When the bottom seems to fall out
Sometimes nothing can be done to make things better. There is no way out that doesn't destroy what good there is and leave us all more damaged than we were, that doesn't leave me with less love, more emptiness, and more guilt.
The guilt is useful. Call it responsibility, caring about the harm we do others, wanting to avoid that when we can, when we have a choice.
And in this quiet desperation there is a choice. There is a choice as to what we will do with the pain. We want it to stop of course, so we are tempted by any change, even destructive change. But more evil, more harm, can't possibly be an improvement.
We may think of running away, trading one flavor of loneliness for another. For loneliness is often the problem isn't it? No one who loves us, no one who cares more than superficially, no one who even knows us. Running away, making a clean break, can look appealing.
Then we'd be alone by choice. We'd not be faced with people who should care but don't, or who don't know how to. But the relief would be brief and the damage we'd have done, permanent.
The only real way out of suffering is through it. Looking at our situation with all the courage and honesty we can muster and accepting that this is our life, at least for now.
Circumstances may change. People may change, but they almost never change quickly, so we shouldn't count on that. We may see something that we can do that will help. This last needs to be approached with caution, however. It is tempting but pointless to look for quick fixes, for distractions that only help us avoid the reality for a while.
When a friend's second marriage was in shambles, she told me that she and her husband were selling their house and moving to a new one that had more light. The darkness of their current home, she believed, was the cause of her unhappiness.
She had the diagnosis right. Their home was dark, dark in every way. The literal darkness was not the problem, however, and moving was not the solution.
How can we live in darkness and not be lost in it, not be swallowed up by it? When we meet with cruelty, pain, indifference, isolation, incapacity, how do we survive?
I know of only one answer: there is a God and he is Light. "I am the light of the world", were his words. The flame within us, that threatens to go out, can and must be protected, nourished, and brought to the source of all light, all love, to God himself, the one who never fails us, who always loves us, and who knows everything about us -- even the things we don't know about ourselves.
We must live from the depths of our souls and our souls must be rooted in the Light.
Some people at least appear to be fully supported and nourished by the loving people around them. Many, maybe most, of us aren't living that life. And even those surrounded by loving family and friends have experiences they have to go through alone.
When our path is solitary, reliance on God is even more essential. It seems that God allows suffering in the lives of those who he wants to draw most strongly to himself.
Christianity is certainly rich with stories of the suffering of saints. Did they suffer because of their holiness or did they become holy through suffering? Probably some of both.
My suffering can be for my good and for the good of others if I embrace it with courage, if I accept the challenge that God has given me, out of his love for me, to grow in my love for others and in my love for him. God is treating me not as a child who needs to be coddled, but as a person who needs to grow in maturity and power, the power of his love.
Surprisingly, suffering is his gift to us, his chosen ones. And we are all chosen.