I write these words on a rainy Wednesday morning, but lyrics sung by the late Karen Carpenter ring through my mind.
What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothin' is really wrong
Feelin' like I don't belong
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down
Do you have days like that? I think we all do. Life’s struggles collide with our emotions resulting in unhappiness. Eeyore, the patron saint of gloom, sums it up. He responds to Piglet’s cheerful, “Good morning!” with “Well I suppose it is…for some.”
This leads us to a question. Is sorrow sinful? I mean, the Bible counsels believers to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4) Jesus encourages the persecuted to “Rejoice and be glad.” (Matthew 5:12) James advises those who face trials to “count it all joy.” (James 1:2) From these examples, it may seem that the Lord’s will is for his followers to avoid sadness, no matter the circumstances. Not only is that inaccurate, it can be dangerous.
The danger in stigmatizing sadness arises when we hide our true feelings. Christians who believe that sadness is ungodly masquerade behind an “everything is fine” happy-face. They practice another sin – dishonesty. Our guilt over sad feelings and the concurrent isolation from others can drop us into a spiral of depression. We need the freedom to express our feelings in safe, healthy ways.
Sadness, like anger, is not a sin. It is a legitimate, God-given emotion. Lament is a healthy response to sadness. There are frequent examples of lament scattered throughout the Bible. One example is Psalm 6:3, where David says, “My soul is in deep anguish.” Consider, also, the words of Jesus on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The honest expression of grief is a healthy spiritual practice. We should encourage one another to talk through our feelings of sadness. Trite admonitions like, “snap out of it,” or “it can’t be all that bad,” say more about the discomfort of the friend in dealing with sadness than anything else. A true, sympathetic listener isn’t required to give advice. Sometimes a compassionate ear is all that is needed in the moment.
Like anger, however, sadness can lead to sinful behavior. Sadness that leads to despair, feelings of worthlessness, and the inability to receive God’s love, has the power to devolve into self-destructiveness. Fortunately, it is possible to recover. I encourage you to seek out a friend who can handle your feelings. Pick up your Bible and read about God’s love for you. (Try Jeremiah 31:3 and Psalm 103:17 for starters). Remind yourself that there are many more reasons to rejoice than there are to lose hope. If you feel stuck, see a Christian therapist. A good therapist will help you dive deeper and talk through issues that may be exacerbating your sorrow.
With all of these things in mind, consider the fact that sadness can ultimately be a blessing. Feelings of sorrow may throw you into the arms of your Savior like nothing else in life. Sadness alerts us to areas of need, and the necessity of repentance. The rain that falls on Monday (or Wednesday for that matter) may nourish weekend wildflowers. The spiritual life is not a life free of sorrow. It is a life that learns to manage sorrow purposefully, in ways that deepen fellowship with Jesus, stimulating true rejoicing. Our world provides many melancholy moments. We do well to walk by faith in the risen Christ, embracing the promise that one day soon he will wipe away every tear.
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Dr. Jack Darida