yesterday I copied and pasted a post on facebook about the silent illnesses many live with and the way you really can't understand without personal experience. the post generated varied responses, from naming or hinting at the illnesses people are living with, to remembering that I have lived with some silent pain and illness for much of my life.
it is a long time since I reached the point where I had lived half of my life with back pain - thankfully, I don't suffer nearly as much since finding a practitioner of network system analysis, which has helped my body to find healing for itself. I realised this morning that as I turned 34 last week, I have reached the point where I have lived half my life under the cloud of depression. From now on, more of my life will have been woven through with experiences of mental illness than not.
as I read today's daily reflection in Disciplines perhaps these thoughts shaped my somewhat angry, impatient response. the scripture passage was Isaiah 40:28-31, in which the hearers are reminded that God's strength does not wane, and therefore, in God, neither does ours.
the writer of the reflection talked about driving through unknown rural roads in the dark; then this empty platitude - let God's strength and provision guide you through the darkness. what what does that mean?? How is God's strength, are God's promises like light in the darkness?
Sitting in a kitchen wanting life to end because the pain of depression is so overwhelming and has lasted so long you can't imagine any other way for the pain to stop without ceasing to live. That is darkness. It is a darkness out of which you have pushed everyone in your life. You cannot love when you no longer want to live It is a darkness you imagine no one else can inhabit with you, and before your housemate comes home, you crawl into bed and cry yourself to sleep.
But in the morning, you wake to a small surprise - you are alive. You realise that though you sat in that dark cave, with your hand on the trap door to escape, you did not open the door. You realise that though you were curled up in a ball beside the trap door in the dark, today you are sitting once again. You begin to wonder what stopped you from opening a door, from taking an escape you longed for with all you had left. And suddenly you see - you are not alone. Your Holy Friend has remained - there was no request from you for departure - and, like a light, small and faltering but unmistakeable, hope is lit. Together, you stand, ready for the climb toward life.
That is what light in the darkness is like. That is what it is like to draw on God's strength. To have been in the darkness, known God's presence with you there where no one else can be with you, and to find the strength and the courage to live through silent seering agony.