I feel lonely today. Do you? I know I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by people who love me and would jump to my rescue if I told them I was in need. More than that, I know my Savior never leaves me nor forsakes me.
But I feel lonely and I can’t shake it. Like mixing one part depression with two parts weariness and heartache, a pinch or two of memories thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure I can explain it accurately; I just feel it. I’m sure you know what it’s like.
The strange thing is this: as lonely as I feel, I’m craving being alone. I dream of a tropical beach where I rest free from responsibility. Well, this week, anyway. Next week I’ll wish for an alpine lake. Any body of water will do if I can have some extended moments of quiet freedom and a fishing pole. It’s a nice dream. But weighty responsibilities call and my conscience won’t let me flee.
I find loneliness to be very confusing. What is this feeling, this sense that I’m walking the path by myself when I’m not? Why do I sense I can’t talk to others when I know I can? Why don’t I want to? Am I just masking self-pity? Or have I been bitten too many times by well-meaning comforters? Do I cringe at the thought of unloading again on an unsuspecting friend, bringing them down with my woes? Am I pouting? I hope not! But why do I feel guilty for feeling this way?
It’s all very confusing. And common. Oh so common. I’ve listened in the counseling room and the Family Retreat small group and the prayer meeting and the one-on-one conversation. Anyone struggling with a disability or serving as a caregiver will agree: sometimes we just feel lonely.
I take comfort from knowing Jesus experienced loneliness. In the wilderness, in the crowds of clueless people, in the garden as He prayed, in the courts, on the cross, in varying degrees and in different seasons, he knew loneliness. He willfully endured everything it meant to be human—yet without sin!—so we could eternally enjoy his presence as the result of his saving work. That meant he endured seasons, perhaps extended seasons, of loneliness. I long for a beach. He longed for uninterrupted time with his Father away from the needy crowds and arguing disciples. He knows the ache in precise detail.
Loneliness whispers in my ear: no one shares your experience, no one walks with you, no one carries your load. You are uncommon, and thus alone.
Jesus shatters that lie by reminding me how common is my loneliness; I am not unique. My Lord has gone before me in it and walks with me through it now. He frees me from the necessity of defining it clearly. If I ever do eliminate all confusion from the emotion, boil it down to its root ingredients and slap a stark label on it, I find that Jesus has already been there, knows my experience in gut-wrenching detail, and now serves as my faithful High Priest before the throne.
Sure, there are specific promises I can remember that might help me get over the feeling of being alone. But right now it is enough to thank God it’s not an uncommon feeling. Loneliness actually points me to my sole—and sometime lonely—Savior. Anything that identifies me with him and him with me is sure to quiet my inner strivings better than any beach or alpine lake.
Next time you “feel so alone right now,” don’t be so quick to ditch that feeling. Swim in it for a while. You’re treading waters through which your Savior has already passed.
James Achilles is a worship leader, music educator, speaker and writer living in northern California. With his wife Deanna he provides care for their 27 year-old daughter who suffers from Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T). James is a member of the Dads Band Project and blogs at www.achilleshealed.com.