Sadness is ultimately a result of sin on the earth, which makes it an inevitable and normal part of life. The sin that causes sorrow can be your own personal sin or the sin of others causing you to feel burdened, such as Jeremiah crying over the sins of Israel. He cried so much that he was known as "The Weeping Prophet."
What does the Bible teach about sadness?
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by sadness and sorrows, especially when it stems from other people mistreating you. This is something that David writes about throughout the book of Psalms. "How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" (Psalm 13:2). David also weeps from the guilt of his own sin: "For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away" (Psalm 31:10).
In the parable of The Prodigal Son, the son has great sadness when he realizes the negative impact his sins have had on his life. The son returns to his father, repents of his sin, and finds forgiveness (Luke 15:11–24). This parable shows that repentance is how to successfully deal with the sadness that comes as a result of our own sin. Sin should lead to godly conviction, the kind of sorrow which compels one to repent: "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Another reason for sadness is the fact that we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world. Job experienced more loss than perhaps any other person, losing his children and all of his wealth and possessions (Job 1—2). The hardest part of this situation is that God allowed this to happen without giving Job as specific reason as to why (Job 38—42). Satan wreaked havoc on Job's life, but in the end God repaid him far beyond the amount he had lost. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8–9). We may not understand the "why" behind our sadness, but God promises to be with us as we walk through sadness: "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
Sadness can lead to action. Nehemiah was filled with great sadness when he learned that his city was in ruins. He wept, fasted, and prayed for his city, which compelled him to action. Sadness caused Nehemiah to pray and seek the Lord and ultimately led to God opening the door for him to rebuild his city with the king's blessing (Nehemiah 1–2). Even in the midst of our sadness, we can trust that God's ways are perfect: "This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him" (Psalm 18:30).
Jesus was known as "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3), and His life on earth was characterized by sorrow and difficult circumstances. After Jesus' birth, His family was forced to flee to Egypt to protect His life from Herod (Matthew 2:13–20). Near the time of His death, Jesus was extremely full of sorrow, knowing the fate that was about to befall Him (Matthew 26:38). On the cross Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (see Matthew 27:46). Jesus was no stranger to sadness. When you feel sad, take heart in remembering that you are following in the footsteps of Jesus, becoming more like Him. Remember, too, that He is with you in the midst of your sorrow (John 16:33; Matthew 28:20).
God always gives us the strength we need to persevere through the circumstances that bring us sadness, and we come out stronger on the other side (1 Corinthians 10:13). God has promised to replace our "sorrow and sighing" with "gladness and joy" (Isaiah 35:10). In the meantime, it is our responsibility to glorify God in the midst of our sorrows so that Jesus may be revealed (1 Peter 1:6–7). We have the hope that even though "… weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5).
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