I’ll never forget what one of my older friends said when her son died unexpectedly: “Heaven seems nearer.” Although she was a widow who had endured hardship and pain, she lived her life with verve and joy. In her sadness over losing her son, she sought God’s perspective and, in doing so, felt the distance lessen between God’s kingdom on earth and His kingdom in heaven.
During the US Civil War, General Stonewall Jackson befriended a little girl at a home where he wintered. Five-year-old Janie Corbin adored Jackson so much that she wore a piece of gold braid in her hair, taken from the general’s hat.
I know a leader who learned sympathy when he lost his job. He admitted it’s easier to humbly love when life has knocked you down. When, as he would say, “You’ve got blood in your mouth.” I also know a pastor whose heart was softened by the death of his son. This pastor wouldn’t say it was worth it—and he’d be right—but his grief has made him a more compassionate shepherd.
For years, Denise referred warmly to her sibling Carolyn as “my little sister.” Carolyn faced significant cognitive challenges, but she loved life and brought joy to everyone who knew her. She loved Jesus too!
I don’t recommend gambling—it’s a fast way to become poor. Gamblers don’t always win, even when they do. In 2016, a woman was playing a slot machine when it rang up a US $43 million jackpot. When she went to collect her winnings, the casino said the machine had malfunctioned. Local law prohibited giving her the money, so the casino offered her a steak dinner instead. From US $43 million to a hearty meal! Now that’s disappointing.
Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, poet and hymn writer William Cowper, Mother Teresa, and contemporary author Ann Voskamp—each has been recognized for their devotion to Jesus. And each has also battled depression.
A poignant love story was told in an August 2016 New York Times article. The title of the article, “I Have No Choice but to Keep Looking,” reflects the tenacious affections of a Japanese man who was still exploring the ocean floor for the body of his wife who died during a devastating tsunami in 2011. After spending two and a half years looking in and around their home city, he took scuba diving lessons and began searching the ocean floor for Yuko’s remains in 2013. Though the darkness of tragedy had enveloped his life, he continued seeking to find the one he deeply loved.
The death of a king in 2016 elicited deep grief from the people of his nation. The news resounded around the world as citizens wept over the loss of their beloved ruler. One man said the monarch had been a caring leader for every person. Another woman was in such despair that she couldn’t even eat. This king was an able leader who helped bring political stability and economic development to the country for more than seventy years. The loss of his leadership caused many to look with fear toward the future.
When I was younger, shame or guilt would often overwhelm me. The trigger could be an obvious area where I had failed, and I simply could not shake the gloom as I desperately sought forgiveness. Other times, I endured a suffocating fear that something was wrong or that I needed to confess something. I assumed this weighty guilt was the Spirit’s conviction as I sank deeper into despair.
In 2013 Dr. Ad Vingerhoets, a social and behavioral scientist from the Netherlands, wrote a book called Why Only Humans Weep. He’s one of only a few scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying why people cry. Vingerhoets states that “tears are of extreme relevance for human nature. We cry because we need other people.”
The old lumberjack always strode with a purpose. But not today. Today the world clawed at his soul. As the gruff Swedish immigrant trudged up the hill to his family farm, tears rolled down his cheeks. The date was December 7, 1941, and Axel Gustafson had just heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His sons would be going to war.
In the summer of 2016, a two-year-old was snatched by an alligator as he waded into a lagoon at an amusement park resort. His father tried desperately, without success, to rescue the boy from the alligator. A frantic search for the child ensued, but tragically, a few days later, divers recovered the toddler’s lifeless body.
At the outset of World War II, a man—who would eventually rescue 669 children from Nazi slaughter—helped two Jewish boys secure passage on a train escaping Czechoslovakia. After the war, the boys received a final letter from their parents who had died in a concentration camp.
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
The 2015 Pixar film Inside Out is about the emotions inside an outgoing 11-year old girl named Riley. The movie is fresh and original, cleverly portraying each of Riley’s emotions as its own character—Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and last—but not least—Sadness.