This is not about anyone in particular, but is meant to portray a common theme of life.
He told me the story of what is happening in his life, and here I feel an emptiness in my stomach. I am no longer with him, but I am the only one here, solitary in my room, curled on the floor, wielding a wrath and grief against the Evil One who did this and the Divine One who allowed it. His words brought me some unspeakable anguish that raises a mountainous cry that can never be heard by men. It twists my soul into unretractable knots, surges of anger and pain and confusion and hatred and tormented helplessness and blazing hopelessness. My heart does not ache metaphorically. A passion rears large, then is turned to passionate defeat by the thought, “This passion can do nothing, and is felt in vain.” A tremendous, unconquerable spurning in my side to change the past, to pummel the evil thing that has happened until it is dead and then keep beating it over and over until my rage has passed in twenty lifetimes, and knowing I can’t do that and it will happen to millions of others until the End.
Why, God, why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why why? How can you let the secret gashes of the soul ooze pain and fester endlessly, until they reek and everyone around can smell them, though not quite identify the smell, and so they remain secret? The story I was told should not happen. It should never happen. But I know it is happening in hidden, dark corners where it will never be spoken of, where a life is ruined, turned to a depression and wound that my heart screams cannot be healed. It is happening all around me and I do not see it and I cannot see it and what is happiness if this is true? There is nothing that can make it good. It is not tragedy — it is evil. It is your fault. You could have protected him from the sorrow he feels. You could have protected him. Where were you?!? Where are you?!? Why do you not answer me?!?
Oh, my heart, my heart. Grief’s second stage turns to its fourth. I collapse from my anger into an empathetic blackness. God, I don’t understand. I don’t understand for the thirty seven thousandth time. But I will no longer bring my complaint against you. I apologize. I was wrong to be angry at you. I know it is the evil of Man that has caused this. I know that your wrath surpasses my own. I know that you came to die and be risen again for exactly this, and thus offered us final redemption and restoration from exactly this.
I know that in so doing, you not only healed our souls and granted us our eternal joy, but enacted an ultimate healing of the earth in which we now live. Your kingdom has been established here and now, and I see it: the Church. I want to stumble into its arms, Father. I want to stumble into your arms and stay there. I’m too weak for this. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. It’s too hard. I can’t do it. Let them do anything to me, let them rip my soul into oblivion, but do not make me see my brothers and my sisters feel such sorrow. Father, let them be spared, if only for my own sake.
But they have already been spared, and it is not my job to die for them. “It is finished.” Your work has established us and kept us safe from the destroying danger. I do not feel safe, Father. But I am safe in your arms. I’ve been through this before, and you have been with me. You have broken me before, that I might be built stronger.
Still I am undone. Is there a way to do an intentional action? Have I become a nothingness yet? The contemplation of doing a piece of work is too much for me. I ponder it and decide it is impossible. Is this hopelessness? Is this helplessness? Father, leave me alone. Please, please, just leave me alone. Just leave me to lie here on the floor until I fade away in anonymity. I am content with that. Just leave me alone. Let me be nothing.
I want to help my friend. I do. I do want to, but what is there to be done? There is nothing to be done. Nothing can fix this. He will never be healed from this. I cannot approach him, because his pain overwhelms me. What can I do?
“You can have peace for him.” What is that, God!? What did you dare to say? What burden did you dare to give me? Have peace? What is peace but ignoring the vomit? Who has peace except the ones who have never felt agony? No, peace is not what I want to have. He can have peace, but not me. I refuse to have peace.
“Everything I do is good, and everything I allow is for your good.” What is this doctrine? Show me the man who imagined this insanity, that I may spit at his feet. That I may demonstrate to him its falsehood by doing something unspeakable to the ones he loves, to show him his unknowing. He could not have reckoned with sin. But Lord, what have I done in thinking this thought? Where has my heart gone? Why has this darkness arisen in me?
“I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Father, I cannot feel this… Father, I cannot feel this… But I will believe it, Father… I must believe it…
“There is nothing in this life that you are going through that is not common to man. But I have provided the way of escape.” Father, heal me… Father, show me what peace is… Others have been through this and have found your peace. I can too, and so can my brother.
“One day I will wipe every tear from your eyes, and pain will be a memory, and glory will run in rivers, and you, my bride, will be brought to me, and we will feast, and enjoy what I have provided for an eternity.” I know this Lord. It gives me a hope for a future life. It really does. But Father, what of this life? Father, I need to live this life, but in this life you have given me to hear stories that I cannot bear to know.
“Cast your burdens on me, my child. I care for you and I hear you. My burden is light and my yoke is easy.” You are right, Father. This is not a time for striving towards strength; it is a time for letting go of anger, letting go of pain. Acceptance is letting go of the demand that life must be a certain way. Thank you, Father. I cast myself on you and seek you; renew me…
“I have begun a good work in you, and I will bring it to completion on the day of Christ. My word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish its purpose, and will succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Oh, I am so weak. I need you. I need you. And you will keep me. But is this some fundamentalist, weak, nonsensical, ignorant, unaware moment of psychological absurdity? Letting go of my own ability, to grasp at the imagery of the Sovereign who will make sure I stay strong through it all? Is it throwing myself onto an illusion in order to save myself from a nervous breakdown? No, it isn’t. It is a moment of being aware that life’s grievousness is too great for me. It is in fact true that my stability cannot remain when it is assailed by witnessing the bad things that happen to the ones I love. I have learned that this is simply the truth. But I have also learned that Jesus rose from the dead, and that the Holy Spirit is living and active within me, and sustains me apart from my ability to be stable. And even, that he has matured me into having more stability now than I did in the past, and therefore I have confidence that he will continue to mature me. When I next see my friend, will I have peace for him? I do not know. I can only pray that I will.
“Now go and speak these truths to him.” What! How can I do this, Lord? What right have I to tell him anything? What have I experienced of his suffering? I know nothing about it. I have felt suffering, to be sure. But of his I know nothing. How can I speak a truth to him that challenges him? What will that be except for ignorance and compassionlessness? I cannot tell him the truth, because I have nothing to stand on in order to tell him the truth. If he simply said, “You do not understand,” then I could not question him even if I was speaking the right words, because his pain is not mine and I cannot understand it. I hardly believe the truth myself; how can I tell it to the one who has a twenty-fold reason not to believe that God exists and cares for him and offers him peace and healing?
“You have the Spirit of God within you, and He is your authority. Do not minimize My work.” You’re right. I am your servant, Lord, and your truth is bigger than my own life. I believe in you, help my unbelief! I want to believe so that I can speak confidently and boldly to him. Thank you that you will speak through me. I trust you. I trust you.
I rise from the floor, text him to ask if we can meet again, and continue the tasks of the day.
One thought on “On Hearing A Brother’s Pain”
I should not have read this at work, I almost started balling my eyes out at my desk after reading this. Thank you for this.
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