I didn’t expect the loneliness.
When the world shut down and people drew sides, when wars raged at home and halfway across the world, I didn’t expect the unrelenting losses to simultaneously deliver a deeper layer of loneliness.
Normally, I’m not someone who needs a lot of time or conversation with friends. It’s true that I love people and enjoy being with people — but in small groups and small increments, allowing for plenty of solitude in between. The older I get, the more I need silence, wide-open and unscheduled spaces to be present with my own thoughts. Perhaps this is merely a result of the fact that I don’t get much of it. With six kids, the majority of whom need a lot of attention and constant conversation, moments of solitude and quiet are rare. Thus my love of and need for both.
Still, the loneliness came, even for someone like me. And the weight of it crushed. This surprised me, in both its presence and intensity. What exactly was I lonely for? Was it loneliness for companionship? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I didn’t feel a need to call up a friend or meet someone for coffee. I wasn’t likely to host a dinner party or join a neighborhood bunco group. And heaven knows I had more than enough Zoom meetings.
The loneliness wasn’t so much for companionship as it was for comfort. In this season of protracted suffering, first one year and then two going on three, relief remains consistently out of reach. About the time we think things might get better, another gut punch. More losses, more insecurity, more unknowns. Over and over again, we’ve picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and tried to muscle our way through, only to have the circumstantial rug pulled out from beneath us again.
The result? Suffering. Grief. And, yes, loneliness.
Do you feel it, too?
Regardless of the source, suffering creates an otherness, even when we are all suffering together. Pain — whether emotional, physical, or spiritual — acts as a prison, isolating and eclipsing. It convinces us we are alone in our grief, separated by our pain. And the resulting loneliness only adds to the weight of our suffering.
David understood this, I think. Thus the reason he poured out his lament before his God:
My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Psalm 25:15-17 (NIV)
“I am lonely and afflicted . . . ” he said. This great king of Israel, this warrior who mightily took down giants and fought vast armies in the name of His God, dared to publicly admit his loneliness.
Perhaps that is the secret. Because in David’s courage, I find a little of my own. And perhaps that is what God has wanted for us all along — to share in our collective loneliness and, thus, find relief in it.
Today, I cannot solve your pain or cure your suffering. I can do nothing to change your circumstances or ease your losses. But this is what you and I can do: We can create a small fellowship of shared grief, a place where we’re safe to admit our loneliness and need right here, in the presence of each other and the Father who loves us all. We can choose to see each other, as we are, and allow a little space in this corner of the internet to not be alone in it.
I’ll go first.
I’m tired, friends. This life I’m living often requires more strength than I have left to give. It is hard, and some days I want to quit. Even worse, the weariness of it all sometimes leaves me drowning in loneliness.
How about you? Will you join me here? Will you add your voice to mine, so we can cry out to our one, true Refuge together?
Come, Lord Jesus. Our eyes are ever on You, for only You can free us from our anguish.