I’ve had a number of conversations over the last number of years about sadness and evil. The questions seem to dwell on a couple of main areas:
- Is there more sadness and evil in the world now? Or is the world smaller so we’re just more aware of it? (I suspect it’s both)
- Why does God allow evil in the world?
- Why does the church hate to acknowledge sadness and evil? Why do we keep trying to insist that we’re all fine?
- Why are these times a lot like World War II after D-Day?
I’m not going to get into all of those today as I’d be writing a book rather than just a blog post. Way too deep and way too lengthy for one post.
Instead I’m going to talk about an article that I read last night that has really struck a chord with me. It was shared with me by my friend, Tara Livesay, and was written by her friend, Sarah Bessey. The title of the article – “In which I am learning to obey the sadness.”
A couple of things that she said that really hit home…….
“Our culture makes little space for the mess, I know. We are expected to have it all together. Don’t let them see you sweat, keep your dirty laundry and un-sanitized stories to yourself, thank you very much. Be successful, look good, feel good.”
That’s not only true of our modern day commercialism, it’s true of our churches, our schools, our work places. We don’t like dirty laundry, we don’t like pain, we don’t like suffering. Don’t let it show because then I might have to let my pain show too and that is uncomfortable.
“Only our most over-zealous preached it but it was an unwritten expectation running through a lot of our theology: don’t give in to the darkness, don’t name it, don’t give it power, don’t acknowledge it, don’t confess it, don’t be sad, don’t be mad, don’t be despairing. We believed our feelings and our circumstances had to obey our carefully curated version of the Word of God: we are more than overcomers, the joy of the Lord is our strength, death has no sting.”
I couldn’t tell you the number of times when I’ve seen someone post something difficult on Facebook (about the death of a parent or the disruption of an adoption process or other things that are really sad) and countless people posted comments that did absolutely nothing to help the suffering but portrayed the commenter as someone who doesn’t know how to handle suffering and thinks that trite sayings and a watered down Gospel helps.
“And I can’t tell you the grief I carry still over the people that were caught in the crossfire consequences of that teaching, believing that their darkness or grief or sadness or despair or sickness was their own fault because they simply lacked faith.
To imply that a lack of faith caused any of that is truly awful. I’m reading the book of Job in my personal devotions right now. No one can say that Job’s grief, despair or sadness is because he lacked faith.
“One night, my broken-hearted husband called his mother (a hospice chaplain): what do we say? what do we do? what will fix this? there is nothing else to do. You do this every day, Mom, what do I do?
Sit with them, she said. There is nothing to say, stop thinking there is something to say to make it go away. It won’t go away. Sit in the sadness.”
Sit in the sadness. Don’t try to make it go away, don’t try to gloss over it, don’t try to ignore it.
Sit in it. Sit in it with your loved ones. Don’t try and make it right, just say, “I’m sorry, I’m sad for you.” “That sucks.”
And in that support, those who are in the middle of the sadness, in the middle of the grief, in the middle of the pain, they will experience God.
Not through what we say, but just because we obey the sadness and sit with them.