Last summer’s mega-hit was the animated feature Inside-Out, the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley whose world is turned inside-out when she has to move with her family to a new city. Inside-Out is one of those kids’ movies parents enjoy too, because it captures so many of the emotions we all experience growing up.
The movie depicts five different emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust as characters in Riley’s head competing for control. At first, Joy is in control, but when things go wrong, Sadness takes over. How is it that Joy and Sadness relate to each other? The message, at least in part, is that all of those emotions are normal and we need them all, in balance, to live a normal life.
The thing is, we live in a culture which claims life owes us happiness. As we discover that real life doesn’t work that way, may people create personas on social media to project to the world a life that is happy and pulled together. But the truth is, sadness is sometimes the most appropriate response to the things life throws at us. In the Bible, Jesus was called a “man of sorrows.” The word “smile” is only used in the Book of Job, and then in an ironic way.
The Christian faith offers us a way of looking at life that gives us hope, while at the same time acknowledging the world as it is, sadness and all. Jesus never just said, “Put on a happy face.” He promised to take the sadness we all experience and redeem it. He promised to make our joy more complete for the sad things we experienced in this world.
If I could made a sequel to Inside-Out, I would introduce a new character called Gospel, who Riley would meet at church with her parents. Gospel would gently work with all the other characters to keep them in their proper place. Gospel wouldn’t save Riley from sadness. Gospel would help Riley live a life worth living.