As a pastor, husband, and father I hear all sorts of emotions as people tell me their stories, this is an honour and privilege. My wife and I have become people with a real desire to help folks recognize the emotions behind their words and actions. This can be clarifying and it can be healing. I have also found it can be deeply connecting.
Three words I rarely hear are “I am sad.”
Yet, many of us can be sad. Our seasons are full of reasons to be sad, politics, climate change, pandemics, medical issues, human trafficking, our shoes being made by vulnerable people essentially enslaved…sometimes it feels like a mountain out there.
We may be reluctant to admit to our sadness because we are scared of looking weak or vulnerable. Sometimes we fear saying we are sad might turn someone else’s story into ours and we do not mean co-opt them. Perhaps we have been trained to avoid looking needy at at all costs. Maybe our egos are in the way and admitting we are sad might be equated with admitting we have done wrong, chosen unwisely, or need to repent. Maybe saying we are sad entails making changes, doing something differently, making a hard choice. Sometimes, foolishly, we think it is easier to ignore the sad.
No matter how many reasons we can come up with to avoid facing our sadness, there are times we will be sad and we are all better off if we fight the urge to ignore it.
For me, sadness is often tinged with incompetence, as in, I am sad and part of my sadness is the feeling that there is nothing I can do to fix a certain situation and I am lonely in that sadness because so few of us care to admit when we are sad or rage against the inability to help beyond virtue signalling with our social media accounts.
At such moments I turn to the book of Psalms. Maybe it is just a predilection of mine but I like to meditate from time to time on a psalm of lament. There are plenty to choose from.
Take Psalm 12, for example, it is known as a Communal Psalm of Lament, that means it is not only the sadness of an individual being written of but of a group sadness, a “we” who links arms and brings before the Lord their sadness, or sadness for a group that has been wronged, and looks to Him for whatever might be next. Where we might feel alone and our effort futile, the faithful can come together and turn to God and overcome both.
Part of recognizing our sadness can be sitting quietly and openly listening for God who may choose to act in and through us, if we are patient and if we will let him.
If the news of this past week (or anything else going on in your life or world) leaves you sad, consider taking time to slowly read a psalm of lament and pray it to God and then sit in the quiet, listen for him, repeat this once or twice to really let it sink in. Some call this Lectio Divina some just call it life.