I dislike numerous things but honestly, I hate being sad.
Sadness is like a thick, wet blanket that closes in on me and tempts me to feel alone. Do you know what I mean?
Recently several things have brought sadness to my heart. Watching a friend deal with the debilitating illness and slow death of her husband. Caring for one dear woman dealing with the shock of an unplanned but healthy pregnancy while another suffers grief from a planned pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. Walking through some challenging circumstances in my marriage. Dealing with weighty adjustments to my elderly mother-in-law moving in with us. Missing a son who is away at college (oh, so much to miss about him!). Being misunderstood by an in-law. Being acutely reminded recently of how much I miss my long-gone Mom and Dad.
Walking through this season of sadness has reminded me of how good but hard it is to have a God-tenderized heart. You see, not everyone feels things the same as others. Some people either refuse to feel because it hurts too much; many elect not to feel because they’re afraid of where the grief will take them; still others have deeply painful things that happened in their past that make sadness utterly fearful and to be avoided; and some choose to embrace sadness because..well…because there’s no way out of it but through it. A tender heart (which is only possible with God’s help) makes sadness really hurt, but it brings with it a desire to take that path through it.
My friend Ginny calls this “processing.” In the nearly two years since I’ve known her I can’t recall the number of texts or emails or Community Group conversations when she’s mentioned she was processing a sermon, Bible passage or experience. To Ginny, processing means not rushing through the grief or confusion or temptation to be overwhelmed. Rather, the goal is trusting God even when sturdy answers can’t be found.
I’ve been processing my sadness. In fact, I still am.
A friend recently compared processing to having a “psalmists mentality.” People (like me at times) who avoid taking the often leisurely path that’s required to effectively deal with the sadness or grief that comes from painful situations in our lives or the lives of those we love shortchange the process. Jumping from the sting of sadness to the unhelpful end of premature “acceptance” of the source of our grief cuts God out of the picture.
The psalmists didn’t rush the process. Rather, they honestly poured out their hearts and complaints to God. Why was this acceptable to a holy God? Why did He respond with compassion and help? Because their desire was to work it through to an honorable end.
I used to think that complaining to God was always wrong and that the mature and biblical thing to do when faced with sadness was to stop whining and accept God’s plan. I was right. Sorta. Whining, complaining and charging God is never the godly woman’s response to pain…longterm. But God is our Father; the One to whom we can pour out our hearts — including our perplexities and complaints and the “Lord, what are you doing” cries — when the disorientation of sadness grabs our hearts and then twists them hard.
Are you sad today? Are you or someone you love facing painful circumstances that leave you feeling like a wet blanket is leaving you alone in your sadness?
I might know a little of how you feel. What I’m certain I know, though, is that you are not alone. If you are a Christian, God is with you. His very name is Emmanuel, which means God with us. Even if you have no one to talk to or listen to your struggles or with whom you can share this burden, He is near. One of the first things that often happens to hurting people is a feeling of isolation that either says, “No one could know how I feel” or “No one cares.”
Someone does know how you feel and does care. Sometimes we don’t feel His nearness, comfort and help, but He promises He will “never leave or forsake us.”
Never leave. Even if you feel abandoned by those who you wish were close and considerate. Or even if you wish you could help the person you’re grieving with and feel there’s just nothing you can do but pray.
Never forsake. Even if you’ve been betrayed by someone you thought you could trust or have been slandered by people you assumed knew better.
I pray that your sadness will be met with the tangible, real and promised help of the only One who can truly help you even when you crave human empathy. Pour out your heart to Him. And, yes, even your complaints. He’s been hearing some of mine recently and I’m thrilled to say that He really can help. When the heart of His sons and daughters are disposed to trust and honor Him and yet we’re struggling with the sadness of life, He is ready and eager to help.
You wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t have a heart to know and follow God.
I don’t know all of you who visit here but God does. And I’m stopping to ask Him to help you now.