Sometimes we as Christians get sadness all wrong. We tend to look at this emotion as a sign of doubt or unbelief when really it is simply an emotion we naturally feel when something tragic or hurtful happens. I believe we erroneously misinterpret sadness because we erroneously misinterpret joy in the Christian sense of the word. Understanding that joy and happiness are not mutually exclusive is the first step to understanding sadness. As Christians, we can (and should) have joy because we trust and rest in God’s sovereignty. We can have joy because we know that God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We can have joy because we trust that God does not waste a hurt and can make the broken beautiful. This joy isn’t relative to circumstance; it’s in spite of our circumstances. It dwells deep within our souls. Happiness tends to be more shallow, blowing in and out of our lives like a cool breeze. Happiness tends to be relative to our circumstances, so naturally when something painful enters our lives happiness flees. But joy can remain.
The verse “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) had me puzzled for a while. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, but I have spent much time thinking about it. Why did Jesus cry when Lazarus died? Jesus. Cry? I mean, He knew what He could do once He arrived at Lazarus’ home. He even knew what He would do when He arrived. Jesus knew that Lazarus’ resurrection was imminent and happiness would be restored to Lazarus’ sisters and friends, so why cry? Why waste precious time weeping? He is all knowing. He knows the power He has. He is God in the flesh. And in peering into who Jesus is, this is where we find our answers to His tears.
One of the reasons Jesus cried is because He could not be fully human and not weep over death. Death is tragic. Death is sad. And death makes us cry. Therefore Jesus could not be what He said He was if He didn’t cry. To be fully human means weeping over death.
Jesus cried also to show us that it’s ok to be sad when disaster comes. His sadness and tears allow us to know it’s possible to trust God and also be sad when faced with tragedy. He doesn’t expect us to not be moved when we face the terrible. His weeping gives us permission to weep as well.
Another reason Jesus wept is to give us the example of providing comfort to one another in seasons of sadness. Charles Spurgeon said it best: “A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.” Had Jesus never experienced moments of sadness, He couldn’t comfort us in our moments. And we learn from Him to do the same for others.
The Bible gives us many other examples of people crying out to God in trials and tragedy. David documents his cries of distress to God in the Psalms. We see Hannah, “in her deep anguish” praying “to the LORD, weeping bitterly” (1 Samuel 1:10). The Israelites cried out to God often. Moses. Jeremiah. Samuel. Even Jesus Himself cried out to God on the cross. And Psalm 58:6 tells us that God holds every single one of our tears in a bottle, which means He’s not only collecting each tear, but He’s expecting them having bottles ready to catch each drop.
And while we may go through periods in our lives when sadness knocks and invites itself in, God doesn’t want us to remain in that season forever. He is there to comfort and walk us through to the other side of our pain. His word tells us that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5) and we are to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It is difficult to rejoice always and give thanks for all things, but this is where relying on God’s sovereignty -having joy in His sovereignty- makes it possible.
If you find yourself in a season of sadness, cry out to Him, lean on Him, trust in Him, and know that His grace is sufficient for you. Rest in His sovereignty. Rest in knowing that He has gone before us, felt every emotion, experienced every pain, cried many tears, and overcome it all.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33