Everyone feels sad at times. Some people feel sad more often or more deeply than others, while some people appear not to experience much sadness. But we all know the feeling and it is not pleasant.
I am not writing here about depression, which is a very serious mental health condition. From my own experience with depression in 2008-2009, I can say that depression is the worst health problem I have ever had. It is being gripped in one’s mind, soul and will by the strong clutches of an enemy called hopelessness. It is often debilitating, and can be very dangerous, even life-threatening. Sadness, while different from depression, may also be debilitating. But, on the whole, sadness is not as deep or as long-lasting as depression.
We feel sad for different reasons, at different times. Sometimes I feel sad about world events and circumstances, or national and local issues. Human suffering can tear me apart, and perhaps you as well. You may also experience sadness over family matters, financial issues, your job or career, your appearance, your church, your health, your marriage or some other relationship. Sometimes people just feel an overall sense of sadness about themselves and their place in life.
While I have thought about sadness and its opposite, gladness, for many years, I was prompted to write on sadness for this posting because of a television program I saw recently. It was a one-hour documentary on one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates, Heinrich Himmler, during Hitler’s ascendancy and reign of terror in Europe during the 1930’s and 1940’s. I have watched numerous such programs, but because of the way this one ended I felt especially sad. After the commentator spoke of the double suicide of Hitler and his new bride in Berlin, and the deaths of Himmler and other key aides to Hitler, with pictures and melancholic music for accompaniment, the program ended without further words.
The cameras then simply panned slowly over the bombed city of Berlin, showing the vast landscape of rubble. There were, in addition, ghastly pictures of skeleton-like prisoners slowly emerging hollow-eyed from their prisons. The eerie black and white photography and the mournful violins left me—after I clicked off the television—with only the stillness and the blankness of my thoughts. The simple thought then came to me: “and a great sadness settled over the whole land.” I later thought of the first verse of the book of Lamentations written after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations!”
The murderous reign of Hitler and his associates is one of the saddest accounts in recorded history. There are many others—some on a major scale as mentioned above, and some known only to a small group. The sufferings are just as real, however, as are yours and mine. But, praise God, there is hope!
Today I looked at a number of scriptures on sadness and sorrow and I offer them here (from the NIV 2011) for your consideration and benefit.
Ecclesiastes 1:18. “With much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”
Ecclesiastes 7:4. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”
Proverbs 15:13. “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”
Proverbs 12:25. “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
Exodus 3:7. “The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.’ ”
Isaiah 53:3-5. “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, …”
Mark 14:32-34. “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus …. began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, …’ ”
Romans 9:1-4. “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, … I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, … the people of Israel.”
2 Corinthians 6:4-10. “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; … dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; …”
Revelation 21:1-4. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, …And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, … He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ”
As I think on the above scriptures, several conclusions come to me with regard to sadness, sorrow and suffering.
- Sorrow is not necessarily a bad thing; it can actually be helpful in our service for God and others.
- The Father, in his son Jesus, suffered for us and suffers with us; he knows very well when we are sad.
- As we serve our Lord and others faithfully, we can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
- All sadness, sorrow and suffering will one day come to an end.
One final word: please do not sorrow alone. None of us is strong enough for that. If you have no one, ask God in faith for at least one person to come into your life with whom you may speak freely – someone who will pray for you as you pray for them.
November 4, 2013
“The New Benediction Project”