SADNESS CAN BE A GOOD THING
DANIEL NAM | FEB 22, 2018 | 10 MIN READ
Pixar was right.
Its 2015 film, Inside Out, explores the theme of reconciling joy and sadness.
Throughout the movie we see inside the mind of Riley, an 11-year-old girl, whose emotions work together to guide her. One of the biggest lessons we learn from Riley’s struggles is that joy cannot be truly experienced unless we have the had proper opportunity to dwell upon sadness in our lives.
This echoes a lot of what the Bible is telling us about grief, sorrow, and pain. The Christian worldview is an expression of joy in response to – not in denial of – deep sadness.
Oftentimes we think that we can only find Christ by looking away from our pain. We numb the pain of loneliness, the anxiety about our careers, and the sorrow from the brokenness of this world with quick-fixes like checking our phone or going out with our friends.
I used to think that every painful moment was a trial from God to test my ability to ignore the pain in my heart and focus on Him. But the more I study the grief-filled life of Christ, I am realizing that the problem of pain is not that we’re bad at ignoring it, but that we’re bad at embracing it.
Christ never calls us to ignore Earthly pain
One of the passages that always comforts me in my grief is John 11. When we read that “Jesus wept” when he found out his friend Lazarus had died, we see in our Savior a willingness to take time to cry bitterly in response to the pain of those he loves, even while fully knowing he would perform the miracle that would raise Lazarus from the dead.
Christians are fully confident in the hope that we have, but that doesn’t mean that we are called to not care about the discouragements, rejections, pain, and trials we face. We, like Christ, are called to be deeply moved by the sinful, unjust and broken world we live in so that we can take action and bring His light into it.
Sadness reminds us of our need
We are often too prideful to ever think that we need Jesus to help us. Because of the sinfulness in our hearts, we use the good things God has given us in our lives to mask or even ignore His presence and our need for Him.
In Mark 2:17, Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Sadness has a way of bringing us low so that we are ready to drink from the fount of life that Christ is offering. When we are left to ourselves with no distraction and are forced to meditate on our sadness, we become far more aware of our need of a something to help us in our moments of pain.
It is in these moments where our Father is calling us to not seek short-term answers to numb the pain, but to go to Him in humility. If we truly believe that Christ is the only source of satisfaction, then we can rejoice in the moments that bring us to the realization that we need Him.
Sadness deepens our relationship with Christ
Through our sufferings, we are meant to go deeper in our relationship with Christ. Jesus becomes that much more precious and more real when we share in the pains that he felt.
When we grieve our failing health, the fact that we are underappreciated in our jobs, that the love we pour out onto others is not being reciprocated, or that our country is becoming increasingly divided, Christ calls out to us, reminding us that he has felt all those painful emotions of loss and brokenness.
When I feel despair and far from God, my admiration for Christ takes on a fuller understanding because Christ willingly took on those feelings of separation and grief to take on my sin. God does not allow seasons of sadness in our lives so that we can grow to despise Him. Rather he does so knowing that in the brokenness and pain, we will realize what our pure and blameless Christ has done for us on the cross.
Soon the day will come when there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. (Revelation 21:4) Our lives will be perfect in each and every way as our Savior comes to redeem this broken world. But until that day comes, there will be many days and seasons filled with sadness because of the pain we witness and experience.
Maybe if we took the time to properly talk and grieve about the world’s troubles, we would start responding to its needs instead of ignoring it. Maybe if we shared more with our small groups and church communities about the depths of our sorrow, then they could take the steps to point us to Jesus. Maybe we would get a fuller vision of our Savior if we embraced Him, not only in His glory, but in His suffering as well.
To be able to be fully grieve and to rejoice in our Savior in the midst of it all is part of the Christian walk. Sadness and pain can be too much to bear if left to ourselves. So the next time you feel sorrow creep up on your heart, don’t ignore it. Embrace it deeply, find your Savior in it, and cast your anxieties onto Him because He cares for you.
Daniel Nam is a member of Gospel Life Mission Church and is pursuing a career in education.