The Distressing

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Hellen Keller, 20th-century author

The past week began with a rather distressing occurrence that took place on Sunday evening. Passengers who cheerfully left for their destination with an expectation of arriving safely sadly perished in the River Nithi after their bus was involved in a gruesome accident. Mid-week, a documentary was aired on TV that relived the brutal murders of lawyer Willie Kimani, his client, and cab driver which happened back in 2016. One could not help but feel the inexplicable pain and anguish as the widows relived their memories with their loved ones and the toll that tragedy had on their lives.

Distress, a word of Latin origin, loosely translated means stretch apart. Literally, that’s what it does to us. Tragedy, as it happens in the lives of men and women in whatever form, is not only appalling but also paralyzing. More than often, it occurs suddenly when least expected. Equally, it usually robs us of something/someone we invested in with all our hearts and believed in with all our might. Much more, it instills in us a pertinent unsettling fear that somehow causes a resounding rhetorical question within our frame: “Is life meaningful, livable, and possible without them?” To say the truth, during such moments, life simply doesn’t seem to make sense. What’s worse, our loved ones’ well-intended messages of hope and consolation, however true they mostly appear to us as counter-intuitive.

It is in light of the above, that I share two simple lessons. One, during the distressing, grieve appropriately and adequately. Whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, divorce or breakup with a spouse, on cause of a promising child turned delinquent, etc, grieve. You alone understand the special bond you shared with them and the irreplaceable space they leave in your life. Grieve, for you alone know the high hopes once held but now dashed; the huge capital outlay that now lays squandered. Grieve by weeping, journalling, or even wailing if need be. Do it against society’s expectations. Yes, even as a man, yes. You are doing it for ‘you’ not them. In grieving adequately lies the secret to healing appropriately for no one can promise that you’ll heal completely.

Two, beware of the possible oscillation from theism (belief in the existence of the Almighty and His ability to intervene in the lives of His creation) to agnosticism (belief in the existence of the Almighty but doubting His ability to intervene in the lives of His creation)and/or atheism (disbelief in the existence of the Almighty or His ability to intervene in the lives of His creation).

During the distressing, there’s an intrusive thought, one that almost seems inescapable, which the prolific Christian author and apologist C.S Lewis expressed succinctly in his book A Grief Observed: “Why is He (The Almighty) so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?” The distressing are radically unsettling moments that challenge us to the core. In fact, many a time, our ‘elastic limit’ is exceeded and our lives are literally scarred and marred forever. It is during such instances that our belief in the deity is tested. As C.S Lewis continues to say, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”

During the distressing, pray for a clarified perspective of how you view the Father of lights above. As much as possible, avoid self-pity and entertaining a sense of victimization. In the end, amidst the tragedies, may we have the heart and mind to accept this conclusive truth by C.S Lewis: “Now God has in fact… all the characteristics we regard as bad: unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty. But all these blacks (as they seem to us) are really whites. It’s only our depravity that makes them look black to us.”

My favorite columnist Sunny Bindra recently said: “Surprises and disruptions eventually unseat us all. What we do with the twists and turns is what defines long-lived success.” In view of all our learnings in the past three weeks, what should we do going forward? Purpose to join me next week for the final episode in the series as we discuss the theme: The Decision

Till then, cheers good people to a week full of solace!!


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