A friend asked me about those who read my story and may never see healing for a broken relationship. Reconciliation with a loved one where there has been so much rejection, betrayal of trust, or angry conflict may not happen. Or perhaps someone seems stuck in endless cycles of severe crisis, mental illness, and depression. What then?
I have to answer that no matter how many good things happen, or how much healing and recovery deepen, there will always be more challenges and more agonies of the heart to carry, to pray about, to struggle with. I can’t say that I’ve arrived. I don’t think anyone can. Sometimes there is a great deal of struggle in my day, just to keep my confidence, my serenity, and my hope. Depression and the grieving process again zaps out my energy, my joy. I’m still vulnerable to getting too drained, too angry, too impatient, and not really deeply trusting the amazing grace and redeeming love that have been there for me so often.
I’m not afraid of my anger now. I don’t like getting angry, and I don’t always get the higher marks for how I respond out of my anger. But I know anger is my friend. It helps me to appreciate and “hear” what needs to be changed. Maybe it is a time to reckon with what can’t be changed, but there are still some choices to make. I can ask for help. I can step away and take a “time out.” Maybe it’s my ongoing challenge with boundary issues. Maybe it’s a time to say “no” instead of “yes.” There may be another level of surrender to make, to pray for. Maybe there is a deeper level of forgiveness to pray for, to seek.
Do I still get angry with God, like in 1984? I haven’t recently been tested with the greatest disappointment and outrage, with that much loss. However, I was tested again in 1995 with a huge disappointment and loss. Sometimes I still feel my anger with these past experiences and how they impact present opportunities and relationships.
I really don’t know how vulnerable I would be in the face of the worst tragedy . . . And none of us can know that ahead of time. The best “insurance” we can have to help us cope, heal, and get through tragic events and tragic losses is to invest in relationships with loving friends, spiritual counselors, and family who commit to stay with us. They hold us with loving presence, with accepting words, sometimes in their arms, and pray for us as we cry and vent the deep pain and rage of our soul.
Sometimes it takes a great deal of courage, determination, and prayers to make the next step to gain a bit more of okayness, or healing. So many things can make a difference. And there is often the amazing grace that comes once again, just when we are seemingly unable to do anything more . . . when our anger, and fear, or hopeless giving up are too big, keeping us immobilized; or stuck in negative self talk that can lead to self-destructive behaviors.
Yes, finally, in the journey of healing and overcoming grief, mistakes, tragedy, and losses, after many healing experiences of feeling deeply loved in hours of therapy,
or conversations with spiritual counselors, with family, and friends, along with using guided imagery meditations, walking in nature, being lifted and loved in encounters with God,
in prayers, in worship, with music,
or kneeling at altars with others who pray with us and for us,
we find the hope and peace returning. Our lives begin to feel more normal again. The dark night of the soul gives way to a day with sunshine.
One of the scriptures that has meant a great deal to me through all these years is one that Paul gave us in Romans 8: “In all things God is working for the good . . .” We are often in the middle of realities that are not good, in all of the ways we experience the impact of suffering and tragedy. Yet, when we keep on surrendering our pain, our illness, our fear, our rage, our desires, we often find the “gift,” and the blessings come in spite of, and along with, suffering and tragedy.
No, we will never make all the best “faith answers” make sense to ourselves or others in the hours of the greatest suffering, the greatest outrage. But if we can believe that there is enough Love to keep on doing our best to help make a difference, for ourselves, for others, then we can endure longer with courage. We can be faithful to our commitments. We can keep on being a part of the work of building a “beloved community” and overcoming “mountains of despair.”