The Dark Loneliness of the Chronically Ill: A Challenge
They pray Psalm 88, a lament of Heman, a man chronically ill and miserable, crying and calling out to a heaven that seems remote and inaccessible. (Darkness was his closest friend.) Their loved ones flail about as "the healthy one," praying, fasting, or trying to divert themselves from the pain and loneliness they cannot take away. They hate themselves for not doing more, for not being more empathetic, for losing their tempers, for giving up. They ask for divine forgiveness and more strength. The cycle repeats.
And most others do nothing. They ignore pain they cannot fix; despair they cannot cheer up with cliches and mass marketed or niche-marketed props. They stay away, afraid their own fragile happiness will be imperilled in the weeping, contorted faces of the wounded who will not heal.
Bleeding wound that will not heal.
Lord, spit on our eyes so we can see
And wake up from this tragedy.
--Bruce Cockburn, "Broken Wheel."
They are right. Their happiness will vanish. Normality will disappear when you suffer with another whose pain, bitterness, and loneliness you cannot withstand. You will suffer, too, and in a new mode of fallenness. You will cry out to a seemly absent heaven amidst a near hell on earth.
Can you lay claim to the Psalm that reveals that light shines in the darkness for the righteous? Can you walk into the darkness of a seemingly ruined life and bring some life and light into it? Are you willing to try? Are you willing to fail? For this ministry of presence, even failing may be succeeding.