I thought too about the couple of times in my life that I was in deep despair. It was hell. Fortunately that last such experience was more than a decade ago . . . yet the echoes of that devastation still reverberate in the deep hollows of my soul somewhat like a shock wave moving across the darkness of space from an exploding supernova which happened a billion years ago. A brief recall of the emotions or events send a brief chill up my spine, and a fear that some day I may find myself in the pit again.
But, of course, I'm not alone in this experience. Almost every human has been in the pit at least once in their lives.
On the CBS Evening News, they showed a photo of a circle of women holding hands and praying in the middle of the terrible destruction in Missouri. They may have been close before this . . . or have been complete strangers, until this event brought them into a perpetual sisterhood. If there is a silver lining (and I feel ashamed even suggesting so), when a disaster comes to a whole village, there is a community in the suffering. A bonding bred in tragedy.
But now I think of those millions, who have experienced deeply personal and isolated loss. That is the way that most losses come. The worst part of it is the alienation from others. As you descend the pit, the walls close in, eventually leaving no space except for yourself . . . and your pain. The world, in which you shared the vigor of life slowly becomes two dimensional, or maybe even of another, parallel and unrelated, universe. You are alone in the suffocating universe that collapses around you like heat-shrink plastic.
My theological hero, Francis Schaeffer, described the Fall as the alienation of man (meaning mankind) from God, from fellow man . . . and eventually from himself (a psychological fall). In personal suffering, the alienation finds its pinnacle in that pit.
The pit can come from the death of someone close. The loss of someone you love. The pain of losing anything of great personal worth. A depression for depression's sake. But why does it have to be so lonely? If your suffering is allowed to continue, you eventually must become mute. There is no one to listen. You start to speak a language that no one can understand.
Now, that I'm enjoying a long season of being topside, I ask myself where can I find those who are suffering and how can I be one who listens? Why does the pit have to be so lonely? Why is it that when a Christian suffers, they must immediately go underground with their suffering? Isn't the essence of the Gospel connecting to those in pain?
I am a very selfish person and maybe once I'm out of the pit, I want to keep away from the dark orifice, far enough away that I can not hear the echoes of those poor souls trapped in the melancholic labyrinth. I pray that God would change me an make the listener the ear that was not there when I so needed it.