It’s a curious thing, loneliness. You can be sitting in a stadium full of people, hundreds of faces to your left and your right, and still be lonely.
Indeed, it’s an awful thing to feel alone. Yet it’s even worse to be alone.
I once read of an elderly man who died alone in his apartment. That was tragic enough, but the most shocking part was that he’d been dead three years before he was found!
Stories like this break our hearts — and they should. Yet Christmas comes, a light in the darkness, to shatter the gloom of aloneness and despair, for the Savior who appears takes the name “Immanuel” — God With Us.
Even after he showed us the extent of his love – in his living, dying, and rising again for us – he promised this before returning to his Father’s side: “Lo, I am with you always.” (Mt. 28:20)
He’s with us through his Spirit that lives within us. And he’s also with us through our brothers and sisters — his new family, the church.
That’s Jesus’ promise to you right now, as you look to him in simple faith.
What about when you don’t feel it? He’s so good that he also gives us words for such times, to express the inexpressible:
‘Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.’ (Ps. 25:16–20)
(The following is a timely & comforting Advent meditation from Quina Aragon, originally published at TGC.
“Two Decembers ago, my husband and I celebrated Christmas with Colombian food (his side of the family), Filipino traditions (my side of the family), and the sting of death. Tragedies had cascaded one-by-one throughout that year until our running joke was, “Good morning. What’s our emergency today?” Little did we know, the infamous 2020 was right around the corner.
Through 2020 and 2021 we’ve likely all been touched by the sting of death—the death of family members or friends, the death of dreams, or perhaps the death of community life. If there’s one Bible verse we’ve surely resonated with, it’s this: “I am lonely and afflicted” (v. 16). And loneliness is often heightened during the Christmas season.
Through 2020 and 2021 we’ve likely all been touched by the sting of death.
Loneliness is a form of suffering. But it’s just the sort of thing we tend to shy away from admitting. We might even confuse it for sin itself: How can I feel lonely if God is always with me? I must not be trusting him very well. Of course, loneliness is a byproduct of mankind’s rebellion (Gen. 3), but loneliness itself isn’t sin. And it’s not insignificant to God.
King David prayed God would turn to him with grace in his loneliness. He knew the lack of peace brought on by his own sins and the sins of others against him. He cried, “Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins” (v. 18). We know what that feels like. The compounded grief we carry becomes (so we think) license to snap at our loved ones or to escape with the fleeting pleasures of sexual sin. We’re left feeling estranged from God and others, longing for peace.
But David also cried, “Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me” (v. 19). Essentially, “I’ve sinned and I’ve been sinned against. And they both hurt.” They both threaten our experience of peace (wholeness) with God and others. We’re left fractured.
We’re left feeling estranged from God and others, longing for peace.
But the greater son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, was coming. His cries would break through a lonely night in Bethlehem as he wriggled in a feeding trough. His cries would break through a lonely night in the Garden of Gethsemane as he writhed before the prospect of the cross. His cries would break through the midday darkness as he suffered ultimate loneliness—separation from God’s loving presence—when he paid for our sins.
His coming meant the securing of eternal peace between you and God, and you and others—the death of loneliness.
Pray these verses from Psalm 25 back to God, interjecting the particular troubles you face today. Trust that God hears, cares, and draws near to you in your pain.”
Comfort, comfort, O my people,
speak of peace, now says our God.
Comfort those who sit in shadows,
mourning ’neath their sorrows’ load.
Speak unto Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them.
Tell of all the sins I cover,
and that warfare now is over.
— Johann Olearius (Tr. by Catherine Winkworth), “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”