Is Being Sad Being Ungrateful to God?

A young Christian woman sent me an email in which she wrote:

I do not allow myself to feel bad, because I think that feeling bad about something means I am being ungrateful to God for all of my blessings. So I struggle with those feelings. I cry because I cry and think I shouldn’t; I feel sad because I feel sad. It’s horrible. How can I stop feeling bad for feeling bad? Is that pride?

The idea that being a Christian is supposed to make you happy all the time is just good ol’ fashion stupid. Does Jesus strike you as Mr. Giggles? Look at John 11:33: “When Jesus saw her weeping … he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Two lines later we have the heartbreaking, “Jesus wept.”

Does “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!” sound like Mr. “Turn That Frown Upside Down”?

If there’s one thing Jesus knew about, it’s suffering. If God cried, I think it’s safe to say that you can, too.

Listen: Life hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. That’s how we learn. Suffering is Teacher of the Year, every year. Emotions aren’t insignificant trifles. Their whole purpose is to tell you that something real is happening with you, something beyond the range of what your brain is designed to handle. Our emotions are meant to guide us, warn us, inform us, help us. Your sadness is an indication that something real is happening with you, something that will deal with you if you don’t deal with it. Trying to dismiss your sadness because somewhere along the line someone told you that being a Christian means losing half of your emotional capabilities is like drowning next to a life preserver because someone once told you that circles are bad.

Use your sadness. Learn from it. Trust it’s God talking to you in the language of human suffering and sadness, a language in which he proved to us he was perfectly fluent.

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  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    My heart goes out to this young woman. I struggled with guilt feelings over guilt feelings and sadness over sadness for years. Christianity misunderstood can drive you crazy! God created us with feelings, and He knows we will have them. He doesn't want them to control us, but neither does He want us to deny them.`

    The fact that a person can feel sadness is a sign that her heart is not hardened and cynical. Consider 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:

    "Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." We couldn't comfort anyone if we had not ever received comfort from God.

  • Hanan

    Excellent post! Thanks, John.

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    Bravo John. Your words do encourage me, especially the circle/life preserver metaphor.

    Sincerely hope this lady is encouraged as well knowing Jesus shares our sadness.

    -Sam

  • Jess

    Hi John, I just wanted to say thank you very much! This is so encouraging! Also Jerri I really liked your comment! Blessings to you all!

  • Aurelia G.

    Jesus was at times sad, openly wept for his friends, etc.

    Certainly, he was angry (well, at least once) when he drove the merchants from the temple.

    However, he was happy at other times–do you think a killjoy would be invited to a wedding or banquet, or that children would be clamoring to spend time with an adult they thought was a Mr. Grumpypants most of the time?

    In short, Jesus showed the full range of emotions. Why should the rest of us be afraid to?

  • Heather

    This was a great post. I was very moved by what you wrote, thank you.

  • FreetoBe

    My heart goes out to that young woman. Another great explanation, John.

  • http://apocketfullofhope.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Bravo! Fantastic.

    I'm glad you wrote this. It's as if many of us were taught that we aren't allowed to have feelings/emotions….. Bad Christian thing to do. We view them as a curse rather than a gift.

    Wonderful encouragement in your post.

    Wow. I haven't been here in awhile. What a pretty page you have here John.

  • Candace

    Matt 5:3-4

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    This is just off the top of my head. There are tons of additional examples in the Bible of human emotions being understood and expected and accepted and even celebrated.

    To say otherwise (and I know some do) makes no sense to me at all.

  • Candace

    Besides, God is glorified when we need him and seek his comfort. If were emotionless little automatons, how would that bring glory to our Father?

  • http://www.originalfaith.com/ Paul Maurice Martin

    Overall I much agree, but I think this part's overstated and a bit of a "smiley face," so to speak:

    "Listen: Life hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. That’s how we learn."

    Then there are lots of "learning experiences" in life that kill people or leave them damaged in ways that terribly narrow their possibilities in life, including things that happen to babies and children.

  • http://ramblingtaoist.blogspot.com The Rambling Taoist

    You wrote: "Our emotions are meant to guide us, warn us, inform us, help us."

    That's one explanation. Here's a different one. Emotions — as well as the myriad other things in our heads — are stumbling blocks. They distort understanding. The best way to get in touch with [God] or your center focus is to strip away your emtions. It is only in complete emptiness that we can be at peace.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Are you serious? Are you actually positing that it's possible to be human and NOT have emotions?

    Um. Good luck with that.

  • http://ramblingtaoist.blogspot.com The Rambling Taoist

    No, I'm not advancing that specific notion at all. What I did state is that emotions are stumbling blocks for getting in touch with whatever supreme deity or entity that one believes in. For you, that's God. For me, it's Tao.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I've got nothing but love for Taoism. It was my first philosohy/religion love. I came to it through Chinese martial arts. I've read the Tao Te Ching about a million times. (The translation that meant so much to me is this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Te-Ching-Lao-Tsu/dp/067


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