Last night Karla and I went with friends to experience an amazing concert by Andrew Peterson. If you’re not familiar with him, I highly encourage you to check him out. His Behold the Lamb Christmas album is amazing. Through his amazing ability as an artist and lyricist, Peterson taps into the deepest longings of the human spirit and puts it to music in a way that makes me smile, laugh, cry, and nod – which are all ways of my soul saying, “Amen” to what is true. He’s one of those guys I connect with, though we’ve never met.
Here’s his page: Andrew Peterson
One of the artists in the concert was talking about how he figured out he was angry a lot and a wise mentor asked him, “What are you sad about?” He thought that was strange. But the more he pressed into it, the more he realized he was indeed feeling some sadness about a number of things, like losing his father.
Sadness is something that hides itself deep inside. Children can express their sadness. If you take away a toy or say it’s time to leave the party, young kids can frown and cry. When we get older, we learn to bury our sadness, tucking it away under layers of life. Sadness is hard to articulate. Anger is a lot easier. So we tend to manifest our pain that way instead.
I suppose that is why there are so many angry people. We are the walking wounded, sad about our losses, frustrations and fears. Unable to allow or feel our grief, we instead get angry.
A friend emailed me and said he was afraid of losing touch with his kids and that this would make him sad. His words struck me. I’m also relinquishing my kids to the Lord. You have a child and you hold them close in your hands, but almost immediately you realize that if you don’t open your hands to let them go you will crush them. The holding on you do to bless them as a child eventually curses them. So you are learning to hold on and let go all the time. And there is some sadness in that.
One son is off to college, another is sprinting through High School at breakneck pace, racing toward his independence. My baby girl is eager to adventure the world as a globetrotting soul on mission for Jesus – dreams that will likely jerk her from my grasp. And my dear parents are not getting any younger. I find myself holding on to them more tightly in these winter years, even while realizing I must prepare myself for letting them go. I have roles I once loved which I no longer fill. Physical capacities I have bid adieu. Friends who have gone. And many other losses I’m not ready to tell you about.
There is of course deep and profound joy built into these relationships and stages. But there is mingled into it sadness as well. A life with love cannot be escaped without sadness. And the sadness about all our losses and failures and regrets and powerlessness to make our lives happen right – it all lingers, with a long shelf-life. Sadness buries itself in the insulation of your soul, gnawing like a rodent in the attic, until it finally breaks through in an angry outburst. Which is probably why I unpredictably find myself snapping at stupid drivers or am seized with a sudden urge to curse when the garbage bag spills on the driveway.
If you’re angry, what are you sad about?
So I’m admitting the sadness. To Jesus. To my wife. To my friends. And somehow, calling it by name weakens its power. Instead of attempting to manage things at the outer surface of my life, like controlling angry outbursts, I am asking Jesus to come to the deep interior where sadness sits. There He listens, and as a man of sorrows with many losses, He understands.
In that divine commiseration, I can feel sadness waning and healing growing. As Jesus abides in my interior where sadness hides, I find a calming joy coming out in my unguarded moments. The happiness I feel responsible to manifest every day is now more truly synched up with the real state of my soul.
Inner sadness is displaced with the joy of the Lord, which becomes my strength. And “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
We need Emmanuel – God WITH us. I hope you invite Jesus to COME to your sadness this Advent. He is waiting.