Beautiful Sadness

So often, I find within myself a deep sense of sadness. I have no reason for sadness, but it’s there none the less. I can step back and look at the facts of my life–the fact that I have a happy marriage, a good job, a cozy home, loving friends and family, the hope of God–so much to be thankful for and to look forward to. And yet, even among the facts of my happy life, I find sadness. Unreasonable, inexplicable sadness. I have always felt this sadness something I need to change, to overcome; I have viewed it as a weakness and a flaw…until recently. I have lately started to wonder if this sadness actually has anything good to offer–if it is perhaps a good and important part of my nature rather than a part that need be weeded out.
In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis says, “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” I’ve been thinking a lot about these words and have started to wonder what lessons I can learn from sadness that I might not learn any other way. I see the following:

  • So much of what I write grows out of sadness, out of the dark times that give me reason to pause, to reflect, and to think harder and deeper. Perhaps if I had a lighter nature and didn’t struggle with sadness so much, I would never be able to think, feel, and write as I do. I feel deeply, which sometimes leads me down a dark road. But if I didn’t feel so deeply, perhaps I would never stop to think deeply, and in turn never write or create beauty out of that darkness. I’m reading Mood Tides by Dr. Ron Horton, a teacher I became acquainted with at the university I attended. Dr. Horton says, “Scripture does not require us to suppress these emotional states but asks us rather to make good use of them. I suspect that apart from emotional lows some would never entertain serious thoughts. Certainly apart from emotional highs it is difficult for the spirit to rise in praise. ‘Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing,’ commands James (James 5:13). Notice that this injunction does not propose correctives to these emotional states. James is not saying jerk yourself out of these moods. He is telling us what to be doing while we are in them.”
  • Sadness helps me look inward and see myself and all that lies within me, good or bad, in a sharper light. How would I ever grow or change if I never stopped to take a sober look at myself? I don’t always like what I see within, but looking away and ignoring the problems doesn’t help me change.
  • Sadness gives me a contrast to happiness that helps me develop a deeper appreciation for all the good in my life. When everything in life is perfect and I’m perfectly happy, I tend to take for granted all I’ve been given. But after a time of sadness and reflection, all the good in my life seems that much brighter and I am that much more thankful for the beauty I’m surrounded by.
  • Sadness helps me better relate to and value the suffering of others. I can say, “I know how you feel,” but I won’t really know unless I’ve been there myself. Sadness and depression are common infirmities and taking my part in them helps me know how to help others in their own darkest hour.

Even with the good I’m starting to see in sadness, I realize too it must not go unbridled. I cannot use sadness as an excuse. I cannot mistreat people around me because I’m upset or down. I can’t live a life of doom and gloom marked only by complaining. If sadness is to be used for good in my life, then I must learn from it and be always moving forward, not wallowing in self-pity. C.S. Lewis says, “Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” Sadness is only good so far as it helps me reflect and change; anything beyond that is very likely self-indulgence.

Again in Mood Tides, Dr. Horton says of the emotional ups and downs we face, “But if emotional variation is inevitable, spiritual variation is not. Satan delights to attack us at the extremes of our emotional cycles as well as at seasons of life that push us up or down. He need not succeed. We can resist him better if we understand that it is not the extremes themselves but what we do with them that brings about spiritual victory or defeat. We can condemn their indulgent states, pride, and despair, without condemning the fluctuations themselves. For elation and depression are normal moods intended for good. They are moods, it is true, which some must endure as acute and chronic infirmities. Yet they may be endured like other infirmities with the assurance that God can turn suffering to positive gain. There is divine purpose in the rhythms of life.”

I love the poem Desert Places by Robert Frost. Frost’s words about the empty, desert places we find inside ourselves remind me that I’m not alone in this experience:

“Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it–it is theirs.

All animals are smothered in their lairs.

I am too absent-spirited to count;

The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness

Will be more lonely ere it will be less–

A blanker whiteness of benighted snow

With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars–on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.”

