From Zoloft to Zion: Why Your Sadness Might Be Your Salvation

[This article originally featured in our hometown newspaper, The Seymour Tribune]

Do you remember the Zoloft commercials?  They were the anti-depressant ads that featured a cute little cartoon blob, experiencing the emotional transformation that Zoloft promised millions of Americans.

At the ad’s conclusion, they quipped “When you know more about what is wrong, you can make it right.”  That is a true statement.  You cannot offer a solution without properly diagnosing the problem.  But it presupposes that sadness is wrong.  But what if it isn’t?  What if sadness is exactly right, and it tells us that something else is wrong?  Like a fever that indicates the body is fighting something, might not sadness be an emotional equivalent?

In our country, most people probably don’t think so.  Ten billion dollars is spent on Zoloft, Cymbalta, and other products every year.  In effect, freedom from sadness seems like a constitutional right.  Yet, the Bible has a different take on sadness.

In Jeremiah, the weeping prophet records Israel’s sadness.  He writes, “Judah mourns, and her gates languish; her people lament on the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem goes up” (Jer 14:2).  But apparently, this intense sorrow is not the result of a chemical imbalance.  It is the result of sin.  God has caused his people to suffer grief, so that they might return to him.

For God, sadness is meant to lead us in search of a Savior.  It is not simply a bodily disease to be medicated; it is a condition of the soul that cries out for help.  Such inward longings are not abnormal.  Rather, in a world ravaged by sin and death, sadness is ultra-normal.  Moreover, the Bible commends contrition and makes great promises to those who are sad. 

Isaiah 57:15 says, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Psalm 34:18 promises, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 51:17 too, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  Jesus words concur.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  

Friend, if you are plagued with sorrow and inexplicable sadness, there is great hope! The gospel is not for shiny, happy people.  It is for downtrodden, discouraged souls.  And it promises that for all who find Christ, they will find in him fullness of joy and pleasures evermore (Ps 16:11).  The next time you are sad, don’t run from your sadness.  Run to your Savior!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss