Glory in suffering

     This past year has been the darkest and most challenging of my entire life. I doubt I will be able to capture the journey here, but I will try. I have lived in depression, I mean that literally. Words cannot describe the pain and sorrow that is felt by a human being who has lost the ability to feel joy. I mean, my boy whom I love dearly brings flashes of happiness, but nothing that lasts. My wonderful wife endures like an aircraft carrier in the midst of a hurricane. She is superhuman. She drags me out of my hole and brings joy to my life that I didn’t know existed, or better stated, I couldn’t see at the time. Most days I lived in complete and total apathy, a way of avoiding emotion altogether. I couldn’t allow myself to feel anything because I knew that sadness would take hold.

     Funny thing about apathy. It doesn’t work. You cannot completely forget to feel, eventually the moon dust makes it’s way through the airtight space suit and settles on your skin. Leaving you in wonder as to how something like that could possibly make its way past your defenses. Seems impossible, yet it happens. Depression. Sadness. Joylessness. Anger. All things that slowly seep through and completely take hold. If you read a poem I recently posted, then you will certainly know that I described this feeling as a suffocating blanket. A blanket that covers your entire body and suffocates you. This is the thing of hopelessness that often causes people to end their own lives. I was there. 

     I have recently (within the past 8 months) been diagnosed with PTSD and major depressive disorder… I am currently going through a medical evaluation board that will determine whether or not I am fit to continue to serve in the United States Air Force. The outcome of that evaluation is all but certain; I doubt I will be wearing the uniform for much longer. I am (finally) OK with it. I have spent the better part of 7 years since my last deployment suppressing all thoughts of war. I never spoke with my wife (or anyone for that matter) about my experiences in Afghanistan. This led to self harm. Self medication (alcohol) and lots of social anxiety. Part of the problem was my inability to accept the fact that I was indeed traumatized. I never accepted that reality. I told myself that my experiences were insignificant compared to others. I told myself that I was strong and that the things I experienced and witnessed didn’t have an impact on me; I was a capable NCO. I was wrong. I won’t go into detail here about those experiences, I may do a blog post in the future, not sure yet. 

     I have spent roughly forty-five days in a facility specifically dealing with mental health. During that process I uncovered a great deal of untreated and forgotten trauma. This left me in a pretty vulnerable place, unable to successfully suppress those thoughts anymore, I was angry. This was essentially my state of being for the past few months. Bouncing somewhere between angry and depressed. I feel the weight of human suffering and I hate it. Why? What’s the point? Is there a reason to keep fighting? 

     In a purely humanistic sense, no. I shouldn’t keep fighting; there is in fact no point to all of this. This is just one big giant cosmic joke and I am dancing to the tune of my genetic code. Suffering is pointless. War is pointless. Existence is pointless. We have a term for this and it’s called nihilism; this is in fact the trajectory of most people. If you look at suicide alone, this proves the point. People are killing themselves in droves. Not just military members, this epidemic knows no boundaries. Children are finding life to be meaningless and decide to terminate. Do you blame them? I mean really, if there is nothing worth fighting for, if we are in fact stardust can you blame someone for not wanting to take part? No, you can’t. Because life is pointless. 

Finally, lest your longing for the trans-temporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever.  -C. S. Lewis “The Weight of Glory”

     This is the chief end of man. We will not even be a story. We will not exist. We will not be remembered. The pages of history will be forgotten, not even forgotten just never read, not even never read, never to have been written down or recorded, not even not written down simply never to have happened in the first place. Our story will be nothing, not even a story, forever. This is what awaits us if there is no such thing as an absolute. This is why people are committing suicide. 

     So keep on humanistic philosophers, scientists and professors. Keep telling the world that everything that IS can be touched. Keep telling our children that we are nothing. Keep denying the existence of an absolute. Keep telling humanity that there is no point to all of this.  Keep feeding the lie that we are pointless, because they are believing you, I believed you. When I sat on the edge of my bed with a 9mm Glock in my hand. When I pulled the slide back and listened to the metallic sound of a bullet making its way into the chamber. When I put the barrel of the weapon in my mouth and dreamed of an immediate escape from all of the sufferings of this life. When I applied pressure to the trigger and could feel the balance of life and death hanging on the edge of about 2 pounds of pressure. I believed you, they believe you. 

     When people encounter sorrow unending and they are told that they are mere products of chance, there is nothing that catches them at the end of the road, they pull the trigger, they believe the lie. Zoom off into an eternity of blissful nothingness. Everyone is fighting through life looking for meaning and purpose and discovering that there is none, so they jump. Why am I alive? 

     There is purpose. There is meaning. There is hope for a future. The weight of eternal glory hangs in the balance. I didn’t pull the trigger because I have hope. The sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the joy that will be revealed; I remember that. I remember that I was created and set apart. I remember that the universe has an author. 

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

     A prayer to God in the midst of suffering. This prophet knew why his life of suffering was worth it in the end. He had hope. I would like to extend that hope to you now. 

     Regardless of what you believe, listen. A couple thousand years ago a man walked the earth. He claimed to be God. People followed Him. People died for Him. More importantly, He died for us. God is not indifferent to our suffering. What separates Christianity from the rest of the religions of this world? Every single one is this. Do these things good enough that you may enter into heaven. The gods offer no definitive proof that this will happen or assurance that you will be saved, they are utterly indifferent to your experience of pain. Simply follow the commands of a book and hope that your life was lived in obedience enough that you may enter into heaven. All world religions can be summed up here. There is a mountain before you, God sits at the top of this mountain. Your life will be spent climbing that mountain and hoping that you do well enough to reach God in the end. This is not Christianity. This is not the God of the bible. 

     Jesus Christ descended the mountain. He observed that the whole world climbed in vain unable to reach the top. Or they walked away from the mountain denying the existence of God altogether. Jesus is the only God that came down. He entered into incredible suffering for us. He died for people who crucified Him. He died for you. He bore your sin and nailed it to the cross cancelling your record of debt. Giving you a reason and a hope to suffer in this world with joy in your heart that cannot be killed, even by the darkest depression.

In the end:

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

     You have no excuse before the creator of all things. He extends His hand to you and gives you a reason to live and to suffer. There is no such thing as ignorance and apathy before God. All of the apostles were murdered brutally, save one, and they did it with great joy in their hearts. God’s hand is out to you and when you reject Him, deny His existence, reject His sacrifice, refuse to acknowledge Him in anything. He allows you to continue on that path to your own eternal destruction, there is no such thing as blissful darkness. There is only an eternal weight of glory offered to you, where there will be no pain and all things will be made new. Or you can suffer in this world, and suffer infinitely more eternally. God’s offer is before you. 

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