Light reading

Light reading

“Nothing ever happens the way we plan it, neither the monuments we build to our arrogance or the careful building of a single life; great civilisations are swept away in the flick of a mare’s tail and a life disappears in the blinking of a cat’s eye.”

I thought I might like to read a light-hearted novel by a familiar author after not reading anything recreationally for ages. Turns out that the book was neither light-hearted, nor a work of fiction. I always steer far from shows, movies, books or any “entertainment” that involve medical dramas. Life produces enough all on its own. So I wouldn’t have bought this years ago at the second-hand book sale if the blurb was any less vague. As it is, serendipitously, I discovered this delightful book on suffering and dying tucked away in my backpack. Originally intended as light reading for the ride.

“I stood outside in the courtyard; above me the midnight stars shone – not many – Rozelle is too close to the city lights for the stars to burn through. There were only a few, a few mangey stars in a dark heaven in which I was certain no God lived whom I knew or cared about.” – Bryce Courtney

In fact for me, the sky was pitch black, as was everything else through those windows. Yet no matter how hard I searched for stars, I could only count one, or at most two in that vast expanse. I don’t hold the same certainty as the author in his claims about God, but I can feel the sense of forsakenness, the anger. Stage two in the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief? Wow we’re moving fast… and I can feel my sarcasm growing.

Annoyed and a bit amused

I feel angry towards everyone else too from the smug self-assured doctors and nervous medical students on their rounds, to visitors who say eating this and avoiding that prevents cancer (as if it matters now), to friends who want to give their hypothesis about what happened (especially in suggesting a link to sin), to stories of miraculous recoveries in patients who willed it or prayed enough (what about commonplace people who don’t recover?), to crazy relatives who want us to move intercontinentally for care and specifically want to address me because YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER as a medical professional. I know everyone cares and worries. I’ve read about bystanders having these sorts of responses and a friend whose younger brother died unexpectedly some years ago warned me that people like to say things to make themselves feel better. But I find it hard to believe, and mildly amusing even, that it happens in real life. What you’re essentially telling us (or yourself?) is that with just the right combination of physical and spiritual prevention, just the right frame of mind, just the right doctors and treatment, we can avert illness and death altogether. Hope is good but I have an aversion to pleasant untruths.

If you had been here

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died… Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” – John 11:21, 32

I know, intellectually at least, there is more to the story of Lazarus. That Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. That Martha has faith. That Jesus weeps. That Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life” and confirms this with raising Lazarus from the dead. But all I can hear is the reproach in each sister’s voice.



  1. Dear Quackling,

    Greetings to you in the Blessed Name of our Lord and Saviour, the God who is with us in and through every season of the soul. A few things lie heavily on me as I explored the entries in your blog over the past year or so, and read your most recent pieces of writings at the turn of the year. It has been my own experience of the darker seasons of the soul some time in the later part of the year as well, that drew my attention to what you may be experiencing. But it is not my part to speak lightly of this or to you at heart, for a matter so deeply personal and intense that you have chosen to share with your readers, for we are neither your Shepherd nor the Guardian of your Soul.

    It is of my personal experience that it is doubtful that a man or woman can be so deeply blessed by God until He has so wounded him or her, and it is my personal prayer that in the wounding of your soul as you go through this dark and lonely path, that he will be able to pour forth his love and show you the depths to which he truly cares about your every need and will walk with you through whatever may come your way. To discover the darker seasons of the soul so late in life and yet earlier than most is a great triumph, for then till when we walk through death’s dark vale and see Him face to face, will the delight and ecstasy of knowing Him who loved us and first loved us so, cause the consummation of the soul in its return to her maker to be made all the more sweet and tender in the richest blessing that any person can impossibly conceive in the heart or dream of in the finite nature of the human mind.

    There is no greater loneliness of the human soul to know that there is a God who loves and cares and that His blessing to us at Calvary means that like Him, we will have to bear the burden of the cross and the pain, shame, and humiliation like he did, without any one in the world being able to identify with us. The road of the cross, or the via dolorosa as they call it in Latin is the solitary path by which Christ walked and all who follow after Him must follow after if they would find themselves able to reach the heights of victory at our journey’s end. Many pilgrims know the way to the cross, but find that they lose heart once they discover what the grim reality of living out its truth in everyday life must entail in order to encounter the divine. I do not assume myself to be a mystic of the cross, which many may think me to be on reading these lines. I am merely one who chooses to follow after Christ and in my pursuit, it is my hope that there shall be some light with which to burn within the paragraphs of my words that all who read may kindle their hearts at my flame.

    It is through my own personal experience of suffering and pain with the acquaintance of the darker tones in life that has entered my soul that has taught me that we can seek joy through pain and trace the rainbow through the rain even when there seems to be no letting up with the grey skies and the sun does not quite seem to break through. When the skies grow dark, there will always be stars to be seen only and when we allow them to shine through to pierce our eyes and eliminate the darkness that is within us.

    The Lord bless you and keep you, and cause His face to shine upon you now until we meet again.
    Your Fellow Christian Pilgrim.


    1. Grateful for you taking the time to write words of encouragement and for sharing your recent personal experiences in your walk with God. As you’ve correctly identified, dark times are also incredibly lonely times. Your words remind me so much of the fellowship, the dialogues, between Christian and his companions (such as Faithful) in Pilgrim’s Progress… which I was half reading before all this but don’t have the concentration to finish now… Thanks again YY.


  2. […] faithful, good, just, merciful, gracious, loving, holy, and sovereign. Yet I live as if such a God doesn’t care or exist. Instead, it’s as if I’m trying to attain nirvana. If not the Buddhist kind of […]


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