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Relatively speaking, I’ve suffered very little in my life. But with the suffering I have experienced, I’ve learned something of my heart, and I believe it’s probably true for most.
I’ve wrestled with the paralyzing fear that comes with waiting for certain diagnoses. I’ve also tasted a bit of chronic illness. And my life has on occasion been crippled by the anxiety and depression that hammers away relentlessly at the hearts and minds of those who struggle with illness or the possibility of it. When the imagination is left to its own devices during these times, it becomes a vicious tormentor that I would say is unparalleled in the human experience.
But I would say by far the most devastating emotion I’ve felt during my times of hardship is loneliness. I’m not talking about the loneliness that comes from the lack of company; I’m talking about the profound loneliness that numbs us when we realize that no one can understand. I don’t say that out of bitterness, but out of a realization.You see, when I’ve struggled, and people have reached out to me and spent time with me, I genuinely appreciated what they did. And it meant the world to me. However, I could never shake the feeling that no matter how much empathy they felt for me, no matter how hard they tried to make me feel better, no matter their visitations, at the end of the day they went on with life, and I was still left alone with my conditions and fears and depression and anxieties. Again, I love what they did, and a good amount of their efforts gave me strength. But what I really wanted from them, they could not provide.
Through the tears I shed and prayers I cried during the worst times, I realize what my heart longs for is someone who understands every facet of my turmoil and pain; someone who is willing to embrace me, shed my tears, experience my exact suffering, and walk with me everyday so we could share and support each other knowing that the other person really, truly knows and feels what the other is feeling; I want someone who can do those things and will never go away. No parent, no spouse, no friend, no human can provide that, but I’ve found that’s exactly what my heart wants.* I think this is why support groups (i.e. addiction, illness, etc. groups) are so helpful to those who suffer because they consist of people who really do understand. But even those fall short.
Of course, healing is definitely preferred, but when healing is delayed or not granted, what I’ve described above is what I want more than anything else. And this is why despite how upset I feel at God during those times, it’s always to him I turn. Jesus is so attractive to me because he’s the only God who’s taken my suffering seriously. He’s the only one whose actions say to me, “Kee Won, I did what I did to show you that I know. I’ve experienced it. That’s why I came. And I am with you, and will never leave you. And, one day, all of this will be undone.” The hope this generates in my heart feels very frail in the midst of suffering, but it’s literally the only hope that remains during those times.
I believe humans can approximate this with the help of the Holy Spirit. As Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; and mourn with those who mourn.” I say this while pointing a finger primarily at myself, “Can we really say we’ve lived this verse with those around us? Do we really, truly mourn and enter into the suffering of those around us? Do we really, truly rejoice and enter into the joy of those around us?”
*Paradoxically, though, I do not want those I love to experience any of the suffering I’ve experienced. A part of me longs for understanding, but another part of me wants them never to understand. I do not want them to taste any of the pain because I love them too much. This is all the more why I believe the only solution to my longing is in God.