “line upon line,” a little bit at a time, Christ’s peace does not come to us all at once, and it does not always come as we expect. Alma and his followers were held in captivity, laid with heavy burdens. When they sought divine relief, the Lord did not take their burdens away—at least, not at first. Rather, he strengthened them so that the burdens became easy to bear. These people found sunshine in the soul, even beneath great hardship. The same can be true of us, if we seek it.
Eventually, Alma and his people were freed from their burdens. Some day, we can be free from ours. For some of us, that freedom may come next month or next year. For others, it may only come after we’ve passed on from this life. In the meantime, though, our burdens can be lightened as we keep the covenants we have made with the Lord and allow him to bless us.
Note that the song does not say that sunshine fills your soul. If we make room for it, it is possible to have a portion of sunshine in your soul, even while other parts of it are filled with pain. Sometimes we deceive ourselves, thinking that mourning is not real unless it consumes us. There is often room for a sliver or a slice of light, even in a pained and heavy heart. Our hearts can sustain a colorful mix of emotions, full of all shades of light and dark. Don’t be afraid of the light, just because you’re sitting in a dark room.
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.
I love this phrase. Ponder: what are the songs you cannot sing? Why can you not sing them? Is it too painful to express them aloud? Are you afraid of committing to those thoughts? Are you unsure whether you yet believe what you might sing? Can you simply not find the words to express the emotions inside? No matter—Christ knows your heart, perhaps even before you do. When your thoughts seem conflicted or unclear, take heart; Christ understands you. He knows you. He can give you peace and light, portion by portion.
There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,
Note the mention of hope. Sometimes, sunshine in our soul comes not from the immediate relief of our burdens or the immediate fulfillment of our desires, but rather the anticipated joy that will come later on. We will always have hope, even in the eternities. God himself has hope for us, his children. He anticipates our joyful return to him.
Life is not always easy. Trials, temptation, disappointment, disease, and just plain old mortality are an inherent part of this early experience. But when passing through hard times, remember the words of Christ:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
There can be sunshine in your soul. Believe Him.
Image Credit: “Sunshine“, Jong Soo(Peter) Lee, 2005, via Flickr. . CC BY-NC-ND 2.0