I’ve been putting off this blog for quite a while, because no one in their right mind wants to admit that they’re lonely. Being lonely feels like the ultimate shame. Loneliness feels pathetic. Even that dorky kid has his dorky friends to hang out with, and yet I’m here playing solitaire in my sweat pants on my Friday night. Loneliness seems to strip away our significance. We can be pathetic with others and it’s not as bad. But without relationships, we start to wonder, who am I without him? Without her? Without those people to sign off a seal of approval?
They call this the “friendless generation”. Even though we are in a world with a plethora of social media telling us who our “friends” are, when it comes down to people who you can count on, people who would fight for you, or people with whom you can share the deep things, the number dwindles dramatically. I’ve even heard someone say that people of today are lucky to have even one truly authentic friend.
Relationships are so central to the purpose of life that without meaningful ones, your sense of purpose slips away. What is success, what is money, what is anything without relationships? I could take the perfect vacation to Iceland that I’ve always dreamed of, but without someone to share it with, the sights would lose their value.
Loneliness is not always conditional.
It doesn’t only happen when you don’t have a friend in the world. We can easily feel lonely in a crowded room. You can have a great conversation with someone over coffee, but as soon as you get in the car to drive back home, it sinks in again. Plenty of people can care about you, but sometimes that’s not enough to change the loneliness you feel.
So, I suppose it makes sense that I was in the middle of a crowded church service, sitting amongst tons of people and talking to no one, that God teaches me a loneliness lesson. The pastor was talking about David and Goliath, one of my all time favorites. David’s the runt of the litter, his best friends are sheep, and he is just trying to bring his bros some sandwiches when they shoo him away! I’m willing to bet he felt like a lonely guy.
But David knew something about communing with God. In Psalm 23, David says to God, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Well, loneliness can feel deathly to me sometimes, so I just subbed out death for loneliness there in church. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of loneliness…” But whatever the struggle, the important part is the last few words.
You are with me.
Such a beautiful phrase. When I don’t have a soul in the world, when I am completely and utterly alone, God is with me. He is with me in the night, in the day, and in every moment.
And it’s ironic how much I ignore that reality. I run and find my worth in people. I mark my significance by how many events I’m invited to. The less I feel pursued by people, the less I feel like a person worth pursuing. And though I’m an introvert who does alone time really well, I’m still terrified at the idea of being alone. Of moving somewhere new alone. Of reaching a certain age and still not having a husband. I don’t even like going to restaurants alone.
But then I felt God say, “Be alone with me. It’s the cure for your loneliness.”
Well, God, you got me. The irony level just went way up. Be alone… to stop being lonely? That makes so much sense.
But David was alone with God. Even though people could look at him and think all he had were sheep BFFs, he was hanging out with God.
When we are alone with God, He speaks to us about our significance. He tells us we are worth it. He pursues us relentlessly. He is never too busy. He never gets bored with us. He never shames us. He is the perfect friend to satisfy our need for connection. He is the chieftain of relationships, and he will never break up with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of loneliness, I will fear no lack of significance nor worth, no abandonment nor condemnation, no stand-up dates nor distracted attention, no indifference nor toleration… for You are with me.”
Be alone. Cure loneliness.