The problem of sadness


Spoiler alert here – if you haven’t seen the Pixar movie Inside Out, and don’t want to know anything about what happens in it – stop reading here!!  Go see the movie, then come back.

Sadness – that’s a bad thing right?

Joy – that’s the way to go, right?

Joy all the time!
Sadness never!

In the Bible, we read the words of Paul –

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

OK – joy is there.  Right after love.  Surely – there’s no sadness in love, right?  Why would love have anything to do with sadness?  And there’s nothing in the rest of those verses to indicate sadness has anything to add to our lives.

That’s the way I always felt too.  So much sadness in my life had to mean something was wrong – like God didn’t care about me.  I’m guessing I’m not alone here.

And yet – the Bible also says –

Jn 11:35 Jesus wept.

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible.  And it contains a word that’s generally associated with sadness.  
Yes – people cry for joy.  But that’s not what’s happening in John 11:35.

Here’s the background for that verse –

Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, died.  Jesus wasn’t there to save his life.  Worse yet, Jesus didn’t immediately leave to go to Lazarus’ house.  When He does arrive, we read –

Jn 11:32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jn 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jn 11:35 Jesus wept.

There was a lot of weeping going on here.  And not one drop of tears had anything at all to do with joy.

And yet – 

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

Jn 11:38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Jn 11:40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Jn 11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Jn 11:43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

After all the weeping – there was joy.  

Oddly enough – probably even more joy than if Jesus had been there to prevent Lazarus from dying in the first place.
Had Jesus prevented the death of Lazarus – people wouldn’t know the depths of their sadness over that death.  The only way they could really understand the joy of the restoration of his life was to feel and understand the sadness resulting from his death.  No matter how much we may claim to understand someone else’s grief – unless we are them – we really cannot understand.

And that’s part of the importance of understanding that Jesus was both fully man and fully God.  As such – Jesus as man doubtless saw the mortal deaths of people he knew.   Jesus as God has seen the death of so many of His children, including those who would be condemned to eternity in Hell.  If anything – Jesus understood the depths of sorrow even more than the others present at this event.  By the same token – He also understood the joy of “resurrection” so much more than any of the others – since He understood resurrection of believers to be eternity with Him.

So there’s sorrow.  There’s weeping to go with the sorrow.

But then – if we believe – there’s joy.  And weeping of a very different kind to go with that joy.


Back to what I used to feel.

I’d read about the Fruit of the Spirit – and wonder why I didn’t feel the joy.  Until someone pointed out to me that I really did feel it.  But did I know what it was?

When I was working, one of the things I enjoyed most (there’s that word in there) was seeing someone able to do something that they previously couldn’t do, after I’d taught them / helped them learn how to do it.

Now that I’m writing things like this – teaching at church – communicating with some of you – the feeling of even getting people to consider God is joy.  Realizing that God is using me to reach other people – pure joy.  Realizing things that I already knew, but looked at in a different light – more joy.  Things like knowing that of all His creations, we are the only ones that He formed, rather than spoke, into existence.  Things like knowing that we are His only creation that He breathed life into.

As David wrote in Psalm 8 –

Ps 8:3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
Ps 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
Ps 8:5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

Ps 8:6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
Ps 8:7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
Ps 8:8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Ps 8:9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!


And here’s the spoiler from Inside Out –

In the movie, when sadness touches memories, they start to turn blue, from their previous yellow – with yellow being joy and blue being sadness.

But then – Joy realizes that this color thing has to do with time – and with the events that take place in that sequence of time.

When Joy looks at one particular memory, there’s joy  – family and friends are together and happy.  But running her hands over the memory – time goes backwards, and we see a moment of great sadness.  Riley’s team lost the hockey game – and she’s sitting in a tree alone – crying.  But moving her hand the other way – Joy sees Riley’s family and friends come to console her – and that scene of sadness turns into joy.  

Again – a moment of joy that would not have been the same had Riley not been sitting there alone, weeping.

And of course – at this point I’m sitting in the theater crying.  
BTW – I’ve talked to others who did the same.

It’s a powerful moment.

And it was a powerful reminder to me.

I’m not likely going to have my family come and comfort me.  My father passed away and my mother’s never going to do that – short of a miracle – which could happen.  I’ve never been one to keep in touch with friends after moving or leaving a place – so that’s not likely either.


And yet – 

having been though the things that I have – knowing the sadness that comes with the events of my life – believing that God will make it right in the end – He has put me in a place where I can maybe be the comfort to others.  Maybe I can help introduce others to Him – and He can comfort them.  And there’s joy in that.  If I take the time to see it – and open my eyes to see it.

In Ezekiel, we read –

Eze 12:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.

Seems like it took a movie to remind me to open my eyes and see.
See the same thing that Joy saw.

See that sadness isn’t necessarily bad.
See that sadness can actually make joy even more joyous.
See that people can react to our sadness – and comfort us.
See that God will react to our sadness if we let Him, and turn it into joy.

I pray I give Him the chance to turn all of my sadness into joy.


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