Desert Places by Robert Frost

21 thoughts on “Beautiful Sadness

  1. I totally relate to this. I find my inspiration to write, only through sadness. It’s odd. All creatives…artists are generally sad, even depressive. It’s kind of (selfishly) comforting to realize you have so much of what I yearn for (the happy marriage and cozy home) and yet you still feel the twinge of sadness in your heart. I guess it’s what makes us human. I love your blog by the way. I hope you will check out mine as well. –Laura

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  2. I love this post! Mood Tides sounds very insightful and uplifting. I loved all your quotes from it. I agree with you that the lows and highs are not bad in themselves (we can’t control these anyway)…it’s how we deal with them (which we do have control over) that can bring growth or stagnation in our lives. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. Wonderful post. I think sadness creeps up on most of us. Jesus wept. He has experienced all that we experience. It is not foreign to Him. We can take our sadness, our depression, our grief and lean on Him. He will turn our tears into joy and our mourning into dancing. He is the lifter of our head. You are right, we can embrace these times, but not live there. You have a good grasp and the times of dancing and singing are usually right behind those time of deeper inter spection of ourselves. Thanks for the courage to write this post.

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  4. Beautiful post Kari. Friday it hit me that I was excited about Easter this year. Last year was such a deep time of sadness for me. I didn’t look forward to any of the holidays, just prayed I could get through them without making anyone else sad. Your post made me think about this lightness in my heart and mind as if a load had been lifted off of me. Thank you Kari I pray you never stop writing.

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    • Grams, I’m so glad you’ve gotten to a place where you can experience peace and joy again. I know it’s a journey and not every day is going to be filled with joy and peace…but the days that are give hope and courage for all the days that follow. Love you so much!

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  5. Sometimes you are sad,can not explain why.you like sadness,you became friend with it.Friends are like eyeglasses. They make you look smart, but get scratched and then bore you. Luckily, sometimes, you get super cool glasses. Me… I’ve got my Sadness.-this is how I explain me and my sadness.maybe sadness torture me but it teaches much to me

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  6. What a wonderful post Kari. I too deal with sadness often, and during those times I go to “my” verses in Phillipians 4- “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I cry out for that peace during my sad times and God is always there to comfort me. The sadness may not pass immediately but the anxiety does.
    Sadness makes me realize that this world is NOT my home, I am foreigner, just passing through…no wonder I get sad.. I’m homesick!
    I found it fascinating that you are reading the book on pain by C.S. Lewis because I have just started that one as well as “Mere Christianity,”

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  7. A beautiful post which really resonated with me. I loved the quotes you shared and the poem by Robert Frost (I find poetry very healing in times of sadness and grief). Have you read any of Thomas More’s writings? I take great comfort from his book, Dark Nights of The Soul… “Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference..Your dark night is your own invitation to become a person of heart and soul.” I feel sure that you are becoming a person of heart and soul through your times of sadness Kari.

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      • Dark Nights of the Soul is originally by St. John of the Cross…I highly recommend his writings! One that is especially good is a more modern translation called You Set My Spirit Free: A 40-Day Journey in the Company of John of the Cross, by David Hazard. It’s out of print, but you can get it at Amazon 🙂

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  8. Really good post, Kari. A few passages I was reminded of:
    “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:7-9
    Our way is the way of the cross…the way of Jesus. We also learn through our suffering and are perfected through it, Our most fervent, powerful, effective prayers are prayed out of that deep pain, hurt and love (just as Jesus’ prayers were in the garden right before His death).
    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 3:1-5
    Our sufferings bring an opportunity to experience the love and comfort of God – to receive His love in a way that we cannot in times of joy, peace and prosperity. And, only once we have received that love and comfort can we share it with others! Trials also help us to rely on Him more fully b/c we cannot bear it on our own and help us to long for His kingdom and pray for His mercy and His kingdom to come!
    Blessings to you in Christ, Kari! This is a wonderful post.
    Love in Him~
    Natalie

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