From the fear of being lonely
There’s the loneliness that arises on a quiet, unscheduled Friday night while scrolling through a Facebook feed of happy faces with fulfilling friendships and full social calendars.
There’s the loneliness of the unmarried, wondering if that life companion will ever come.
There’s the loneliness of the mother of young children who stays at home, aching for community but with little time or energy to find it or build it.
There’s the loneliness of the newcomer with nary a familiar face to turn to, with little but nostalgia for the place where she was seen and known.
There’s the loneliness of the homeless man who sits on the city corner, surrounded by busy passersby, too shortsighted or preoccupied or afraid to even look him in the eye.
There’s the loneliness bred from selfishness, from obstinately guarding our time and saying no to opportunities to serve, to encounter our neighbor.
And then there’s the unreachable loneliness of the human heart, aching for its Maker and its eternal home.
From the fear of being lonely, Audrey Assad sings, Deliver me, O God.
What a prayer to pray! We ask God to deliver us from the fear of being lonely. But isn’t loneliness something to be feared? Aren’t we made for relationship, for community, for communion? Didn’t God Himself say, It is not good for man to be alone? Yes, we are, and yes, He did. But there’s a beautiful truth at work here.
I’ve experienced my fair share of loneliness. I’m sure we all have. And it’s a marvel to examine. I find that there’s the loneliness of situation, one that can be remedied by closing Facebook and getting off the couch. By making ourselves available, even radically, to new friends and new chances to know and be known, to love and be loved. And if it can’t be remedied, or least not easily? I understand that, having quietly suffered through a year largely of loneliness and desolation. It was just a season. A long and painful one at that, but oh so fruitful. Not to be feared in the least.
That’s not to say I’m immune to the fear. I pray that God never allows such a season again, but it’s very possible He will. But having reached the other side, I see how He was preparing me for the utter joy of a new home, new depth of friendships, new ways to lead and take initiative and build the community I was so desirously craving. He allowed a human, external loneliness to point me to a much greater truth.
There’s the loneliness of situation, and then there’s that aching, unreachable loneliness of the human heart. A soul-deep loneliness, untouchable by any comforts of this world. That’s a loneliness I hope to experience always this side of heaven. Not only do I want to be free from fear of it, but I want to lean into it. I want to taste that ache for eternity, to come against the limitations of human relationships, to long to be fully seen and known and loved.
It’s not to say I unquestioningly embrace this truth. I am broken, insecure, weak. And sometimes, my fragile heart recoils at the prospect of such deep loneliness. But then I point that fragile heart of mine to its Maker and caretaker and ultimate satisfaction, and there is nothing left to fear. He delivers me indeed.