Waiting, Not Alone


When I woke up this morning, one of the first things I did was read a post from someone I follow on social media: Daniel Hanson. As is often the case, Daniel’s post was long. As is always the case, his post was intellectually stimulating, largely because it was intellectually honest. Daniel struggles with depression.

Daniel drew on the painful experience of several remarkable people: Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Mother Teresa, T.S. Eliot, Robert Browning, the prophet Habakkuk. The leading quote was written to him by his personal friend, Michael Novak: “Often enough, faith leads one to feel abandoned to darkness, isolated in inner dryness, undermined by a fear of having been seduced into an illusion. It is not at all hard for a person with faith to understand why one would walk away.” Daniel then told one of the stories that explain Novak’s “particular brooding depression.”

So, Daniel would conclude, “I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I know that others carry the weight of staggering pains that every day threaten to make them stumble and fall.”

As I processed what I had read, I thought especially of Michael Novak and Mother Teresa. Michael Novak spoke hopefully of suffering as a “sign of spiritual adulthood.” Daniel quoted Mother Teresa as saying “how sweet and merciful is the lord” despite being in “the place where she must only wait — a place where no hope would appear.”

My mind turned to this very short but very long (“so close to/Here so far from”) wait for resolution. I pictured Mother Teresa in a doctor’s waiting room like the one I recently visited, and set out to write this poem.

The last line is ambiguous. In what sense are we not alone? Other mortals experience the same grief we do. Knowing that brings a little comfort. But some of them point us to a greater comfort: the Immortal One stepped into our experience of time and space and suffered with us. Jesus personally understands grief. Moreover, He is willing and able to effect all necessary change, to bring relief.

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