7 Things I’ve Learned from Sadness

“Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.” ~Ecclesiastes 7:3 (NLT)

Sadness…I’m sure everyone just could not wait to click on the title of this post. Ha! I don’t know about you, but more often than not, I just want to sweep that word right under the rug.

Sadness…it’s not one of those socially acceptable topics of conversation. It makes us uncomfortable; it makes things heavy and hard. I mean, when’s the last time you asked someone how they were doing and instead of the obligatory “I’m fine,” they said, “well, I’m sad, how are you?”

And for those few folks to whom you might actually admit that you’re sad, they almost always have that knee-jerk reaction of, “why?” I mean, you never ask folks why they said they’re “fine.” Why sad? It just reinforces the unspoken rule: sadness is not okay.

I’ve caught myself saying a few times over this last year, “I just don’t want to be sad anymore.” It’s as if I viewed sadness as an item to check off my “to do” list…that I’d finally wake up one day and no longer face this emotion that nobody ever wants in their life.

Yet, the Creator of the Universe, the Author of Life, who created all emotions, saw fit to make this emotion too. And when I encountered the verses above through a memorial service a few weeks ago, I realized for the first time that perhaps, just perhaps, sadness is not so bad after all. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, perhaps sadness, if we allow it, can have a “refining influence” on us.

Refining influence.

So, I set out to determine just what sadness has taught me, how sadness has refined and influenced me. Here are 7 things I’ve learned from sadness…

  1. I’ve learned the great value in being vulnerable. Sadness turns my heart inward to what is broken inside of me. Most of the inspiration behind my writing comes through tears, through a heart made tender because I’ve allowed myself to feel raw pain. I’d much rather come across as “fun Melissa” all the time, yet I have found that  influence sometimes comes through pulling off my bandaids to expose my battle wounds and scars. It also shines a huge light on my Healer, my Redeemer, who continues to create beautiful things out of the ashes of my loss.
  2. I’ve learned that sadness gives me a lens through which I can see the mess of life, a lens that breaks my heart with empathy for others. It gives me the courage to lean in when others are hurting instead of shying away with excuses like “I don’t have the right thing to say” or “I don’t know what to say.” That’s when God speaks through me; His words trump mine every time.
  3. I’ve learned that sadness doesn’t have to steal my hope and joy. I’ve learned to remain open-handed with it. I can’t always control when waves of sadness strike, just as much as I can’t always control bursts of pure joy. I’ve found in the “random-ness” of either extreme come the biggest hellos from God, and sometimes even the best stories that I could not make up if I tried. With this has come the freedom to embrace the simple joys of life, to love laughter, and to place all my Hope in the One who is the Blessed Controller of my life.
  4. I’ve learned that sadness is not my enemy. Sure, the enemy, Satan, can use it to destroy me or distract me just as much as he can use my happiness. I have a choice in how I respond to sadness and how I respond to the emotional chaos that often accompanies it. I can choose to lean hard into the Truth of God’s promises or choose to be tossed around in feelings that distort my view of God and my circumstances.
  5. I’ve learned that sadness, despite what society thinks, is okay. That I will not dwell in it all day, every day. I finally understand the verse in Psalm 30:5, “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I received comments from well-meaning folks who assumed that I just cried all the time in those early days; they were shocked to see me smile in a photo again. Really? How could our Great God, who is crazy in love with us, not ease the sorrow with at least a few bright spots of joy? Who could survive grief otherwise? 
  6. With that said, I’ve also learned that sadness is not something to walk through alone. I’ve learned to seek out those safe people who will not tuck their tail and run when I honestly admit my emotions. These folks have been so kind to let me feel and cry and be present in my sorrow, but with an eye to ensure that I don’t get stuck in my feelings for too long. I’ve also found great help through a grief counselor…more on that in another post, but I’ll just say, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my grief journey.
  7. I’ve learned what it’s like to long for heaven. I’ve grasped the Biblical concept that this world is not our home. Our home in heaven will have no tears, it will have no sorrow; sadness is not welcome there. So I press on, I endure sadness on this side of heaven, with great expectation that when I am called home and finally turn my eyes to physically see Jesus, I will be turning my back on sadness for eternity.

And that’s just about all I’ve got to say about sadness.

Dearly loved, whether sad or happy,