13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.
Psalm 88 is a Psalm that resonates with those of us who are drawn toward those situations that don't resolve. For others, it's uncomfortable as unlike other Psalms it simply ends with "darkness is my closest friend". My wife and I are drawn toward different movies. She likes the traditional American fare which usually are tied up in a nice bow and with a happy ending. I resonate with French movies which just go from bad to worse. Here's the thing though: both have their place in the world, but to stay in only one as a framework for your life is dangerous.
Ignoring sadness, grief or pain is a denial of what we have lived and experience. Within the parameters of our faith it is a sugar-coating that is actually distasteful for those who know the flavors that are being covered up. But dwelling or wallowing in our pain and sadness is equally damaging.
When it comes to sadness, I absolutely love the words and reflection of Joy Clarkson (@joynessthebrave):
Friends, acquaint yourself with sadness. She is not an enemy. She counts the cost of love. She tells us that things matter. She helps us honour the precious things we lost and never had. She teaches us to grieve the past, to open our hearts to what might be. Sadness is a friend.
We waste a lot of energy when we refuse to be sad. Rejected sadness can masquerade as anger, numbness, and cynicism. But sadness is just trying to tell you the truth: you lost something. And it mattered to you.
Sadness doesn't have to be your best friend. Or your only friend. She doesn't have to live in your house. But some days she will visit you. And when she does, don't be afraid to spend time with her. Make a cup of tea and say "what mattered? what have we lost? let's honor it."
I don't think we talk about the reality and role of sadness in our lives of faith enough. For some it's because of a misguided perception that when it comes to faith we have to muster up a perpetual sense of optimism and feux-peace so as not to tarnish it. For others (like myself), there is a real self-centeredness at the core of continual self-reflection and a terrible propensity of wallowing in all-that-is-not in the midst of a world filled with blessings and beauty.
Today, I hope that you can sit with sadness if you need to and acknowledge what you have lost or what you have been through-- but make sure you don't sit too long. Like a diet of the mind, refocus and look around you at the beauty and wonder that is all around you, and begin to walk forward into the light. That's not a denial of reality, but a recognition of the hope that we have in Jesus..