Last night I bid farewell to friends and made sure to check the lock as I closed the door behind them. In a matter of seconds, my apartment transformed from a cozy respite warm with laughter and piano music back into a plain living room with empty tea cups scattered about. I unceremoniously put the dishes in the sink and turned off the lights.
Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last. But in a world ridden with change and uncertainty, I suddenly found the weight of my solitude crushing. Even though this week prompted abundant meditation on the of grace of God in my life, my empty home reminded me yet again that being a follower of Christ does not make me exempt from loneliness.
One of my church members noted, “Many of us, by choice or circumstances or some odd blend of both, are facing a particularly poignant season of solitude.” Do you feel it?
As believers and unbelievers around the world prepare for the upcoming holiday season, there seems to be a unique heaviness resting on us all. For some, the reality that familiar faces will be missing from across the table this year has already brought tears. Others will work tirelessly away from their families to help patients on the brink of death. The more pensive among us feel the familiar, isolating melancholy that settles in every time Christmas lights start glistening.
The Lord sees and cares about the various trials we endure. More than that, he ordains them so the testing of our faith may produce steadfastness. Though we may not understand the purpose of these trials, we are promised by our good God that when steadfastness has its full effect, we will be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). This promise does not mean our struggles will be easy.
Are you enduring the trial of loneliness?
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer expresses why “the physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer”:
The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy. They receive each other’s benedictions as the benediction of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you lack this kind of companionship, I implore you not to put on a smile and manufacture cheap happiness. Instead, dwell with the church as you are able and do not give up on connection with the Church if you are not able. Seek to bring the comfort of the gospel to the widow, the orphan, the sick, the refugee. Look to God’s Word to find language of lament. Search the Scriptures and read the praises of people who trusted the promises of God even through confusion and isolation.
I assure you, we can weep over the brokenness of loneliness without cheapening the sweetness of the presence of the Holy Spirit or the work of Christ to reconcile us to the Father.
God in His kindness made a way for us to have relationship with Himself, but He also designed us for relationship with each other. May we pray for and cherish this gift, giving it to others as God allows. And, regardless of our circumstances or feelings, may we cherish the truth that we will soon enough enjoy a glorious eternity of ceaseless communion with the King of Creation alongside brothers and sisters also singing His praise.