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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yesterday Was Miserable. Tomorrow May Be Better…

Yesterday was miserable. 

It started out fairly well.  I had a productive meeting at the church over lunch, then worked on some music for our brass band to rehearse later that evening.  Then I went to visit my friend.  And that’s when things took a turn for the miserable. Yesterday was miserable for me because I chose to share my friend’s misery.  But it was only a vicarious misery and it was only for a few hours.  My friend has been miserable for pretty much his entire life. 

He has been told by so many and for so long that he is terrible, that he is abominable, and that God could never love him that he has come to believe it.  He is bruised and broken emotionally and spiritually and believes that he deserves whatever pain and misery he experiences.

When he’s feeling particularly miserable he drinks.  And even though The Salvation Army is an alcohol abstaining denomination, I find it hard to begrudge him his drink.  (Not that I’d encourage him to drown his pain in alcohol, but I can't bring myself to condemn him for it…)

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish,
And wine unto the bitter in soul:
Let him drink, and forget his poverty,
And remember his misery no more.

Proverbs 31: 6 – 7 ASV

What worries me though, is when he drinks he tends towards the suicidal.  The weight of his grief is so overwhelming that even the numbing effects of alcohol can’t help.  He’s attempted suicide in the past – so I’m more than a little nervous when he starts talking about it again…

Put me out of my misery
I'd do it for you, would you do it for me
We will always be busy making misery

Misery – Soul Asylum



I left him yesterday afternoon without being able to help and this bothered me.  I’m not quite so naive as to believe that I can in just one afternoon undo the effects of a lifetime of scorn and abuse, but I was quite miserable for and with him just the same.

I wrote the lyrics for this new hymn with him in mind.

And then the following quote, attributed to the Jewish American composer Harry Ruby, came through my Twitter feed last night.  I don’t know if it’s attributed accurately, but I like the quote:

The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep.

And, at least for now, that has proved true.  I went again to visit my friend this afternoon, and things were much better – or at least comparatively better.  He was sober, and glad to see me.  He asked me to pick him up for church Sunday morning. 

The psalmist said that weeping lasts for a night and that joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30: 5) but how quickly does joy come when the misery has lasted a lifetime? 

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