Very often when we talk about sadness, we see it as a ‘negative emotion’—something which is not good or helpful. But have a look around this city and my guess is that you will see many sad people. Lots of us don’t give the impression of being very happy, or at least we don’t seem to be enjoying life.
The psychologists say that we don’t like being with sad people, because it’s too uncomfortable, and we don’t know how to handle it. We would rather do something else, or pretend we are not feeling sad ourselves. That’s why it’s seen by many as a ‘negative’ emotion. But I want to suggest that is wrong. Sadness is an emotion, and emotions are like the vegetables you buy from the shop. When they are fresh, they are fine, but if you put them away in a cupboard, they become awful and even toxic—and no good for your health.
Sadness Is Normal Sometimes
It is normal to be sad when something happens—but many people, especially men, are told to repress it and not show it: Boys don’t cry; Men shed blood but not tears. This is not helpful advice, and we are suffering as a result today. Emotions are with us whether we like it or not. We have to find a time and place to deal with them, however uncomfortable that might be.
There are many causes for sadness—perhaps a distressing upbringing, childhood bullies, or abuse of some kind. Has sorrow and sadness been a big part of your life each day maybe? Guilt can play a part here—over something said or done years ago, or a blow-up in the family. Others feel sad because somehow they think God is angry with them or doesn’t approve.
Sometimes it is appropriate to be sad. Sadness is not a bad emotion. If we loose a good friend, we are sad, or if something terrible happens to us, it’s natural to feel sadness—that’s OK. It’s also true that some people are more prone to sadness than others. But generally, as a society, we don’t deal with sadness very well—we want it to go away!
It’s OK To Cry
One of the ways of dealing with sadness is crying. Often times you need to do this a few times. Pain comes in waves, and often one attempt won’t be enough to release all that pent-up energy. It’s OK to cry, and in the New Testament we read that Jesus cried. He felt sorrow and sadness, and expressed how he felt.
I like the quote from C.S. Lewis: “No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein.” The great message from the Bible is this: God understands and cares when we go through sad experiences. God’s people often felt sad—like the writer of the Psalms. Psalm 42:11 says, “Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless?”
The followers of Jesus were very sad when they realised Jesus was not going to stay with them, and in the gospel of John we can read about that time (chapters 14 to 17). Jesus said, “You are very sad from hearing all of this”. They didn’t seem to understand that Jesus was going to send the Holy Spirit in his absence, who would help and teach them.
God Is Close In Our Sadness
It’s the same for us today. Jesus Christ can come into our lives and bring us a new purpose and peace for living, so that sad times can be dealt with. Before Jesus was born, the world at that time was in distress, and people were very troubled. But when he was born in Bethlehem the angels sang, “Joy to the world the Lord has come”.
The Saviour was born bringing new hope for troubled and sad people. So the message today is that Christianity brings relief from sadness—it’s the kind of supernatural gladness that no-one can take away from you. God loves you and wants you to be in a personal relationship with him, which is reason to celebrate in spite of difficult circumstances.
Yes, I’m not denying life has its share of sad times, and we should acknowledge that. And maybe you need to hear the message of Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. David experiences in his life times of great sadness as we see in Psalm 6; especially in verse 6 he says, “I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.”
We can know that God does love us and that he does hear our prayers. The Bible tells us so. He’s there even in our sadness.