Everyone feels sad at certain points in life. Often, it is a response to pain and loss. General sadness is usually temporary and fades. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a longer-term mental illness. Is it OK to be sad? Are we supposed to admit it when we’re blue? What does God think about sadness? How are we supposed to think about and treat people who are sad?

Here’s Where They’re At

When the subject of sadness comes up you may hear statements like, “Get over it. Talking about being sad only makes it worse. Move on,” or “Happiness is a choice and sadness is a weakness. No one likes being around sad people.”

Here’s Where You’re At

You may have been raised believing Christians shouldn’t ever be sad. If Christians are sad there must be sin in their life. Because you believe Christians must always be happy, you hide your sadness. You smile even when you don’t want to so you aren’t a bad testimony. Or perhaps you were raised believing the opposite—Christians should always appear dour and sad thereby proving they are spiritual, serious, and Christlike.

Here’s Where Scripture’s At

Scripture affirms sadness’ place in our lives. Sadness can be constructive, helping us focus on important things, while frivolity can be distracting. “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us” (Ecclesiastes 7:3).

Some sadness is caused by sin (Psalm 32:10) over which we are told to mourn (James 4:8-10). Other sadness is a result of living in a fallen world (Job 1-3).

Jesus was sad when Lazarus died (John 11:35) and was called “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He experienced great sorrow in Gethsemane and on the cross (Matthew 26:38; 27:46) yet endured it by focusing on the joy awaiting Him afterward (Hebrews 12:2).

We know when Christ returns, sorrow will be replaced with rejoicing (Isaiah 35:10). But until then, God teaches (James 1:3), strengthens (1 Peter 5:10), disciplines (Hebrews 12:5-11), and works to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Hebrews 12:10) through times of sadness. In the midst of sadness we can glorify God (1 Peter 1:6-7), resting in His grace and peace knowing He can sympathize (Hebrews 4:15).

Where to Go From Here

If you’re sad but don’t know why ask yourself if there’s something you’ve lost—perhaps security, stature, hope, trust, health, or something material or sentimental. Get to know yourself and learn what triggers sadness. Don’t waste energy trying to discover why you lost what you did; just accept God’s control over your situation. Ask whether your sadness indicates you need to change your focus or something in your life. Rather than focusing on your loss, focus on and rejoice in the fact that one day Jesus will take away all sadness forever (Revelation 21:4). Sadness can lead to joy by drawing your mind to the promises of God and forcing you to hope (Romans 5:3-5).

Choose healthy ways to cope with sadness. Cultivate intimacy with God and rejoice in His character. Meditate on the blessings God has given you and choose to be grateful in everything.

Focus on others’ needs. Accept their sadness without judgment and learn to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Be sad over what you should be sad over. But in the midst of your sadness continue hoping in God’s promises and rejoice in their truth. Find comfort and encouragement in His unfailing love (2 Corinthians 4:8-11; 7:6).

If you experience sadness, lack of motivation, or changes in sleep or appetite for a prolonged period consult a medical professional. It’s possible you’re dealing with clinical depression.