I’m annoyed with the Lord. The situation reminds me of a joke about the Holy Family: poor Joseph, whenever anything was wrong in that household, it was GUARANTEED to be his fault. Same deal here: when I’m having a fight with God, He’s not going to be the one who has to apologize when it’s over.

I’m annoyed because of this verse in Psalm 26:

In the day of my distress I will call upon you,
and surely you will hear me.

The verse comes to me often, because it’s part of Compline, which is the one part of the Office that I say regularly. That was me, for two or three months, feeling the same deep sadness every day, saying: Okay, God, this is the day of my distress. I’m calling on you. Where you at?

Only this time he didn’t show; or not in the way I expected. What would have happened if I didn’t take the pills?

I’m sure you’ve heard this story: there’s a flood, and the local pastor is trapped on the roof of his house, watching the water slowly rise. But he’s a man of faith, he knows the Lord will save him. So a canoe comes by, and then a powerboat, and then a helicopter, and each time the pastor says, “No thanks — the Lord will save me.” So finally he drowns, and gets to Heaven, and says “Lord! I had faith in you, but you never showed up!” And the Lord goes “Moron! Who do you think sent the canoe, and the powerboat, and the helicopter?”

So my helicopter was antidepressants. I didn’t expect that. When I made the decision to take them, I had a very clear confirmation that the Lord was, at the very least, okay with that: a friend sent me a text message on the way to the doctor’s that was so well-timed that to call it anything but Providence would be sheer stubbornness. And the things worked. No more gut-gnawing sadness, no more fits of weeping. Sure, I got some low-grade melancholy, but nothing that makes me not me.

So why isn’t that enough? What had I been hoping for?

Here’s a piece by Czeslaw Milosz that says something like what I mean — thanks to Jordan at gaysubtlety for drawing my attention to it:

Veni Creator

Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lift its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me — after all I have some decency –
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.

I’m on vacation at Sal’s place. Sal tells a story of a friend of a friend who, like the man in the flood, is a pastor, a faith-filled Christian all his life. When he’s 75, he sees his cat prowling around the yard, and watches in horror as a hawk swoops down and carries the poor beast off, never to be heard from again.

And the pastor, who can’t believe that a just God would allow such things, loses his faith. Sal and I, who have both been through some pretty tough sh★t, wonder: was this really the first time in all his 75 years that the pastor experienced unrelieved awfulness? How do you get to 75 without feeling, at least once or twice, like the universe is a horrible place where horrible things happen?

In all that time, how do you never notice that whatever the mercy of God means, it doesn’t mean that cats are safe from hawks, or people from agony?

So I know there’s a reason for it, for why I was allowed to slip back into the old darkness, for why it’s not quite over. I know there’s Mercy behind it, something new to understand, some better knowledge of who I am and who God is. I just can’t see it yet.

13 thoughts on “Mercy

  1. Iggy

    I think that so much of God’s mercy is conveyed via His presence. He is truly a compassionate God, the God who suffers with. We have trust that somehow everything will work for His glory. The way I see it, suffering will happen whatever our perspective on it is. We can either despair and lose sight of Christ, who is in ever in our midst, or trust that He is with us and that these moments of grey allow us to know His love and misericordiae every more.

    Kyrie eleison

    Reply
  2. George

    Recently I read something where God’s Mercy is shown in making up for what is lacking in his creatures. I’m not sure if I articulated it well. But it’s like, when God sees something imperfect when it ought not be, he makes up for the imperfection. With humans, this is conditioned by our free will. In a manner of speaking, all of creation is therefore an act of God’s Mercy, since he gave them all their perfections to begin with. And it kind of also demonstrates how Mercy is so very fitting and most glorifies God’s perfection.

    Not a complete thought for you today I am afraid; but maybe it can spark a thought for you. Very glad to hear that your medications are helping!

    Reply
  3. Laurie

    There is a reason. Perhaps you’ll have a day in this life that you’ll know. Perhaps not. But either way, you know your Lord. That is a gift in itself.

    And: traveling with my family last week in the mid-west (we’re west-coasters) we ended up driving through the eye of an intense summer storm that had us all alert and scared. My seven year-old son asked why God allowed us to drive through the storm. We contentedly concluded our discussion with the ideas that 1) we weren’t thinking of His presence prior to being in the thick of things and 2) it was a chance for Him to show off that even this mighty storm wasn’t as powerful as He is.

    Thanks (from a frequent reader, infrequent commenter)

    Reply
  4. Dave Mc

    In His time, my friend, in His merciful time. I try to look at these times (usually unsuccessfully!) as ‘what is God going to teach me this time?’.
    The excitement is the knowledge and wisdom He is going to bestow upon us!

    Reply
  5. Robert H.

    Hey Steve,

    I’ve been absolutely loving your latest updates. I’ve recently slipped into a very hard place due to recently finishing my undergrad in my hometown (I still live at home, even), the prospect of going off to Chicago for grad school where I’m essentially paying for everything via scholarship and loans (mostly loans), and a lot of unresolved stuff from my past. I used to be a lot worse off than I am now, and seeing someone else being so raw and honest with his struggles with depression and his thoughts on being gay really makes me feel like I’m not alone for the first time in a long time. I know you get this all the time, but from the heart, man, you write really excellent things.

    God bless,

    Rob

    Reply
  6. Marcus

    Perhaps one advantage of my depression of ’09 was that it certainly displayed how tenuous my grip on pleasure is.  There’s a valuable lesson, I think, in learning firsthand that as dependable as I felt on some (licit) pleasures they could be (and were) taken away. That ought lead me to realize again how dependent we are on God as opposed to things.

    Reply
  7. April

    The past couple of weeks I’ve slipped into a darker place than I have in a long time. I had thought I had seen the last of it, thanks to God’s assistance, and here it was, feeling again like it does, worse than ever this time, although I know intellectually it’s probably about the same, it just feels worse because it’s NOW. Even church tonight helped for only all of fifteen minutes, and I should probably go live in the adoration chapel, because the peace inside doesn’t seem to follow me out. This is all to say, when I came here and read your blog tonight at the end of my rope, it helped so much. In the past this blog has been one of my defenses against the darkest times, and it continues to be. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  8. Arielle

    Hi Steve. I’ve been following your blog for a while now and although I’ve never commented before I find it very entertaining to read and very educational so thank you for having it up. Anyway, I’m reading the diary of Saint Faustina right now and when I read this post it reminded me so much of the book for three reasons. 1) You titled it “Mercy” 2) Saint Faustina also mentions that she’s annoyed with the Lord and 3) there’s something she writes more than once that I think might be very relevant to you. She writes, “If God wishes to keep the soul in darkness, no one will be able to give it light.” So darkness could be a good thing I guess. I dunno. I just thought I’d share this with you.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      I was also thinking about Sr. Faustina lately — about how she went through terrible confusion and suffering, all without anybody able to tell her what it meant or what it was for. Thank you for the reminder, and the quotation.

      Reply
  9. MommaSue

    I just wanted to let you know that i REALLY needed to read this today:

    “when I’m having a fight with God, He’s not going to be the one who has to apologize when it’s over.”

    Thanks!

    Reply

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