I remember that one very difficult period of loneliness in my life came as I was graduating seminary and transitioning into the work world. I had grown really close to a small group of friends in my program after spending three years together. We became like a little family. As graduation came near, I remember a familiar voice rising up in me: “Here we go again, another goodbye to people I care about; another transition; another time having to start all over again.” Admittedly, I had a bit of self-pity thinking about other painful experiences of my past, but I was dreading what I knew was the close of a significant chapter in my life. After graduation, our friend group dispersed and the dynamics of our relationships inevitably changed.
In the loneliness that followed, God met me through a loving rebuke while reading the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer describes community as the “roses and lilies” of the Christian life, a gift from God that he bestows in accordance with his wisdom and providential care for us. This gift may vary in different seasons of our lives, but we must remember that all relationships with other believers are nothing less than a gift of grace from the hand of a loving and sovereign God.
This began a shift in me from discontentment and sadness to gratitude for the gift of community he had given to me and a realization that God was drawing me closer to himself in this time.
I wonder what your struggle with loneliness looks like. 2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. The year of social distancing: stay at home orders, Zoom meetings, online church services, and extended periods of time away from those you love. Perhaps you struggled with loneliness long before COVID, and now the feelings have only intensified by these circumstances.
One of the most challenging aspects of loneliness is feeling like you don’t have anyone to share in the things you experience from day to day. No one truly “gets” you; even if you are regularly with others, you still feel isolated and alone.
Christ was no stranger to this experience. In Matthew 26:36-46, we find Jesus in Gethsemane going off to pray during one of his darkest hours. After crying out to God in his sorrow concerning the pain he is to endure, he returns to his disciples only to find them sleeping in his greatest time of need. This doesn’t happen just once, but three times! Jesus was alone on the road to endure the cross on our behalf.
Will you cry out and invite him into your loneliness today? Although we are not guaranteed our ideal relationships or freedom from the pain of loneliness in this life, we are promised the intimate presence of God with us today and the future hope that he will one day bring us home. My prayer is that you would know God’s intimate care for you today.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8:26-28
Citylight Resident Counselor