As I have spoken on The Shack in recent months–this past weekend, for example, at the Central Church of Christ in Benton, KY–the title of this post has become increasingly clarified for me: “Sad But Unafraid.”
[Those who fear the Lord] will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
“Bad news” is sad news. It comes to all of us. We each have our own “Great Sadness,” as Paul Young calls it. And most of us fear “bad news.”
Sadness generates fear. We wait for the next shoe to drop, the next bad thing to happen. As someone close to me recently commented, we begin to feel like the Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons. Just after a boulder has crushed us, we get run over by a Mack truck and, getting up, we discover the roadrunner has gifted us with an keg of dynamite. It never seems to end.
Life is often sad. This is where Ecclesiastes resonates with me so well. “What heavy burden God has laid on the human race!” (1:13). Living life in this mode is debilitating, oppressive and futile. No wonder Job wished had never been born (Job 3).
But God feels this sadness too. God weeps, even over Moab (Isaiah 16:9). Jesus weeps and the Holy Spirit groans with us. Yet, it does not oppress the Triune God who feels sadness but is not defined by it.
My problem–indeed, humanity’s tendency–is to allow sadness to become my identity. It has defined me at times. It has colored everything in my life, blinded me to the vibrancy of life’s colors, and distorted my joys. It was often easier to feel nothing rather than risk feeling the sadness again, and thus life becomes bland, grey and emotionless. It is easier to put up a facade than to live comfortably in my own shack.
When sadness becomes our identity, everything else becomes meaningless. In the language of Ecclesiastes, when futility and meaningless become our vision of life, life itself is a burden. When we are stuck in the sadness, we tend to think we would be better off dead.
But this is not God’s intent for us. It is not God’s own life. God’s identity is love. God weeps, but moves through the sadness because love is God’s identity. The Father, Son and Spirit love each other, honor each other and find joy in each other. They intend their love to envelope us so that we live at the center of their love.
Our true identity is that we are loved by God, formed for love, and are only truly human–truly ourselves–when we love. Sadness is a false identity, a false idol.
Knowing we are loved, we are empowered to trust God as we endure the sadness. Loved, we live through the sadness rather than getting stuck in it. Loved, we do not fear the future. Knowing we are loved, we are no longer afraid of “bad news.”