Recently I watched the movie Inside Out with my family for a movie night. Popcorn in hand, blankets cozied up, and tissues at the ready for me because this movie hits me right in the feels. Have you seen it? It’s a darling animated film about emotions and feelings, and it is so full of beauty and insight and nostalgia that I just sit with tears in my eyes throughout the whole thing. Inside Out chronicles the life of a girl named Riley and the feelings that are at the helm of her emotions and therefore, her experiences and memories. They manage Riley’s dreams, help her develop the five islands of personality that make Riley who she is, and file Riley’s core memories away. We meet all of the feelings as they run the giant navigation board somewhere inside Riley’s self:
There’s Anger, ready to protect Riley with fierce gusto as flames shoot from his head.
Fear runs the board from time to time, compiling volumes of worst case scenarios and having game plans at the ready to keep Riley safe from harms way.
There’s Disgust, helping Riley navigate awkward social situations and not allowing her to accidentally take a bite of broccoli pizza.
Joy drives the boat most of the time. She wants Riley to be happy at all costs, believing that joy and cheerfulness is the best — only — way to feel. She’s made sure that all of Riley’s core memories are happy ones, and we see Joy exude a fierce love for Riley even in bleak situations.
And finally, there’s Sadness. She’s my personal favorite, actually. She’s not really allowed to touch the board or the memories, as when she does, they turn blue — tinged with sadness. At one point, Joy draws a circle on the floor and tells Sadness to stay in the circle, believing Riley is better off without any blue in her system. But as we watch the story unfold, we learn that Joy and Sadness must co-exist. Not only is there space for them both, they need one another for the full picture.
Together, Joy and Sadness tell the whole story.
Often we want to bypass sadness (or any non-happy emotion, for that matter) and just get to the good stuff. We tell our kids to stop crying. We ourselves are told to not “cry over spilled milk,” meaning that some things aren’t important enough to be sad about. We don’t take our time grieving, rushing through the steps to get to the joy we’re sure is on the other side.
Spoiler alert: there is no other side.
Grief, sadness, tears, are all part of our stories. We need those benchmark moments when we allow feelings to wash over us, consume us, bring us to our knees. It’s when we avoid those feelings that problems arise.
When we stuff down the negative feelings, we pay a price. When we stop the tears, we stop the healing.
It’s why I am so grateful that Jesus wept and that He was tempted in the desert for a season, surely experiencing conflicting emotions. It’s why we’re shown that He grieved the loss of loved ones. I am so thankful that Jesus was allowed the human experience of sadness because it makes space for mine.
I’m not an optimist by nature, like the character Joy from the movie. I’m for sure more of a Sadness, or an Eeyore — a melancholy kind of person. But because of the perfect way Jesus grieved and experienced sadness, I can trust in a God who wastes nothing. No experience, no loss, not one thing is wasted.
. . . to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify him.
Isaiah 61:3 (CSB)
God is good, and God creates goodness where there was none. In the midst of, in spite of, maybe because of deep pain, I’ve seen God do good things. It’s one of my favorite things about Him.
We don’t all have to be Joys. We don’t have to lean into Sadness all the time either. But Jesus showed us that there’s room for both. We are built to house both. Our memories can be tinged with blue, and we are still whole. We can feel our feelings with all the voracity we need, wipe our noses after a good long cry, and still be surprised by goodness.
There’s space for it all, and we can live that truth from the inside out.
Because of the perfect way Jesus grieved and experienced sadness, I can trust in a God who wastes nothing. -@annaerendell: Click To Tweet