I have to admit, I do live with plenty of sadness over a good number of things. Most of it relates to sin in the world and its impact, as well as living in an existence in which bad things do happen. In one way we go on in Jesus so that our experience is secondary to that. But in another way, our experience does tell us something to which we need to listen.
When our bodies feel pain, that is an indicator that something is wrong. The same goes for emotional pain. And yet pain is not something from which we should shrink. Think about having no suffering. No pain. Nothing that is troubling. It is surely good to have seasons like that during which we experience rest and peace in the depths of our souls. But living in the world we do, it would seem unchristian to never experience the pain of this world. And indeed, it would be.
Of course we have to backtrack before I make one final point. We grieve first of all over our own sins. Over our own hardness of heart, and folly. We seek God’s grace in Jesus through confession of our sins to God, and at the right time to a trusted brother or sister in Jesus. We seek to make things right where we can, and live a new existence.
Jesus himself identified with our plight, even so much as identifying himself as one of us by undergoing John’s baptism which was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Of course Jesus took on himself all our sins at the baptism of his suffering on the cross. He became sin for us, that we in him might become the righteousness of God.
And we do well to identify with the sins of the world so that through us Jesus’ salvation might come to others. We don’t do well when we live some happy existence oblivious to all that is wrong. This is where I think in God’s grace and working in Jesus, Mother Teresa was given an extraordinary gift. She suffered so deeply, so intensely for so long inside. But through that suffering and her frailty, surely even shortcomings, God through Jesus did a marvelous work. Bringing salvation and healing to lepers, and many others in India. And touching so many of us all over the world.
So we don’t want to shirk the sadness we experience. We indeed need to learn to listen to our lives. Pain, as C.S. Lewis aptly wrote, is God’s megaphone to the world, to get the world’s–yes, our attention. Jesus himself experienced the deepest depths of human pain and darkness in his Passion, which comes from the Latin word for suffering. And we share in his glory to the extent that we share in his sufferings. Indeed it is considered a privilege to do so. But it is real suffering. In the words of Paul in his experience: “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” That was in large part to learn deeper and more true dependence on God. But likewise in Paul’s case, it was surely toward sharing in Jesus’ sufferings for the world. He said filling up that in Christ’s Body which was lacking in regard to sufferings that are ongoing. Yes, Jesus suffered once for all for the salvation of the world. But that salvation is in a secondary, yet necessary sense, carried to the world through his Body on earth now.
So let us not condemn ourselves over our sadness, or grief, even depression. Let us commit that to God for what it is. And pray that we may truly share in Jesus’ sufferings, that others might find along with us, God’s salvation in him.