a question for our sadness

The insight hadn’t left me all day. I grew desperate for the light of His Word as I searched the values of my heart and attempted to understand how this passage applied to my unsettling sadness.


It was the narrative of the rich young ruler in Luke 18. I’d seen him before. I’d seen the way Jesus looked at him and loved him in the Gospel of Mark. I’d seen the way riches can have a hold on us, offering to us a false refuge of comfort and security. What I hadn’t seen was the rich ruler’s emotive response.


And when I saw it, I saw a little more of myself.



What is valuable to you?


What would be really hard to let go of? Or better yet, to intentionally give up and give away?



As this paragraph in Luke 18 crept into the crevices of my heart, I pondered these questions.


18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
— Luke 18



Surrender comes naturally to no one. Our first parents soiled the gift of unhindered intimacy with God through their desire to be like Him. Their want to possess more authority than what was deemed good for them began a ripple effect of rebellion, of living un-surrendered, of which no one has escaped.


This is the invitation Jesus offered to the young man. Jesus invited him to surrender.


There's a lot to this passage, but this invitation is what drew my attention. The ruler sought eternal life. Yet he sought it by the means of his own morality, and if eternal life can be found outside of Jesus Christ, then perfection is the requirement. Thus, Jesus tells the man that he must keep the commandments. And surprisingly, he responds that he has.


But when Jesus, gracious as He is and wanting no man to perish, shows the ruler that he falls short in one way, He extends this invitation:  sell all that you own and give to the poor, and in exchange for your surrender, you'll receive treasures in heaven and fellowship with Jesus.


Look at the ruler’s response:


“But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” Luke 18:23 (emphasis added).


His response of disobedience wasn’t something rote and devoid of emotion like, “Yes” or “No” or “Okay” or even, “Let me think about it.” His response was sadness.


Jesus, in His kindness, had touched a place where the ruler’s affections were tied.


The sadness he expressed had life and death consequences. The young man’s misplaced affections kept him from entering the Kingdom, and our misplaced affections surely keep us from receiving more of the Kingdom.


Affections are part and parcel to our worship. They include things like desires, hopes, fears, treasures, delights, sorrows, joys, and more. Our affections signal to us what is worthy of worship in our eyes. They tell us what or who to trust with the depths of our hearts, and they prompt our subsequent actions.


When the rich ruler responds with sadness rather than the elation of a child to the invitation of surrender offered to him, the treasure of his heart is exposed.


The sadness I felt that morning I couldn't name. There was nothing particularly wrong. Just a lingering sense of being down. I examined the feeling in light of my current set of circumstances. The day began tougher than others with an extra middle of the night feeding and a bright-and-early cutie pie riser. Family dynamic changes were in the works: a husband with a new job, with a new schedule, new pressures, and new equipment covering the house, all of which left me desiring both to learn how to support him and also to establish a little more order than presently appeared (visually: the house felt crazy, and relationally: our marriage felt a little like, wait, how do I do this again? in this transition).


Nothing seemed worthy of my sadness from the outside looking in. But the view from the inside looking out told me that I had placed my hope, my desires, my delight in something other than the sovereign reign of the King.  My affections revealed my worship.


And it was about this time when the center of Luke 18 began examining me.


In God's sovereignty, my sadness collided with the rich young ruler's, and though I couldn't put my finger on it, I knew God was leading me to make the connection.


I wondered if perhaps Jesus was asking me to release something, something that my affections were tied to, something that would let me down if I put my hope and trust in. I wondered if He’d pressed on an area of needed surrender. And I wondered if perhaps, I responded with sadness to His invitation.



Jesus' invitation to surrender is to let go of that which fails us, that which tells us we can have life apart from Him. Because the other side of His invitation is this:


"…and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Luke 18:22b


The exchange for our surrender is treasure imperishable and intimacy redeemed. The exchange for our surrender is the Kingdom, which begins and ends with the freeing-reign of the humble King.


The sadness I felt triggered an awareness to my selfishness. I firmly believe that not all sadness is of this nature. Sadness naturally follows loss, and loss, as we all know, is endemic to this fallen world. But I know that my sadness sprung from selfishly desiring the comfort of a routine day without new or additional challenges.


My hope and delight were not being found in Christ and His wise authorship of my day, but in the façade of control that would serve me and my little kingdom best. So Jesus, in the same way He graciously offered the rich ruler the more lasting and steadfast place for his hope, offered me a similar invitation.


His invitation always involves two sides: let go and receive. Give away and gain. Repent and follow.


The pain of the former is far outweighed by the generosity of the latter. When I surrendered the values of my shakable kingdom (my comfort, my order, my control), I received those things which could not be taken away: grace and joy in the Lord to strengthen me for the unforeseen challenges. This invitation offered to me, I found, was for my good and my growth in both knowing more of the King and receiving more of His Kingdom.


Because the Kingdom comes when I’m physically weary from waking up several times a night but spiritually renewed from the additional time spent in prayer and meditation. The Kingdom comes when I acknowledge that I don’t have enough energy or wisdom to press on to serve my husband and daughter, and the Spirit does a better work through my weakness than I could have done apart from Him. The Kingdom comes when I look not for ways to establish my order and control, but for ways to make much of the King through serving and laying down my life. Because when I do, the greatest treasure of all has become mine: intimacy with the King.


My sadness is thwarted because I have surrendered perishable for imperishable, brokenness for whole, created for Creator. And the Kingdom comes a little bit more in my own heart because I confess with my surrender that I believe God is withholding nothing good from me. That in fact, He gives His very best to me, His Son.



Now, any time I am struck with sadness, though it doesn't apply every single time, I have made it a habit to ask myself this question:  Is Jesus inviting me to surrender something too valuable to me so that I might receive more of His Kingdom?


grace & peace,