Is it possible to believe God, Immanuel, is with us and yet feel lonely? Yes. This year I’ve experienced that reality. Recently I’ve taken time to dive deeper into this juxtaposition.
I picked up Max Lucado’s book, You Are Never Alone, searching for insights that can pull me out of those times when loneliness surrounds, stealing my ability to consider options about another way to feel and how to get myself there.
As reading one of Max’s books so often does, I receive a fresh insight about on old truth. This time the story comes from John 5. Perhaps you remember it.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Both Jesus’ question and his instruction grab my attention. And I wonder if loneliness has a parallel to paralysis. Both can keep us from moving.
So I pause to ask myself the same question: “Do I want to get well?” Then I probe further:
What am I missing? People? Purpose? Value? Hope?
When does this feeling most often happen?
What would it look like to receive God’s touch, then lift my mat and start walking?
As I pray, I ask the Lord to give me insights about myself.
“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about.”
First I face the lies I am tempted to believe in my lonely moments:
I have no one to call
No one cares about me
Everyone I know is living fulfilled
I really am alone
Then I face the truth:
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
That’s me. The crushed in spirit.
That’s Him. The One who knows and cares.
So what does Jesus do for the paralyzed man at the Bethesda pool? He touches his body and then tells him to pick his mat…and walk.
Don’t sit still. Do something.
I believe the truth that God sees me, knows me and cares about me. Now I need to pick up my mat. Sounds good. What in the world could that mean as I hold my Savior’s hand and walk out of loneliness?
I ask the Lord for insight. This is the hopeful part, my friend. This is the picking up and moving on. It is the mountain that is so hard to climb when feeling lonely. I believe the Lord will show us ways that are a perfect fit for us.
I sit quietly and begin to take notes as ideas begin to flow:
Make a list of 10 people I can call, not to discuss my loneliness but to ask about them.
Open my Gratitude Journal – listing the specific gifts God has given me to demonstrate his love
Complete a simple project: put on some music and sort my sock drawer.
Change the subject from me to… anything else worthy of my thoughts:
Learn a new song on my piano guitar.
Grab my camera and take a walk, texting the photo to a friend.
Read the next chapter in a good book, call someone to share my thoughts.
Memorize a Bible passage, write it, email it to someone the Lord brings to mind.
Try a new recipe then deliver it to the doorstep of a neighbor
Make a card for a friend.
Begin a book club with a few friends on Zoom.
Google: “Coping with Loneliness During the Covid Pandemic” at http://www.verywellmind.com
My heart hurts for you. Loneliness is real, painful and sometimes paralyzing.
I pray the Lord will not only convince you of His loving presence, but also open your imagination to your version of picking up your mat and walking.
Let’s take our loneliness to God. He understands and applauds your desire to have people in your life. He designed us to love others.
In a good moment, I encourage you to begin a list of what to do when loneliness hits. Let’s be as ready as we are with our raincoats in western Oregon winters. Let’s have our list available to pull out and keep walking.
Please know these suggestions are not meant to be a cure-all for you if you are in deep despair. I also greatly value the help of a counselor if you are struggling to find a way out of loneliness.
Next week’s blog will be written by such a person, a friend and counselor I’m eager for you to meet.