“A ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.”‘ And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ 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.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, ‘How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But he said, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ And Peter said, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.'” Luke 18:18-30
The wealthy ruler had much going for him, including genuine desire to understand the way to eternal life. He thought this was his goal. What arrested him with sadness was not what he’d have to do to attain it- that’s what he’d hoped- but the fact he’d have to give up what he actually treasured most. He went away, and the rest of the story depends on how he utilized his sad.
There is a sadness that arrives when we come to terms with our sin. We recognize the horror of it, along with the difficulty of cutting off its tentacles. There is a sickening combination of having been duped, and the difficulty of ceasing. But the one thing we lack is possible with God.
There is also the holy sadness when seeing an earnest enquirer trapped in lostness. He may mean and do so well, but cannot comprehend it’s not enough and never will be. Or he may be misguided altogether, thinking he is looking for truth but actually running in rebellion after false gods. This is a sorrow to which we attach wings in prayer, and release to the Lord for His intervention and possibilities. (Matthew 23:37; 2 Corinthians 2:4)
When the Lord gives sadness, it is a mercy we can put to sanctifying use that leads to true riches. When we are struck with conviction, it is God’s kindness that leads our grief to repentance when we humbly respond. Our tears and anguish of heart for a wayward friend are an expression of love He treasures, and translates within His providential plan. How will we receive and utilize the sadnesses God brings, and thus enjoy the privilege of taking part in His redemptive work? (Romans 2:4)
Father, help me discern the meaning of each sadness, and act upon it for my own purification, the good of others, and the glory of Your grace.