Today has been a sad day for me. No, nothing terrible happened. No one close to me died. I didn't get bad news. Instead, I saw some pictures of my faraway daughter's family, celebrating Independence Day with all of their local great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and after I smiled and ooohed and ahhhed at the all the cuteness, I wept... and the tears keep returning as the day goes on.
The weight of the separation caused by the coronavirus and my feelings of powerlessness in the face of it, accompanied by the uncertainty about when it will end, is what washed over me. But, this isn't about the specific cause of my sadness, it's about sadness itself.
Sadness often feels like an inconvenience. It's inconvenient for the person experiencing it as well as for the people around you. If you're like me, you feel sort of apologetic for making others feel uncomfortable with your sadness.
Today I found myself trying to lessen other people's awkwardness by reassuring them that, usually I'm fine, because I typically don't let myself even think about this thing that makes me sad, but today I experienced a sadness breakout and I was sure I would have it back under control again tomorrow.
That seemed to help relieve the pressure, at least on others.
Another thing that sadness can seem like is selfishness. No matter how sad I am, I can be pretty sure that someone else, maybe even everyone else, who is sad has a better reason than I do to feel that way. "What right do I have to be sad," I ask myself, "when (fill in the people blank) are literally (fill in the tragedy blank.)"
This is, of course, just a cheap denial trick to shame myself into numbness.
Finally, from a peculiarly Christian viewpoint, there is the Mother of All Problems with sadness: It appears to stem from a lack of faith. The faulty logic says that if we truly trusted God we would trust that whatever happens is his will. Surely, then, we should be happy about whatever it is his "good pleasure" to give us. Anything less is lack of faith.
For all of these lies we tell ourselves, I give you the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The story in its entirety is found in John chapter 11, and I highly recommend that you read it. For my purposes here, I'll just summarize and then quote one small part.
Jesus loves these three people. He loves them dearly. So, when word comes to him that Lazarus is very ill, it seems very odd on the surface that he specifically decides to wait before going to them.
Jesus indicates by what he says that he already knows what is going to happen and what he will do as a result. He knows that all of this, in the end, will bring glory to God. We can say that it was his will for it to happen. Jesus even says that he is glad that he waited, because of what he was about to do, which is, of course, to raise Lazarus from the dead.
When Lazarus is dead and buried, then, Jesus finally heads out to be with the family. They are, naturally, quite devastated. They are mourning and they have questions.
Martha begins by telling Jesus that she knows he could have saved Lazarus. She says she had faith in him and she still does.
Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise, and he asks her if she believes that he is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in him, even if that person dies, will live again, and Martha, indeed, affirms her faith in him.
Then, it was Mary's turn:
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
Jesus wept.” (John 11:32-35)
What Jesus saw in Mary and in all of those who were grieving with her was the sadness of all humanity in that moment between their pain and his rescue. He saw that moment where we do truly believe in him and his sovereignty and his power, yet we are still terribly, terribly sad; and, seeing that, he was, "deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled," and he wept with them and for us all.
Yes, we know the end of the story. We do truly believe he is who he says he is, and that he will always work for our good in every circumstance, but we still live in that moment between the now and the not yet, between our pain here and his final rescue. Jesus knows that and understands it.
Our sadness, to him, is never an inconvenience, unimportant or viewed as a lack of faith!
We can have full assurance that in every sadness, whether "big" or "small," Jesus is with us and for us in the midst of it. He is weeping with us, while offering us his promise of that glorious day, when he will finally and forever wipe away every tear from our eyes.