One Christmas season I was in a coffee shop preparing a sermon. A lady I didn’t know came up to me, got my attention and said, “Have a merry Christmas.” She said it like a command, making me wonder if she thought I was somebody who needed some cheering up. I wasn’t feeling depressed. I was just lost in my thoughts. The lady maybe felt her calling was to put a smile on my face.
Our culture can get uncomfortable with sadness and sorrow. We ask, “How’s it going?” but we hope people will just smile and say, “Good.” Some of the best acting that goes on isn’t in a movie or on a stage. It’s in relationships where people are acting like everything is fine, while inside they’re wrestling with much fear and pain. Often people don’t want to say and they don’t want to hear what is really going on.
A culture that wants a constant smile isn’t a big fan of the Lenten season. Lent is the time in the church year when we remember what Jesus did on the cross for us. It is often a time for sorrow as we are confronted with the reality of our sin, the damage it caused and the price that had to be paid.
Sometimes we shouldn’t be smiling. This life can have a lot of pain and heartache and sometimes weeping is more appropriate than smiling. You’re not a weak Christian who lacks faith if sometimes you’re sad and struggling. When Jesus “approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). He was sorrowful because He knew many would reject Him and miss out on the peace He wanted to give them. When He saw His friends weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, “Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:35-36).
When we love deeply, it opens us up to being hurt deeply. Because we love we hurt over the one who strays. We miss the one who is gone. Our culture would often prefer us to stay in “the mellow middle,” giving up great blessings to avoid deep hurts. Doing that avoids truly living. A heart that is alive gets hurt, but we trust in the promise that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). We look through the tears and see the signs that morning is about to dawn.