Inside Out Part 2: Sadness
On Sunday 10th January at our morning services, we continued our series Inside Out with the topic 'Sadness'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
If you would like to listen to the talk, please click here.
Talk Notes and Summary
These are the three things we are considering this time:
1) What makes us sad – and how we can deal with it.
2) What makes God sad – and how he deals with it.
3) A parable to finish off.
So, what makes us sad? Our sad experiences… and how we view our past experiences. I want to suggest that how each of us feels right now is partly down to our current set of circumstances, but on a deeper level (i.e. are you a sad person or a joyful person?) is down to how we view our past experiences. Not the experiences themselves – but how we view them. How often we revisit them… and how we view them when we do.
More important than the sad events themselves is how we remember them. In a sense, our perception is our reality. Why? Because our memories – literally, what we think about the things we have experienced, really has a big impact on us. You could say that our memories shape and define us – what we remember and how we choose to remember those things, shapes us and defines us.
And here’s the big thing on this, as regards our experiences and our lives to date: WE ARE WHERE WE ARE!
We can’t change what’s past, but we can determine to build a better, more joyful version of ourselves for the future – shaped and defined by what we choose to do. Because if you want to change something, the question is always the same: WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?
How are we going to join the dots of our memories? Will we spend our time going back and back to gnaw on the same old bones of sadness, or frustration or missed opportunity, or bitterness… or will we spend our time thinking about how those experiences shaped and strengthened us, or perhaps taught us something, or humbled us before God?
There’s a story about a young American Indian boy who asks his grandfather about life. His grandfather tells him that a man’s life is like an ongoing fight between two fierce wolves – one good, one evil. The two wolves tear at each other, always locked in mortal combat until one of them wins. The boy looks at his grandfather fearfully and says. “Grandfather… which one wins?” And the old man puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder and looks at him right in the eye and says, “The one you feed, my son. The one you feed.”
The things we chose to do, look at, read, the people we chose to spend time with, the things we think about and the memories we choose to revisit and the way we choose to revisit them… these are the things which feed the wolves. And which one will you feed?
Now - what makes God sad? Was Jesus ever sad? The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament part of the bible foretells this of the Messiah who was to come:
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
That was what was prophesied or foretold about Jesus. But what about the accounts of Jesus’s life? Are there any specific times when we see this “man of sorrows” demonstrably sad?
An incident is recorded in the bible by a guy called Luke, when Jesus is returning to Jerusalem and being cheered and feted by the crowds. But as he nears Jerusalem, Jesus began to weep, knowing what would befall the inhabitants of the city because of their coming rejection of him:
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”
This demonstrates God’s sadness over the sinfulness of man.
Perhaps the shortest verse in the bible is found in another account of Jesus's life, written by his friend and one of his first followers, John. It says: "Jesus wept." It records the anguish of the Lord over the sorrow of his friends Mary and Martha at the death of their brother, Jesus’s friend, Lazarus. This is an example of God’s sadness over the sorrows of man, and he raises Lazarus from their dead, but there are many other times that Jesus intervened in the sorrows of man – curing the blind, healing the sick – as Chris was talking about last week.
How does God deal with these two causes of sadness - the sinfulness of man, and the sorrows of man?
Firstly, know this – the sinfulness of man, which causes separation from God, is dealt with, once and for all, by Jesus’s death and resurrection – as foretold by the prophesy about this “man of sorrows” we read in the book of Isaiah. Quite rightly, we talk about this a lot at EBC and for that reason (and because time is short) I’m going to just remind you of that. The sinfulness of man separates us from God and leads to death – and this causes God great sadness because he loves us. So what did he do? As his Jesus’s friend John’s also recorded: “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
But what about the sorrows of man? What is God’s solution for that? Having dealt with the sinfulness of man on the cross, what did Jesus leave behind to deal with the sorrows of man? His church. He said “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” And he instructed his disciples, saying things like: “Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs.” And “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…” And “This is my command: love one another.”
And how will he judge us, his church, his followers? Another of his first followers, Matthew records Jesus himself telling it this way:
(Matthew 25) “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Jesus wept for the sinfulness of man and for the sorrows of man. And in his tears we see that God doesn’t stand aloof to the pains of human life. He has drawn near. We have not been abandoned to a world of sorrows into which he was unwilling to enter. We suffer no pain he was unwilling to bear. We have no grief he was unwilling to carry.
Jesus wept. The very heart of the Christian message is that God so loved our weeping world that he gave his own Son to weep with us, all the way to the cross, that whosoever believes in him will not weep forever, but have everlasting joy. One day, he will wipe away our every tear.
So – we are where we are. We are his church, in a weeping world, called to love God and love people as he loves them – the hungry, the poor, the lonely. “The least of these.”
I’ve given you some thoughts on dealing with your own personal sadness but what about the things that should make us sad? The sorrows of man. As I said earlier, if we want to change something, the question is always the same. What are we going to do?
I promised you a parable to finish. If you’re just visiting or new to us you may not recognise this so please come and ask me to explain afterwards. Here goes -
Once there was a disciple of the Lord who had been crippled from an early age, but through courage, perseverance and the blessings of God he had risen to high rank and was ministering to many people in a land that was very poor. Now there came upon that a land a great plague that killed thousands and one day the disciple, returning to the school he himself had grown up, found that the kitchen staff were fostering two young children made orphans by the plague. The school itself had fallen into disrepair and the disciple’s feelings were stirred greatly. So he reached out to his friends in a rich land far away and asked for their help, not only for the two orphaned children, but for the future of the school that had helped save him, and them, from a life of terrible sadness.
That’s as far as I’ve got - I did say it was a parable to finish, after all. What the ending will be, is for us to decide. Whether it’s sorrows in Sierra Leone (which is what the parable is about) or here in Bracknell, the question remains the same. We are where we are. Now - what are we going to do?
Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. What makes you sad?
2. Can you find any positives in even the saddest experiences and what are they?
3. Can you think of a time when you or someone you know has gone through a sad time and come through it with some positives?
5. What do you make of the idea that we can choose which “wolf” we feed – and how can you personally do things to feed the right wolf?
6. What do you think Jesus expects of his church – what do you think “church” is really for?
7. How can the things that make you sad about “the sorrows of man” be addressed by your personal actions?
8. If you know about the story touched on in the parable , what ending would you write?