A Necessary Sadness

I was hiking earlier this week in the woods on an absolutely gorgeous day.  Fingers of sunshine fanned the forest trees causing leaves to randomly fall dotting the trail I traveled.  I thought to myself, “How incredibly blessed is my life, how can I possibly feel sad?”  I then thought of all those Syrian refugees who suffer and risk their lives seeking the blessings I take for granted.  I thought to myself, “Terry, you have no right to feel sad.  Think of that Syrian boy who washed up on the shore dead.  Now that child had reasons to be sad.”  But is guilt the way to deal with sadness?

I am just being ungrateful or acting like a spoiled child who despite being given gifts only wants more?—Perhaps.  No doubt, gratitude and appreciation can help me put life into perspective. I can always draw comparisons to people throughout the world, like Syrian refugees, and say to myself, “Well, my life could be worse, so I should shut up, quit my whining, and be happy.”  There seems to me that there can be a kind of unnecessary or unmerited sadness.  For instance, I have a house, but I am sad I do not have a larger house.  I have a car, but I am sad I do not have a nicer car. I have food, but I am sad I do not enjoy better quality food.  I think the Apostle Paul speaks to this kind of sadness when he instructs, But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:8-9). 

On the other hand, there can be a sadness that is necessary and merited.  Consider for a moment, “Why was I prompted to feel sad in the midst of such a blessed hike?”  I was not sad going into the hike, but sad as I simply quietly walked along.  In the midst of what appeared to be an idyllic scene, a creeping sadness made its presence felt. Again, why?  I think it was the quietness that removed me from day to day distractions in my life that caused me to feel sadness.  In other words, the sadness was not creeping into my heart, but was creeping out of my heart.  In the day to day affairs of life, I can keep myself busy and distracted from what might make me aware of my sadness.  But in the hike in the woods, I in a sense tricked myself.  I was caught off guard not being on guard about what is in my heart. There was no cell phone, task, person, or distraction to keep my mind of my own heart.  And so sadness was able to creep out of my heart and into my conscious awareness.  But is this sadness merited?

This creeping sadness is merited for I recognized it as not a result of desiring more material things or not being grateful for the material blessings I enjoy.  I was not walking along that day dreaming about a financially wealthier life.  The sadness I felt was a relational sadness.  I recognized this sadness as loneliness.  I am not lonely for family or friendship. I am blessed beyond measure in family and friendship.  You see, I was thinking about God as I hiked; not anything in particular about God, but just being in the presence of God.  The sadness I felt coming on was a sign to me that there is a part of me still resisting God.  In particular, I resist being fully accepted by God.  I still feel there is a part of me that God cannot accept or love.  You see, I still sin.  I know I am forgiven in Jesus, and I cannot out sin the love of God, yet I feel guilty and unworthy.  Or I should say, not fully worthy.  I have a sense of worth in God’s eyes, but recognize that I have much more to go in giving over to God’s love.  The creeping sadness I felt is not a bad thing.  This sadness causes me to seek God’s love even more. 

I now know that alone in the woods, the fingers of sunlight fanning the forest trees was a sign to me that God’s love is still fanning my heart, falling the leaves of my doubt and sadness as I walk the trail to God’s heart.