Inside Out: Why Sadness Matters

I am a huge fan of Pixar (We all gave them a pass on Cars 2). Is it because I love cartoons? No. If that was the case I would have blogged about that aliens one that Dreamworks did that I can’t even remember the name of. I like cartoons but I love stories. Pixar is a company that tells stories and they so happen to use cartoons to do that. One of my favorite movies cartoon or not is UP. So my excitement for Inside Out was palpable. I loved it. It lived up to the hype I had created for it in my mind, ironically enough. There were so many deep themes that made you think, that made you laugh and yes made you fight back tears.

I could relate to being the new kid in class. I was always the new kid. Going to 10 different schools in your school career makes you the “new kid” far more often than any kid would wish for. So I could identify with Riley. As a parent of four kids I could identify with the parents in the movie. Pixar more than most movie production companies does an amazing job of making you feel what they want you to feel. There are many themes I could blog about but the one that was most interesting to me was the theme of Joy and Sadness.

We live in a culture obsessed with happiness. We have turned the pursuit of happiness into the constitutional right of happiness. We legislate happiness. We rate our lives based on how happy we feel at the moment. We have smart phones that capture with deceptive accuracy how happy our lives are. The problem is that in our desire/fear of sadness we have forgotten what sadness does. The worst part of the cult of happiness we have created is that it has slipped into our theology. We have whole movements in the evangelical church that preach weekly that Jesus came to give you a good life now. To make you happy. The problem with happiness is that it is elusive. We do everything we can to buy, pray, work our way into a constant state of happiness that fades faster than we can make it to church.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
    And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
    After all, everyone dies—
    so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for sadness has a refining influence on us.
A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Solomon learned something we all need to take to heart. Sadness refines us.

In the movie Joy, the main emotion in young Riley’s head, spent much of her time trying to keep sadness at bay. To keep her from spoiling every memory. I won’t go further because I don’t want to ruin the movie for you. But there was a moment where Joy in her desire to put things back they way they were realized that Sadness had a purpose. It was in the moments where Riley was sad that people knew she needed them. It was in the moments when she didn’t know what to do because her heart was broken that she was most positioned to receive help from someone outside of herself. In our desire to paint Christianity as a happy pill that takes away our problems we have taken away our ability to see through the sadness of the moment and see Christ.

Does this mean we look forward to sad things? Not at all. With my kids I pray that every day is better than the one before but at the same time equip them for the inevitable difficulties of navigating a broken sin stained world. It means that we understand what the bible says that in our weakness He is strong. It means our spirituality is not measured by the type of watch we wear or the car we drive. But rather how deep we dive when life falls apart. Because of the triumph of the gospel we can be sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).  We are sorrowful because there are truly sad things that happen in life. Pretending to be happy doesn’t fix them. But the Apostle Paul says that in our sorrow we rejoice because we have hope through the gospel in a God that will one day fix the broken parts of our world and wipe every tear from our eyes. Paul Burnett in his commentary on 2 Corinthians says it this way.

Although the Jesus whom he proclaims is the glorified heavenly Lord (4:5–6) who ‘lives by God’s power’, the Jesus who legitimizes Paul’s ministry as genuine is the one who was ‘crucified in weakness’ (13:4). It is therefore not power, but weakness, the weakness of the one who ‘died for all’, as reproduced in the lifestyle of the minister, which authenticates it as a true Christian ministry.

As I sat in the theater I saw in my life at the same time Joy saw in Riley’s life that it was in the most broken moments of my life that the Gospel was revealed most clearly to me, through the word, through friends, and through family.
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Sadness matters because it refines us and biblical sorrow matters because it defines us. Christian don’t preach a gospel of happiness, preach a gospel that is sorrowful yet always rejoicing.


3 thoughts on “Inside Out: Why Sadness Matters”

  1. Fantastic read! It never surprises me to see kids/teens crying at the alter!
    Sometimes the Holy Spirit has to work in us…and sometimes it takes sadness to
    work them out…its like a corrective mechanism God put within us!

  2. Interesting post. I struggle with depression and it is the church of ‘happiness’ that drove me away from God and Church.
    When the culture has expectations of happiness and it doesn’t happen, the sadness worsens and you. Finally turn away.
    After praying and begging God for help and hearing crickets, I finally gave up. I hope others read this and find hope through the sadness

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