Sadness, pain and adversity have their use
Sadness and melancholy are feelings we would generally avoid if we could, but of course we cannot. Joy and sorrow are mixed and stirred together to make up the substance of our lives. The Roman poet, Ovid, knew that when he wrote, “No pleasure is unalloyed: Some trouble ever intrudes upon our happiness.”
And modern psychology seems to confirm this viewpoint. Dr. Norman Bradburn wrote, “Happiness is resultant 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.” It could be debated whether sorrow is better than laughter, but most certainly it has an oft 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 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 difficulties 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 tranquilisers, drugs and panaceas at the slightest sign of sadness. While sometimes medication may be necessary to get us through a 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 which 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.
It is often the shadows gathering about us that 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.
As William Shakespeare wrote, “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” That is counsel we might well keep in mind. The adversity and sorrow we go through may be bitter, but the experience may leave us wiser and more compassionate humans.
The greatest lessons of this life are gained from experience. The finest doctors are not those who have only studied medicine but those who also understand suffering. The staunchest fighters for freedom are those who have been in bondage. The most dedicated teachers are those who have felt the stifling handicap of ignorance. And the wisest spiritual counsellors are those who have seen the sad effects of sin. We are in this world to learn and grow through experience, and sometimes that growth is painful. Even Jesus Christ we are told, “Iearned…obedience by the things which he suffered.”
Likewise, each of us will experience some grief and sorrow in this world. The richest, most powerful, most intelligent, most resourceful of us cannot escape what Hamlet called, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Physical disease, accidents, the inevitability of age, darkness and depression, sorrows of the spirit and emotions, troubles and tragedies; any or all of these can strike us. Ultimately there is no insulation against the stresses, strains and sadness of this life.
These trials can be to us a crushing burden; or they can be a refining fire to purge from us the trivial cares and concerns which can cloud our vision of what is really important in our lives.
This kind of learning will not come easily, but the truly valuable things in life never do. The adversity will not be sweet, but the uses and results may be if we triumph over our tribulations.
May we remember this when sorrow strikes us in large or small measure? Remember that God is still in His heaven. There can be a purpose in our pain, because some of our most priceless wisdom comes only through experience. And if we endure it well, eventually our grief will be turned to gladness.
By Samuel Enos Eghan