Even in darkest hours: We are never alone

By Jeff Hedglen

8/24/2015

A while back I had a strange confluence of experiences as two very different sources revealed a similar truth. During the same week in late July, I saw the Pixar animated movie Inside Out and a concert by Catholic singer songwriter Matt Maher. In the course of both events I heard two truths: first, how a perceived weakness can also be a strength for us, and, second, what is seen as the ultimate place of solitude is actually a place of welcome.

At the concert I was struck by this line from the song Instrument: “I offer you myself, though I’m broken and spent, let me be your instrument.” I loved how this line reminds us that even when we are not at our best, when we offer ourselves to God we can still be used by Him to build the Kingdom. 

The really surprising thing is that when I was dwelling on this truth I had a flashback to the movie Inside Out. I was reminded of the character named Sadness. 

The movie is about a girl named Riley, and the unique part of the movie is we get a look inside her mind. Through the wonders of animation we get to see her emotions come alive through characters named Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. 

Each of these characters takes turns at the “controls” of Riley’s emotions, and it seems that Joy is the superstar of the group. But as the movie plays on, each of the other seemingly less popular emotions shows their importance. Sadness is the one who, for most of the first part of the movie, is valued the least. But in the end Sadness becomes the hero, revealing that ignoring our “less popular” emotions is, not only unhealthy, it is not living the full human experience.

These thoughts are echoing in my mind as I hear Matt Maher sing about how even when we are broken and spent we can still be God’s instruments. We might think, like in the movie Inside Out, that only when we are feeling at our best can we make an impact on the world. But in truth, if we offer ourselves to God, we can be used by Him, even in our sadness, anger, fear, and disgust.

Very early in my marriage my wife and I suffered six miscarriages in two and a half years. To be sure, it was a very hard and sad time. But in the years since I can’t tell you the number of times that the experience of this sadness has allowed us to empathize, walk, and pray with others in their moments of sadness. 

All of these ideas were gathered up and taken to a whole new level during the acoustic set of the Matt Maher concert. It was just him and a piano. He was singing and talking to us, and at one point he started talking about the tomb. He said that Jesus entered the tomb so that we would not be alone, even in death. He went on to talk about how often in this life we can feel like we are dying inside, kind of existing in a living tomb. So, no matter what our tomb is, we do not dwell in it alone. 

In the movie the character Sadness comes to the rescue by helping people recognize and give voice to their sad and unpleasant feelings. And once these feelings are no longer ignored, they can, with some work and some time, be moved past. Thus, as hard as it is to go through sad times, facing them is the way past them.

It would seem that the saddest and loneliest place on earth is a casket, but in reality Jesus waits for us there as well. Whether the tomb is an actual burial place or more of an emotional and mental crypt, Jesus is always there to meet us, to welcome us, and to lead us out of the tomb and into the fullness of life.

A while back I had a strange confluence of experiences as two very different sources revealed a similar truth. During the same week in late July, I saw the Pixar animated movie Inside Out and a concert by Catholic singer songwriter Matt Maher. In the course of both events I heard two truths: first, how a perceived weakness can also be a strength for us, and, second, what is seen as the ultimate place of solitude is actually a place of welcome.

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