—John 11:35 ESV
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, had died, and Jesus felt the pain.
Jesus knew Lazarus would rise again soon. He knew the man’s two sisters would rejoice at that resurrection. Yet Jesus wept anyway. Sadness gripped Him in that moment despite all He knew was to come.
We Christians know we have a heavenly Kingdom awaiting us. We know every tear will be wiped away. We know we will live eternally in the presence of the Lord. We know the joy will last forever.
Christian, in this world, it’s OK to be sad.
We all know believers who go around perpetually cheerful, even in those situations when it is better to weep than smile. Frankly, those people are a scourge. They are positive thinkers rather than true believers. They’ve bought into a Pollyanna mentality that the Scriptures do not support.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
—Ecclesiastes 7:3 ESV
I dare any mentally healthy person to find anything good to say about a child dying. Who can go around cheery when a family member makes damaging choices again and again? What good can be found when a lifelong dream dies? Or when that hopeful union dissolves in tears and anger?
In this world, it’s OK to be sad. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
—Acts 8:2 ESV
Today, we rush to medicate people so they will not be forced to deal with sadness. We prefer the daze to sober reality. Escape over truth. To “make great lamentation” over anything is seen as problematic.
This downplaying of sadness is a frightening trend though.
Something in sadness restores a sober view of life. It forces us to confront pain and grow through it. When I look at the lives of the greatest believers I have known, the most distinguishing mark is their fidelity to Christ in the midst of overwhelming personal sadness. Whatever their experience might of been, they came out of it stronger, wiser, better. And because of their journey, they could impart a wisdom gained only by facing sadness and making it a part of their life.
Where we go wrong today in dealing with sadness is by not only medicating our sadness but also allowing it to become an idol in our lives. I wonder if our attempts to rid ourselves of sadness only perpetuates its stay. Better to walk through it with eyes wide open than to sleepwalk into the midst of it and then camp there.
What distinguishes the Christian response to sadness from the world’s is that Christians, by gaining Christ, have gained hope.
Depression is the scourge of our age. While some people suffer through it because of chemical imbalances, I believe we become depressed when we enthrone sadness. That idol not only changes the way we think, it rewires our brains physically. It’s as if sadness takes up residence by making our brains its home, remodeling the dwelling to suit its needs.
The hope we have in Christ wars against the idol of abiding sadness. It is OK to be sad, but like so much in life, we cannot let that feeling own us, because it will if we let it.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not OK to be sad.
But don’t let sadness make you its dwelling place either.
We have our own, better Dwelling Place and a mansion in Glory awaiting us. Sadness won’t last forever. Hope is ours always. Embrace it.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust– there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
—Lamentations 3:21-33 ESV