I’m in a Texas airport having gotten off of one plane from Amarillo about to get onto another one to Houston.
I kissed my wife and kids goodbye this morning. While I’m excited about the nature of my trip, I’m sad that I ever have to tell my wife and kids goodbye. And even with the anticipated sweetness that will come (Lord willing) with our reunion, I’m sad that I will do so many more times in my life.
I’m sad that I have a very good friend in Houston who has recently and suddenly discovered melanoma cancer in her brain, and the family is now talking to hospice.
I’m sad my country recently conducted a retaliatory hit on Osama Bin Laden, murdering him for having murdered 1000s of my countrymen, for which I am also very sad. I remember watching in stunned silence back in 2001 the TV images of people in the streets of middle eastern countries celebrating OBL’s hit on the Twin Towers, and then in 2011 watching Americans celebrate the hit on OBL. Those make me sad, too.
Many things make me sad.
I’m sad about the mistakes I’ve made.
I’m sad that I have hurt other people. I’m sad that others have hurt me. I’m sad that others hurt others.
I’m sad about my inability to do what I say I want.
I’m sad that our bodies wear out. I’m sad there is emotional pain in people. I’m sad that mental and physical disabilities are suffered.
I’m sad that there are hungry people.
I’m sad that there is evil. I’m sad when people do evil and get away with it. I’m sad when people who do evil get what’s coming to them. I am sad when someone can’t defend themselves. I’m sad when someone has to.
I’m sad there is sickness.
I’m sad there is war. I’m sad there is politics. I’m sad there are quarrels. I’m sad there is violence.
I’m sad there is poverty.
I’m sad there is inequality. I’m sad when equality is forced or coerced. I’m sad there is lack of compassion.
I’m sad there is oppression.
I’m sad there is divorce. I’m sad there are hasty marriages. I’m sad there are children who are relationally orphaned by both.
I’m sad about sexual abuse. I’m sad about homosexuality. I’m sad about prostitution. I’m sad about pornography. I’m sad about gender confusion. I’m sad about the fear and hatred expressed towards it all.
Obviously, lots of things make me sad. But one thing that I am NOT sad about is that there is sadness.
Sadness seems like a very unique, very special, very appropriate emotional response to just about anything that would cause any negative thoughts, feelings or actions. Sadness, seems to me, is the most (or only) productive of what we might call “negative” emotions.
Sadness is my escape from the “control emotions” of guilt, anger, and worry.
Guilt comes to me when I can’t control the past.
Anger comes to me when I can’t control the present.
Worry comes to me when I can’t control the future.
These come when I feel like something is “wrong” and I can’t do anything about it. They are all unproductive. They steal my light and love and life. They all lead (in one way or another) to death.
Sadness, on the other hand, while intense at times, is merely the acknowledgement that all is not as it should be. Sadness happens when you believe that things should be better than they are, when you admit that they aren’t, and when you refuse to hide behind the control emotions.
And you might as well let go of control since you don’t have it anyway. After all, guilt leads to despair, anger leads to violence, and anxiety leads to either denial or panic. Sadness, however, is the only emotional response to bad things doesn’t lead to other things that create and inspire more sadness.
Sadness can only end with the arrival of comfort. Given the alternatives, sadness is a very appropriate, and even good, thing.
Trust sadness. Don’t solve sadness. Stay in sadness. Take it with you when it comes. Do not shortchange sadness. Do not replace sadness.
For those who do, it comes with a promise from Jesus, who said it like this: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”