The Importance of Sadness

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by Sarah Park
Cover photography by Paul Minagawa
Feb 01, 2017 | min read
Part of 52: Lament
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TO THIS DAY, I can't quite say what it is that brought me out of depression a few years ago. 

I had come home with shingles after a whirlwind of a year living abroad, leaving behind responsibilities and relationships I had invested so much in.

I remember constantly lying in bed, in pain and insignificant. I remember thinking how unlovable I was, with no way to prove or show my worth otherwise. I remember crying out to God for some sign to the contrary. 

No reply. No divine revelation or warming happiness that miraculously flooded my body to confirm that elusive truth that yes, I was loved by God no matter what. 

I had heard of stories before, of people being found by God at their worst and how their lives turned around afterwards once they felt the power of His unconditional love.

Not so for me. 

Instead, I remember my face buried in white and yellow flowers, hugging them in a vase for dear life, a tangible sign that my friends still loved me. I remember lots of boba and green milk tea as I tried to nurse myself back to life. All of which was my attempt to say to myself, "Stop being sad. Be happy instead." Rather than abiding in my sadness to see how God might meet me, I fled from it by focusing on the more positive moments so that I could move on, anxious to function again.

Rather than abiding in my sadness to see how God might meet me, I fled from it by focusing on the more positive moments so that I could move on, anxious to function again.

Since then, my main priority has been to put that dark place as far behind me as possible and never return again. Even as I try to think back, my mind convulsively retreats in self-preservation, tripping over denial and panic, waving a "Not beyond this point!" sign along the way.

In my hurry to get past my sadness, had I missed out on something truly life-changing? By not investigating how I was interacting with my sadness while I was in it, had I lost a unique opportunity — to persist in sticking around, even if it hurt, to see what else God had to say?

Sadness is an innate part of human experience, one that even Jesus Himself did not escape. Yet, our knee jerk reaction is to want to avoid it at all costs, trying to jump to joy or hope too quickly. It's inconvenient, nebulous, and can be life-saving in one form or self-destructive in another. But in function, it is a valuable feeling, a physical and emotional sign that something is not all right, and a first acknowledging step toward wholeness.

It is a valuable feeling, a physical and emotional sign that something is not all right, and a first acknowledging step toward wholeness.

Stay a while. Uncomfortably linger with us in sadness, in all its many nuances. Maybe in the din of pain and suffering, you will hear something you needed to hear — something beautiful, worthy, and human.

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Sarah D. Park

Sarah D. Park is a freelance writer whose work focuses on the cultivation of cross-racial dialogue with a Christian faith orientation. She is also a story producer for Inheritance Magazine and manages communications and storytelling for several organizations. She is an Angeleno on the inside who is currently based in the Bay Area. 

Paul Minagawa

Paul Minagawa taught high school fine arts in Honolulu, HI, before working as an engineer at a Los Angeles chemical tech company. Historically a painter, his work now focuses on diagrammatic ink sketches melding engineering thinking and abstract concepts of selfishness, selflessness, and interaction between the church and the world. Find him online at paulminagawa.tumblr.com.

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