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8th May: Months of Emptiness

I was allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. Job 7:3

There is not space to relate all the complex circumstances that precipitated it -- and they will be different for you in any case. The fact remains that in my final two student years I became increasingly more depressed and unable to cope with life. It was not just a passing phase either; people said it would soon lift but it didn't. And as month followed upon month there seemed no end to the sleeplessness, the aimlessness and the emptiness. The whole of life was breaking up for me.

And where was God in all this? I had been a Christian for some eight years and had always known such joy and fulfilment in life up to this point. Indeed, my Christian commitment was a key factor in my choosing medicine as a career, and now it seemed that my very future in it was in severe jeopardy.

It was during the second year of this depression that the book of Job became so meaningful to me. It was not that I found there any answers to my questions at the time, but I found such help in the fact that here was someone who was feeling just the same agony, someone with whom I could identify. The knowledge that you are not the only one brings untold release and comfort. G K Chesterton puts this so well in 'The Man who was Thursday': 'There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having an ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two, but two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one'. And it was this issue of not being alone that eventually proved to be one of the key answers to the question 'Why did you let this happen, Lord?'

Eventually I did get better, and obtained a tremendously satisfying house-job in the oncology unit at the hospital where I trained. During this job I saw that God had over the months of my depression, been equipping me to be better able to help others cope with the psychological trauma and suicidal feelings accompanying severe illness.

Paul tells us in his opening paragraphs of 2 Corinthians that God 'comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction'. What a privilege then for those who are working each day with the sick and injured. If we look to him, the Lord will cause any experience -- no matter how devastating at the time -- to be used for ultimate good in our lives and for the help and enrichment of our patients too.

Lord, thank you that you never cause us needless pain,
that it is true that all things work together for good
for those who love you. Help us to be patient under the
trials that we face, knowing that you do have a purpose
in them because your love is constant and everlasting.

Further reading: Jb 7:1-10.


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