When there is nothing
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
— lines from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling
Over 200 posts ago, on my second-ever post on this blog, I quoted a different part of the poem from which I drew the lines above. Tonight as I write this, not quite two weeks from the day it will be published, this verse has been on my mind for days.
To many people, I suppose the lines suggest a physical or even athletic contest, or the grueling exhaustion that sometimes overtakes soldiers, sailors, laborers or others who are pressed beyond normal endurance. But for some, including me, the will to hold on is most crucial when we are drowning in sorrow or overwhelmed by sadness; when we feel alone, isolated or afraid. At such times, it seems hypocritical to wear a smiley face and laugh through tears. There are times when acknowledging our broken spirits can help us to hold on when all other sources of support are absent or inadequate.
Thousands of years ago an inspired poet wrote, in lines that are still spoken and sung today,
“…there is…a time to weep and a time to laugh.” As important as it is to choose optimism and good cheer, we must not deny or obscure the burdens of grief that each of us must bear, however unevenly the weight of such sorrow may be distributed among us. One of the most beautiful and healing things a true friend can do for us is to cry with us, saying nothing profound or inspiring, simply sharing our sorrow.
If you are burdened with a heavy heart as you read this, I hope you will feel less alone to realize that so many of us have been, will be, or are now in places quite similar. Even if there is nothing left in you except the will to hold on, I pray that you will be able to endure; to pass beyond the dark night of your soul and find joy in the morning.