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Sneaking a Peek at Sense & Sensibility Entry 23

People: Elinor

Text: Elinor suffered alone. She chose to suffer alone with this information, partly because it was given her in confidence and partly because she did not want her mother or sisters to suffer with the knowledge that Edward had been deceitful in his behavior towards her.

               She had plenty of time to feel the pain, adjust her emotions and behavior, and regain control of herself before she was required to meet Lucy Steele again. Days of bad weather kept the residents of the Park away from the residents of the Cottage. Elinor appreciated this break to ponder her many questions.

               Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might once have been, she could not believe it such at present. His affection was all her own. She could not be deceived in that. Her mother, sisters, Fanny, all had been conscious of his regard for her at Norland; it was not an illusion of her own vanity. He certainly loved her. What a softener of the heart was this persuasion!

               The necessity of concealing from her mother and Marianne, what had been entrusted in confidence to herself, was no aggravation of Elinor’s distress. On the contrary, it was a relief to her. From their counsel, or their conversation she knew she could receive no assistance; their tenderness and sorrow must add to her distress, while her self-command would neither receive encouragement from their example nor from their praise.

Emotion: despair

Insight: Psalm 25: 16-17 is a prayer to uplift Elinor, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.”

               Poor Elinor! She not only had to bear the distress of learning that the man that she loved was linked by engagement to another woman, but also, she had no one to share this revelation with. She had promised to not disclose this secret of Lucy with anyone else. But she also saw how much pain that this information would cause her immediate family. Her mother and sisters loved Edward, and she would not want them to think poorly of him.

               Just because Elinor was alone with her thoughts did not mean that she was completely alone in her process of dealing with the pain of disappointment. The psalmist reminds us that in times of loneliness and affliction the wounded heart can turn to God for help and comfort. Another passage states that God is a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” God knows pain. And He can be a Companion in our suffering if we turn to Him for help. May we admire Elinor’s strength, but always remember that we don’t truly need to suffer alone. We can turn to the comfort of the God Who understands loneliness, affliction, and distress.

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