I could, with a quick search, find a dozen bible verses about how the Lord is always with me. About how He will never abandon me. About how I am never truly alone.
But, that doesn’t really help me feel less lonely.
I can go to church on Sunday morning and sit with friends. Hug friends, shake hands with strangers, put on a smile.
I can call up my close friends, and meet up for dinner and a drink. We can talk and laugh and enjoy the company.
I can volunteer to help people, and put myself in a position to make new friends. I can join groups geared towards making new acquaintances. Singles groups, sports, shared-interest groups. I can be around people any time I want.
I can trust that I am on God’s path, and that He will of course give me everything I need, exactly when I need it.
I can do all of those things, and still feel lonely. I am almost certain that the loneliness I feel is nothing but a product of expectations I feel, and an echo of how I am used to feeling. In that way, I sometimes feel like I am in a prison of my own making, and a simple change in attitude could change how alone I feel. But that is much easier said than done.
I’ve been thinking about Paul’s imprisonment. How must it have felt for him to have come all the way around? For much of his life, he was a sinner and blasphemer. Then, once he came to salvation and began to spread that word, forming churches and spreading gospel, he was persecuted by people no different than he had once been himself. Worse, as he tells us in his second letter to Timothy, he felt all but abandoned by his friends in the church. He must have felt tremendous loneliness.
He writes in his second letter to Timothy: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).
Paul’s circumstances, of course, were much more dire than my own. I am in no real, physical danger. No one is trying to actively strip away my freedoms, or keep me from expressing myself. But still, I can’t help but feel an affinity for Paul’s situation. During my worst times, I feel isolated, rejected, and abandoned. Emotionally, whether those feelings are justified becomes irrelevant. The reality is that even though I feel as though God is always with me, I feel as though part of my life is empty. And being certain that He will deliver me from this loneliness gives me heart, as it says in the Gospel of John: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). But I am human, and that shield is not impenetrable.
I think I understand on some level that when I am ready, part of his plan for me is to deliver me to my other half. The tough part is understanding that even though I want that to be now, part of the reason that I don’t have it is because it’s not what I need. I make this a part of every single prayer I say: Lord, please give me this day my daily bread, and help me to understand the difference between what I need, and what I want.