Daily I pray from the Book of Common Prayer, “Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten; nor the hope of the poor be taken away” (98); yet I fear that I myself forget the needy; I myself allow the hope of the poor to be taken away. Jesus’ half-brother James asks me, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15-16 NRSV) How many “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill” messages have I delivered? How many posts on this site carry the same notion without speaking those exact words?
Are you lonely? The Bible has much to say to us lonely people. You and I are not the only ones of God’s creatures who experience loneliness, either. King David pleaded with the Lord, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps. 25:16 NRSV). A songwriter, a Psalmist, sang this to the Lord, “I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop” (Ps. 102:7 NRSV). Jesus, though left alone when others forsook Him, said that He was notreally alone because the Father was with Him (John 16:32). Yet on the cross they heard Him cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 NRSV) The lonely Son of God felt deserted, all by Himself, as heaven was eerily silent.
What do you do when loneliness seems to shroud and choke you? Sometimes I tend to merely endure it, meaning, I do not do anything to avert the loneliness. Other times I will try to contact a friend or have a conversation with my parents. I have been known to watch a movie or TV — just some sound in the room in order to not feel the emptiness of loneliness. Successful coping with loneliness is in recognizing not only its dangers (link) but what it is by nature. Loneliness is a negative feeling or emotion which may stem from a deficiency in proper relationships. Feelings and emotions can be irrational at times; a person may feel lonely, for instance, yet be surrounded by many people. Quality, not quantity, makes the difference — that is, quality relationships.
For example, some people walk through shopping malls during the Christmas season because they feel lonely. They are surrounded by many people but they are still alone and they still feel lonely. When they leave the mall they leave with the same feeling of loneliness. Loneliness is a feeling, a state of mind, rather than merely the reality of the absence of people. What can we do to combat loneliness? Well, escaping the feeling of loneliness may be different for each individual. We are each unique persons, so there is no one, universal answer that works for all people in general. Some suggestions do come to mind, though:
- Being involved in conversation and relationship with others
- Serving others in need
- Taking a drive or a walk with someone
- Prayer, both group and solitary prayer
- Bible study, both group and solitary Bible study
- Finding a support group
- Reading a book
- Working on a project (most of us are purpose-driven or inspired)
- Playing an instrument / singing
- Crossword puzzles
I will admit this, however: loneliness is not always negative — at least, it does not have to be.
Psych Central quotes the late spiritual writer Henri Nouwen:
"When you experience the deep pain of loneliness, it is understandable that your thoughts go out to the person who was able to take that loneliness away, even if only for a moment. When you feel a huge absence that makes everything look useless, your heart wants only one thing — to be with the person who once was able to dispel these frightful emotions. But it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away.
It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for healing." (link)
We need solitude at times. We need a quiet place to be alone with ourselves, to be quiet within ourselves, and to think about and be grateful for the Lord’s goodness in our lives. Certainly there is at least one reality for which we can be thankful. But when the feeling of loneliness becomes chronic and debilitating, or a source of deep depression, then it needs to be confronted, analyzed, and seized. Either we will control our loneliness or our loneliness will control us.
The Bible encourages us: “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). We can let the Lord know through prayer that we are lonely. He already knows. He merely encourages us to acknowledge our loneliness to Him, recognizing our dependence upon Him, and He will come to our rescue and be our Comforter. Often He will also use the comfort of a friend or relative. (I encourage you to read the following post by Dale Wayman called Resisting Temptation.)
May we not dismiss even the slightest hint of remedying loneliness. Let us pray for discipline, guidance, and discernment. “Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer, 250)
This post was written by William Birch. for the original post, go to: http://thearminian.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/loneliness-during-christmas/