Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. (Airing daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital at 9am)
As I did in Part 1. I’m talking again about this question, How do you deal with sadness? And the Bible talks about this in Psalm 42; the Psalmist asks himself the question you may have asked, Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless? Well, I trust you, I will praise you again because you helped me, you are my God (Psalm 42:11).
I came across recently the story of African-American musician Thomas (Tommy) A. Dorsey, recognised as the father of gospel music. He had enjoyed a career as a successful ‘blues’ jazz musician until he suffered a severe illness in 1926. From this brokenness, he gave his life to Jesus Christ in 1928 and surrendered to a new ministry of gospel music, where he prospered.
His success continued until 1932 when his pregnant wife died in childbirth. Nettie had given birth to a baby boy while he was away performing. That night he received a message that his wife had died. When he got back, he dithered between grief for his wife and joy for his new baby. Yet, that same night the message came to him that his child died as well. Dorsey buried both Nettie and his little boy together in the same coffin.
Dorsey’s life was in shambles like shattered glass. In his solitude he pondered a return to jazz. The joy of life and living had disappeared as a vapour. For days he was in a stupor near depression. Then a friend led him to a piano. As he rested his hands upon the keys, the Holy Spirit moved upon him with these lyrics and a melody he remembered from his Sunday School days:.
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.
With these words Tommy’s heart was healed. He later wrote, “I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel furthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.” That was a complete time of utter sadness and desolation for Tommy Dorsey as it has, I guess, for many people.
So sadness can take all sorts of different shapes. Sadness is a normal emotion that can make life more interesting. Much of art and poetry is inspired by sadness and melancholy. Sadness almost always accompanies loss. When we say goodbye to a loved one we usually feel sad. The sadness is even deeper if a close relationship has ended or a loved one has died.
But then, as Hugh Mackay wrote, sadness also helps us appreciate happiness. When our mood eventually changes from sadness toward happiness, the sense of contrast adds to the enjoyment of the mood.
When Is It Natural to Feel Sad?
Feeling sad every once in a while is natural. Maybe you didn’t get something you really wanted. Maybe you miss somebody. Maybe somebody you really like doesn’t want to be friends, and you don’t feel so great about yourself. Maybe an illness or condition gets in the way of doing some things you want to do or makes you different from your friends. There are lots of reasons that people feel sadness:
Loss and Separation
This is the most common cause of sadness. It’s a very sad thing to lose someone or something that you care about. There are many kinds of loss. The death of a relative, friend, or pet can bring weeks or months of sad feelings. The kind of sadness you feel from the death of a loved one has a special name: grief.
Other kinds of loss or separation from important people can also bring sadness, like people close to you getting a divorce. Sometimes it is hard to think straight because you cannot get your mind off your loss. Usually, the load of sadness you carry after a loss will lighten over time, although for a really big loss, there may always be a little bit of sadness left.
Changes that involve leaving something (or someone) behind, like moving to a new town or changing schools and leaving old friends can make you feel sad, too. The arrival of a new brother or sister may make you feel sad even though everyone thinks you should be happy to have a new sibling.
Disappointments like losing a game you hoped to win, getting a poor grade, or not being invited to a party can cause sadness. Sadness is a natural reaction to those things. How sad a person feels is usually related to how big or small the loss or disappointment is.
Relationships bring happiness and fun much of the time. But tension or conflict in important relationships, or relationships that break up, can cause sadness, too. Many kids fight with family members, especially their parents, in the struggle to grow up and gain independence.
People often feel sad when all is not right between them and their loved ones, or when they get criticised or yelled at a lot. They fight about things like money, clothing, haircuts, school, and friends. In school, problems with teachers and grades may cause some sadness as well.
When we are sad, we do tend to go into ourselves, stay alone, withdraw into isolation. And such isolation does nothing more than confirm and deepen the sadness. Part of the answer is to share it. Tell someone. For sadness loses its power a bit as we break out of the isolation, the sense that nobody understands, that we are all alone, that nobody cares. Shared sadness is softer sadness. Share the sadness.
Tell God, like the psalmist does: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from heeding my groans? My God, by day I cry to you, but there is no answer; in the night I cry but with no rest.” (Psalm 22:1-2)—words by the way which Jesus recites from the cross.
But the point is that neither the psalmist nor Jesus stay there in that pit. The psalmist goes on, “I will declare your fame to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you…You inspire my praise in the great congregation. I will fulfil my vows in the sight of those who fear you.” (Psalm 22:22;25)
Breaking out of isolation, even in imagination, is the beginning of strength and joy. We should share how we feel with those we love. Sometimes people say, But I don’t want to be a burden to my family, my friends. But that is what life together is all about: bearing one another’s burdens.