Our Common Sorrow
- Thursday, June 26, 2008
Like yours, my heart is a library of loneliness, longing to be read, but most people come only to browse. All too often the real feelings go back on the shelf.
— Tim Hansel
One of Satan’s chief means of crippling us is to convince us in our loneliness that we are truly alone, not simply without a mate but without a friend, without help and without God—forsaken. He whispers that whatever cries we utter are spoken into thin air and deaf ears, both human and divine. He tells us that people do not care and that God does not care, but it is not so.
Everything that has overtaken us is common to humankind. We all suffer loneliness. We all suffer rejection. We all raise up hope only to know disappointment. This is true of the single and it is true of the married, true under the limelight of success and the clouds of failure. We all know, to some degree, what it is to be misunderstood or ignored.
This does not mean that our sufferings are not individual, not unique; it means we do not suffer alone. I cannot know the ways you have been cut or the bruises you bear, but I care. We can never truly “understand” but need only love. While it is wonderful if someone understands, it is better if they care.
Each of us knows a particular sorrow, but we all know the pain of loneliness and the hurt of dreams deferred. We could resolve not to dream, but that is not wise. We could resolve not to feel, but that is not practical. By never speaking we could withdraw from the dangers of miscommunication, but that is not human. It seems so simple—no dreams no waking horrors, no feelings no hurt, no misunderstanding no discord. Isolation is a natural answer, but it is spiritual suicide.
If we choose not to risk we lose ever so subtly, the sharp edge to our faith. Over time we become people whose lives are as bland as our dreamless nights. Over time we become the boring but safe people who squash the dreams of others and tell them they should be “realistic.” Over time we may convince ourselves that we are the only unhappy souls in the world. We may even come to believe that a tasteless existence is really contentment. It is not. It is an anesthetized existence that falls short of living. It is a coma.
Self-deceit would rather ask nothing of God than wrestle with the answers he does or does not give. Isolation would rather resolve to need no one than risk failed relationships—even failed friendships. Because that is what it will come to if we never make peace with the loneliness. If it is suppressed, it may one day explode.
If ever we withdraw behind our carefully constructed barricades and for fear of disappointment relinquish hope, we shut out wife, husband and all living things. That is the danger—numbness not only to the hopes and dreams we harbored in our youth, but numbness to all dreams and hopes that life naturally cultivates.
Years of loneliness can warp our thinking and sap our strength. In time we may imagine that over that dune and the next dune is nothing more than sun, sand—and loneliness. So many of you have shared with me you felt lonely and alone in your loneliness. You have been very kind in telling me that my honesty eased your loneliness. I want to tell you that you were never alone. Alone is what the desert makes us feel, but we are not alone.
Indeed not only do I suffer the same trials, but also many of those you encounter weekly as you suffer in silence. How do I know? They have written and told me—a stranger—what they were afraid to tell you. And you have written and told me—a stranger—what you were afraid to tell them. Perhaps some of you felt comfortable with me because I had opened my heart and because you need not look me in the eyes and fear my rebuke. I have encouraged everyone that they are not alone, but want to add one last charge: break the silence! Open up and let someone in. And if someone speaks to you, listen between the lines for the pain that words cannot express.
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