But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him.
Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm… At the first hearing of my case no-one came into court to support me: they all left me in the lurch … But the Lord stood by me and lent me strength… And the Lord did rescue me from every attempt to do me harm, and keep me safe until his heavenly reign begins. Glory to him, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Luke 5: 16, NIV; Psalm 25: 16, NIV; Song of Songs 3: 1-2, NIV; 2 Timothy 4: 14, 16-18, NEB)
Loneliness is a normal experience for most of us. It invades our lives in a variety of forms. In grief, as well as separation from loved ones, we encounter emotional loneliness. In frictions at work, at church, with family and with peers we find we are temporarily socially alone. Through such despair comes spiritual desolation as pain and shock replaces the presence of God.
The loneliness that produces a lasting hurt is not usually that which flows as a natural consequence of our age of mobility, nor is it the desertedness that surfaces because of the spirits of independence and competitiveness that surround us. It is the aloneness that results from human frailty as people, through their words and actions or lack of them, wound themselves and each other.
Loneliness can produce aggression, hatred or low selfesteem. However, it need not be altogether negative; it may be an opportunity to assess our lives and to address the origin of our anguish. It is also a time to draw close to Jesus; to rediscover him as a friend, not just in programmed religious activity, but in everyday life; to take him into the mundane, the workplace, sport, the car, chores and our inactivity.
In loneliness we are reminded that Jesus is Immanuel, God-with-us. It can have a touch of the sacred.
Yes, a good life, alone but not lonely. Not with Christ near. And sometimes the sacred seems all around me.
Sheldon Vanauken, Under the Mercy
The priest looked at her sharply. ‘You can offer idleness to God,’ he said. ‘Unemployment, idleness, whatever. To do nothing in someone’s presence is a greater compliment than being busy and preoccupied.’
Gail Morgan, Promise of Rain
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play more. I would ride on more merry-go-rounds. I’d pick more daisies.
He lays no great burden upon us — a little remembrance of him from time to time, a .little adoration; sometimes to pray for his grace, sometimes to offer him your sorrows, sometimes to return him thanks for the benefits he has bestowed upon you and is still bestowing in the midst of your troubles. He asks you to console yourself with him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to him even at your meals, or when you are in company — the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to him. You need not cry very loud: he is nearer to us than we think. To be with God, there is no need to be continually in church.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Fellowship with Christ is a table only for two — set in the wilderness. Inwardness is not a gaudy party, but the meeting of lovers in the lonely desert of the human heart. There, where all life and fellowship can hold no more than two, we sit together and he speaks as much as we, and even when both of us say nothing there is our welded oneness. And suddenly we see we cannot be complete until his perfect presence joins with ours.
Calvin Miller, The Table of Inwardness
When Jesus is present, all is well, and nothing seems difficult; but when Jesus is absent, everything is hard.
Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
Consider this question: In view of God’s infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would his love to a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove him most loving? There is only one possible answer: himself! If he withholds him self from our contemplation and companionship, no matter what else he gives us, he is not loving.
John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
But of course the only perfect answer to the problem (loneliness) is a spiritual one, and consists in the presence of God himself, known and enjoyed by faith. There was an ancient Latin motto which said, ‘Solvitus ambulando’ (‘It is solved by walking’). The Christian would acid two words, ‘Cum Deo’ (‘with God’).
John Eddisdon, The Troubled Mind
To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. This requires not only courage but also a strong faith. As hard as it is to believe that the dry desolate desert can yield endless varieties of flowers, it is equally hard to imagine that our loneliness is hiding unknown beauty. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless sense to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.
Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with some difficulty I thank you for my experiences of loneliness. Lord, in them I learn so much about myself, others and your eternal friendship. Help me in such times to forgive those, including myself, who may have caused my sense of aloneness. Allow me in these moments to knew you in the basic areas of my life. May your peace touch all who are alone today and may I have a ministry to them through prayer, presence and deed.
I don’t need to climb another mountain Set my sail across the seven seas The paradise that I was always looking for Was found when you loved me.
And now my greatest joy is loving you
The hope that I lost was found and made anew Now my lonely days are fin’ly through I have found my life in loving you.
Scott Wesley Brown in the song, My Treasure
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Psalm 25: 1-2a, NIV
Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion, chapter 20