Receiving Love in Sadness

Just be how you are. I sensed the Spirit assure that my sadness was accepted.

But I felt embarrassed.
I’d returned from an incredibly special weekend retreat. So much beauty and soul-restoration and yet, I couldn’t mistake, there at the core was deep, unshakable sadness.

So, I surrendered – not to my feelings- but to how God was inviting me to experience His love in my sadness.

Lyrics from The Blessing sang through Pandora on repeat:
The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

For days this heavy, palpable cloud hung like annoying weight. Often accompanied by tears needing to surge up and over, as if a volcano has given them permission to erupt.

All the while, his gentle assurance.

Be how you are. I am with you.
Be how you are. I am with you.

Ironically his reminder came as a personal invitation- these four powerful words, I am with you, placed strategically, smack dab in the middle of the 23rd Psalm; the very words a group of us had simmered in during a Pasture Retreat.

Oh, how I wanted to be happy; a bubbling brook of joy and love and gratitude. Yet, the pasture forecast called for sadness.

Bryan invited me for a date, and my embarrassment for not being able to cognitively “get over the sadness” brought me to bed. To rest. To be. To know God met me there.
He was also with me when I unloaded on our boys, because that’s what anger does when repressed- it leaks out in a force of ugliness.

Sorry boys, I later cried. I’m sorry I took my sadness out on you.
Man, were you cranky, mom. Then hugs. So much grace.

From Bryan, I received – note the word received – tangible grace. Because as much as I can give and invite grace, I recognize the little girl inside who runs to my room to wait out my sadness, which covers my grief, which covers my desire for unconditional belonging, to go away. I’ll come out of my room when I’m fun and the sadness has evaporated.

I found a plant lounge. Let’s go. He was not giving up.

First though, a stop at the antique mall where we wandered, then separated, then reconnected by the mid-century bar-ware.

Then in silence, we drove on, while I stared out the window and sensed God squeezing my arm in that familiar acceptance. Be where you are. I’m here.

We walked into a new plant-store-met-lounge-bar and a slow sweetness greeted. Instead of needing to force my way into fast-forward gear from sadness, I felt met where I was. With plants. And quiet. Presence and more presence.

Do you see my sadness? I almost apologized again for my funk. I was begging for a way out. Take me home and bring me in public when I’m all better.

We don’t have to talk about it. Let’s just be, Bryan said.

Just be where you are, Jesus winked on my other side. Was this a Trinity / Bryan joke? Were they in cahoots?

The more I sat among fiddle figs, drank a cider, and let old books settle into my bones, the more I felt truly loved. Loved right where I was. Sadness and all. Experiencing acceptance in my vulnerable state, rather than hopping to the transformation finish line, brought a calm knowing that hummed in my core.

As the night went on, sparks of anger shot up and Bryan dispelled then without engaging. I was looking for a fight and it seemed that being was the invitation. Was I the only one just getting this memo?

Turns out sadness is a gentle friend, an invitation to let myself be loved when I feel unlovable and maybe a bit ornery. Isn’t this the beauty of surrendering to vulnerability? To accepting God’s love when we feel unacceptable?

There’s a slow healing to be experienced when receiving love in an uncomfortable state. Better to receive love when joy is present, when I can do something kind or productive or have … earned love.

You see it, right? I talk a good talk until it’s my insecurity glaring back in the mirror.

By letting myself go into sadness, I found Him there. Not rushing me through, but sitting patiently by.

My sadness is rooted in belonging, I confessed. How I long to just be and belong.

Spirit gently shifted my perspective and asked, how do you experience belonging?

The longer I sat and soaked in his with-ness, the more I saw his witty offering.

I find belonging when I’m honest in real time and accepted unconditionally, came my answer.

Just be where you are. I am with you.

Not to avoid, but to receive.
Not to get lost in introspection, but to experience tender care from a nurturing God.
Not because I deserve it, but because intimacy comes when I experience Him choosing to be with me when I choose to be honest with where I am. And this past week it was deep sadness.
And I’ve never felt freer to just be.
And receive.

He is with us.
He is with us.
He is with us.


“… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4