Like yours, my heart is a library of loneliness, longing to be read, but most people come only to browse. All too often the real feelings go back on the shelf. Tim Hansel
One of Satan’s chief means of crippling us is to convince us that in our loneliness that we are truly alone. He convinces us that we are not simply without a mate, but without a friend, without help, and without God—forsaken. He whispers that whatever cries we utter rise into thin air and deaf ears, both human and divine. He tells us that people do not care and that God does not care; but it is not so.
Everything that has overtaken us is common to all humans. We all suffer loneliness. We all suffer rejection. We all harbor hope and are disappointed. This is true of the single, and it is true of the married, true under the limelight of success and the clouds of failure. We all know, to some degree, what it is to be misunderstood or ignored.
This does not mean that our sufferings are not individual, not unique; it means we do not suffer alone. I cannot know the ways you have been cut, or the bruises you bear, but I care. I could never truly “understand,” but I can share from love I have received. This is the truth we find in Scripture—we love because we have first been loved (1 John 4:19).
Each of us knows a particular sorrow, but we all know the pain of loneliness and the hurt of dreams deferred. We could resolve not to dream, but that is not wise. We could resolve not to feel, but that is not practical. By never speaking we could withdraw from the dangers of miscommunication, but that is not human. It seems so simple—no dreams no waking horrors, no feelings no hurt, no misunderstanding no discord. Isolation may be a natural answer, but it is spiritual suicide.
If we choose not to risk we lose, ever so subtly, the sharp edge of our faith. Over time we may become people whose lives are bland and dreamless. Over time, we may become the boring, safe people who squash the dreams of others by telling them they should be “realistic.” Over time, we may convince ourselves that we are the only unhappy souls in the world. We may even come to believe that a tasteless existence is really contentment. It is not. It is an anesthetized existence that falls short of living. It is a coma.
Self-deceit would rather ask nothing of God than wrestle with the answers He does or does not give. Isolation would rather resolve to need no one than risk failed relationships—even failed friendships. That is what it will come to if we never make peace with the loneliness. If the loneliness is suppressed, it may one day explode.
If ever we withdraw behind our carefully constructed barricades and, fearing disappointment, relinquish hope, we shut out wife, husband and all living things. That is the danger, numbness not only to the hopes and dreams we harbored in our youth, but numbness to all dreams and hopes that life naturally cultivates.
Years of loneliness can warp our thinking and sap our strength. In time, we may imagine that over each successive dune there is nothing more than sun, sand—and loneliness. So many of you have shared with me that you felt lonely and alone in your loneliness. You have been very kind in telling me that my honesty eased your loneliness. I want to tell you that you were never alone. Alone is what the desert makes us feel, but we are not alone.
Indeed, not only do I suffer the same trials, but also many of those you encounter weekly suffer in silence, as you suffer in silence. How do I know? They have written and told me—a stranger—what they were afraid to tell you. And you have written and told me—a stranger—what you were afraid to tell them. Perhaps some of you felt comfortable with me because I had opened my heart. You were put at ease because you need neither look me in the eye nor fear my rebuke. I have offered encouragement that you are not alone, but I want to add one last charge: break the silence! Open up and let someone in. And if someone speaks to you, listen between the lines for the pain that words cannot express.
Be a safe harbor for hurting hearts. Paul writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). You may find the comfort you have enjoyed here—in knowing my heart—closer than expected. Perhaps someone near you is waiting for you to break the silence and to live by honesty. It is the surest turn in our healing to understand that we are not alone, that we share a common sorrow, a common longing, which is not our own private nightmare.
Our Enemy’s greatest tool is to isolate us in our loneliness. He then attempts to convince us that every whisper and each laugh is about us—that we are diseased or damaged, and that everyone we meet knows it. But this is not true. He is a liar and the Father of Lies. There is no truth in him (John 8:44). Our greatest weapon is the faith we have been given in a God who loved us enough to rescue us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Our greatest weapon against the isolation is to first confess our love of God, and then admit our genuine longing to a living, breathing, person who can touch us and restore us in love.
Beware! Not everyone loves honesty. Those who have already given up hope will not want their memories stirred, nor want the embers stoked. They fear disappointment. I fear disappointment. For some, who have found peace in simple answers, the complexity of a real God who acts in ways we do not understand and cannot explain will be too much. But if ever the Christian community is to rise above the charge of “hypocrite,” we must come out of the shadows and honestly state that we are content, but not satisfied.
Here, I will start: “Hi. My name is Hudson and I am lonely.”
This article was first published Wednesday, June 18, 2008.