Sad in Church
My tears have become my food, both day and night.
I’ve been praying the psalms of lament lately, and I’m struck repeatedly by how unabashedly they express the most naked human emotions, fearlessly facing God with the whole human condition. When I recall that these psalms were sung as prayer in the worship assemblies of Israel, it amazes me that such raw, real language was considered ordinary worship language. It makes me wonder why such candor is so rare in our assemblies.
Sometimes church can be a hard place to be sad. If you’re sad, you might feel you should hide it since everyone else looks so happy. You don’t want to be a drag on the church’s joy. You might stay away from church because people there will try to cheer you up, and cheering up isn’t what you most need in your sadness. You might think you have no business being sad in church—church is where everyone’s convinced that God’s love is the simple answer to everything, and your sadness feels more complicated than that. Or you might feel that no one will care very much about your sadness because they’re dealing with hidden sadnesses of their own.
If you’re sad, church can be a hard place to be. The irony is that it should be the best place. And I hope our church is a good place for people to be sad in. I hope we’re not so into keeping up appearances that it makes other people feel they have to. I hope here anyone can say, ‘I’m sad,’ and not feel ashamed or that they aren’t living up to God’s love. I hope we tell Love’s story in such a way that reveals how tender it is, how respectfully it waits, how quietly it accompanies, how sweetly it heals, how profoundly it reaches into the mystery of human sadness and lives there with us, consoling. I hope we can sing psalms of lament in church. I hope we never try to be anything but fully human with each other in God’s sight.
Prayer: Compassionate God, make us a church where a sad person can be sad and a happy person can be happy and all of us can be who we are in the freedom of your love.