For some reason a common theme surfaces early in the morning when I am able to sit a while and mediatate on the goodness and mercy of the Lord in my life. Relishing His presence, I long for deeper and more meaningful time with Him. As the sun rises and the birds begin their chorus, the stillness of the moment hangs in the balance. Soon life will begin and chaos will likely storm into the moment. Chaos refuses to carry a pattern. Any disruption to solitude can be chaos. Even pleasant disruptions break the calm, and in an instant, chaos, whether managed chaos, organized chaos, or hot mess chaos forces the quiet away until another time. The calm hides while the chaos hurries in, and the common theme hunts for a bridge between the two. Folks I hear from feel it. Articles are being written about it. COVID 19 has made the subject even more popular. Some seek help, and others send messages. Some choose to avoid the feeling with substance or suicide. Both are happening in greater numbers lately. The emotional pandemic fights against discrimination and affects families and individuals from all walks of life. Economic status? No discrimination. Race? No discrimination? Religious background? None here either. Christ follower or not? Nope, the pandemic doesn’t discriminate even at that deepest level.
Loneliness invades our being and does things to our emotions and bodies that even the best psychologists are still trying to understand. While scientists work to understand the various effects of a virus, loneliness travels deeper and deeper into our core and wins battle after battle in a world where many are forced by fear or caution or sickness or compassion to be alone. The lonely know a secret about the virus. Loneliness can be asymptomatic at times. In a crowded grocery store, a jammed theme park, a full worship gathering, a classroom, or a senior prom people are infected without others knowing it. Loneliness doesn’t pass from person to person in the same form it holds within us. Usually loneliness passes to others as anger, bitterness, harshness, aloofness, shyness, quietness, or any other “ness” you can think of. Loneliness remains, often, undiagnosed because it is so well disguised.
Reba McEntire (you knew she had to surface again at some point, right?) sings a song with this lyric, “If I have to be lonely, I’d rather be lonely alone.” Most who suffer from this emotional weight agree with her statement. Being lonely in a crowd intensifies the pain. Better to be alone and have a reason for the feeling than surrounded by activity and beat yourself up about why you can’t seem to enjoy the moment, right?
During my time with the Lord this morning, I was reading one of Max Lucado’s books, Traveling Light. As he always does, he brought Psalm 23 to life. One part in particular he focused on was “for you are with me.” That’s when he talked about loneliness, and the Lord reminded me that as a Christ follower I am never really alone. Perhaps I feel alone. Maybe physically I am alone. With the Holy Spirit, though, I am never really alone. Now that truth doesn’t always make everything okay. Don’t be tricked into more shame for not being able to “snap out of it” just because some author reminds you of God’s presence. Likely, you already knew in your mind that God is always with His children. What we know in our minds does not always connect with what we feel in our souls. What the truth does, however, is point us to a raft. Perhaps it’s a tiny, poorly built raft, but the raft floats. It’s a little far on the ocean of our pain, but if we can just draw from His strength for a moment perhaps we can get to the raft. Give it a try. Breathe deep and make some movement. It can be like treading water at first. If that is all you can muster, then tread like never before. Treading will keep your head above water. Now begin to move forward. No need to go too fast. We aren’t swimming in the Olympics here. We are just swimming to survive. Once you get to the raft, hold on. No need to climb yet. Baby steps. Now climb on. The raft reminds me of the cross. Jesus gave His life on a rugged (not so tiny and unfortunately very well built) cross so we could have something to see in the middle of our loneliness that could bring us hope. Where will the raft take us? Likely somewhere different for each of us, so at this point the blog becomes yours. How does your story continue? Maybe take a minute and journal some thoughts about your loneliness, your raft, and the rest of your journey.
I’m on my raft. I see some others. Paddling along moving somewhere. Anywhere. Do you see others? Alone, but also together. Working to get to the arms of Jesus and suddenly realizing that we aren’t the ones paddling the raft. His arms are doing the work for us. Be encouraged today.