A Horror Story

You have taken from me my closest friends

and have made me repulsive to them.

I am confined and cannot escape;

my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;

I spread out my hands to you. (Psalm 88:8-9a)

You have taken my companions and my loved ones from me;

the darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:19)

For the most part, I have been very blessed when it comes to family and friends responding to my illness. My wife stayed with me for over 20 years, and while we are no longer together, I remain grateful for her devotion as a wife through good times and bad. My mother and father and their spouses have supported me. My sister and brother-in-law have been wonderful. Others have stayed in touch. The few friends and family members who have grown distant over the years may well have done so due to reasons other than my diagnosis.

I have seen cases, however, where mental illness takes a severe toll on relationships. I had companions in the psychiatric units where I’ve stayed who had no visitors, received no mail, and got no phone calls. Often, this sent them further into seclusion and contributed to a bitterness that only turned more people away—a vicious cycle.

I wouldn’t pin the blame on God for causing such things to happen, but it’s natural to wonder. It does seem that when one person becomes ill, people rally around her/him (as in my case). Meanwhile, when it happens to someone else, s/he is left alone. It hardly seems fair.

Why is it that some, like the Psalmist here, wind up with darkness as their closest friend?

The best I can provide is more a theological answer than a pastoral one (which may be totally unsatisfactory for a person in the darkness). It may be that God sometimes removes relationships from us (or creates distance) so that we would grow closer in our relationship with Him. The darker our loneliness gets, the more we are likely to reach out to the One who is already in pursuit of us.

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