When I feel alone
Solitude is good. Loneliness is bad. It is good to learn how to be alone, to be at peace with ourselves and with God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” There is a gift in solitude where we learn to face up to ourselves - and helps us be better friends to others.
Loneliness is another matter because it feels as though I do not matter. I am not enfolded in a family or a group of friends. There is no one to whom I am special. Or so it seems.
Perhaps I need to get out and make some friends - join a group of people who share my interest in films or golf or art of music or dancing. A mutual interest is a good basis for a mutual friendship.
But friends can be fickle. Not all friendships go deep enough to meet the deeper needs to be loved.
A wise friend once pointed out that we often look to each other for what we can receive only from God; and we look to God for what we can receive only from each other.
As Jesus approached his final days he anticipated the failure of his friends, as they would be scattered far and wide. Looking ahead to that time of loneliness he makes an astonishing claim: “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
Perhaps his times of solitude with Father prepared him to cope with the time of loneliness. When we spend time alone with God, we develop an inner “cell” where we meet with God. It is a portable cell. We can enter it at any moment of the day or night - “alone, yet not alone, for the Father is with me”.
“Make us aware, dear God,
of the eye that beholds us
the hand that holds us
the heart than loves us
and the Presence that enfolds us.”
[from Prayer Rhythms for Busy People by Ray Simpson]
Words of comfort
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I lift up my eyes to the hills - Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, The Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you - The Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Saviour and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
WHERE ARE YOU LORD?
Lord show me where You are.
All around me is unclear, shrouded in uncertainly. Fears assault me and hope seems fleeting.
I need to see Your face more urgently than before. I need to feel Your touch, to hear Your voice, to know Your Presence Lord.
Where are You Lord? I’m disoriented, and can’t focus on You.
But this I know - You are faithful. Unchanging, constant, loving. You have promised never to leave me or forsake me.
You are my heavenly Father - and I am Your beloved child.
When all is stripped away, when all is unclear, when all seems out of control, I am safe in Your arms. I can rest. You are Sovereign and I will trust You.
Here I will stay.
SONG IN THE NIGHT
When our souls are downcast,
Restless and wrestling with questions “Why” and “Where are you?”
May we hear the deep notes,
When tears are our food day and night,
Then in those times, as in no other,
May we hear the deepest notes of hope,
Which tumbles from the mountain heights,
Down the course of the waterfalls,
Across the lazy plains
Through the breakers
To the depths of the sea.
As praise, in loss, begins again its cautious refrain,
For then we will find that these notes were never silent,
That your song has always been with us,
Throughout the night.