Sadness and melancholy are feelings we would generally avoid if we could. Joy and sorrow are mixed and stirred together to make up the substance of our life. The Roman poet, Ovid, knew that fact when he wrote, "No pleasure is unalloyed, some trouble even intrudes upon our happiness". And modern psychology seems to confirm this view point. Dr. Norman Bradburn wrote, "Happiness is a combination of the relative strengths of positive and negative feelings rather than an absolute amount of one or the other".
Happiness seems universally accepted as a desirable state in our lives, but what is the purpose of sadness? The somewhat pessimistic preacher of Ecclesiastes had high praise for sorrow when he wrote, "Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better" (Ecc 7:3). It could be debated whether sorrow is better than laughter, but most certainly it has times, unappreciated value in our lives. We can learn lessons in moments of melancholy that would escape us if all our days were filled with sun and smiles - lessons of patience, endurance, long suffering, and courage in the face of adversity. And these lessons we might well ponder in our pleasure seeking world.
We are daily indoctrinated to believe that sadness is unnatural. That life should be one steady stream of joy and laughter, and that if we are not happy; there is something wrong with us. This shallow view of life can lead us to unfortunate conclusions. Young married people may seek divorce at the first signs of difficulty, not knowing that every marriage has its problems. Others of us may go deep into debt to try and buy our way out of depression.
As a people, we have grown so intent on living lives free from all sorrow, that we now seek stimulants and tranquilizers, drugs and diversions at the slightest sign of sadness. While sometimes medication may be necessary to get us through crisis, we should not let it rob us of the healing and the strength that we can gain in facing our afflictions and working out our problems. A bit of melancholy contemplation can be for the injured heart and mind, what rest and recuperation are to the body, a chance to let life's inner powers work and mend and heal the injury, the trauma to the soul that brought about the sorrow. Yes, sadness is a part of life, and while we do not seek for sorrow, neither do we fearfully flee from it.
Oftentimes the shadows gathering about us allow us to more clearly discern the light of the Lord's Spirit as he sends it forth to lift us and guide us on our way.
Pastor Hans Lillejord