The Loveliness of Loneliness
Now I want to be very clear at the beginning. I have not yet walked in your shoes and you may be thinking “What does she know about a widow’s loneliness? She has no idea how I think, or what I feel.”
You’re right. I have not yet walked in this very unique “valley of the shadow of death” so I can only approach this subject with the utmost humility, a heart to understand, and a prayer to minister.
From the beginning, I want to do my best to let you know that my sole aim is to honor you. To encourage you. I want you to know that I am so sorry you’re grieving. I am so sorry for the losses that you have experienced on this journey of life. And I believe in the statement that says the “grief you’re experiencing has no expiration date." None. No, there is no “just getting over it”. No “moving past it”. No just “forgetting about it.” In fact, people who say such things only reveal their own ignorance so let’s just move past THEM, shall we?
What I would rather do in these few moments is to reveal the truth of what God has to say about our loneliness And to help others understand that the pain that comes with loneliness - is really called suffering. In fact one widow recently expressed it to me like this:
“The loneliness for me as a widow is something I deal with every day (night). For me it is the memories and the fact that there are no new memories with my love to make. I admit the loneliness is worse on holidays but really it is my memories and the thought that there are no new memories in the future for me. Ok...now I am crying. I try to ignore the holidays and I am extremely lucky that God has sent me good friends who step up during the holidays to make sure that I am taken care of. I hate the sadness.”
I would tell you that she is indeed suffering. And my heart simply breaks for those currently walking this leg of the journey...
I have heard widowhood described similar to being in a wilderness. Like looking at life through a thick forest of trees and broken limbs. Each one grabbing out to trip you. While previously confident on their journey,they now feel lost and unsure of which path to take. And since they just lost their tour guide, they’re not exactly sure how to find their way out.
One widow telling me that there were moments of being just completely overwhelmed with the “What do I do now?”questions of life. She revealed to me that one day she was at a local Walgreens just looking at hair color and couldn’t even think. She broke out in tears,curled up in the fetal position and the Walgreens clerk just came up and held her. Right in the middle of the hair color isle. These friends..are life’s rawest moments...And they are where we can meet God.
I read a quote by Paul Matthies that said “Loneliness is a common human experience. Meaning that all of us, whether single or married, whether for a short period of time or for an extended season, deal with loneliness. Why so? Well loneliness is, at its root, a spiritual issue. But often we define loneliness in physical or emotional terms. We think loneliness can be defined by the absence of people whether physically or emotionally. So we think to ourselves, ‘What we need to do to fix our problem of loneliness is to have more people in our lives.’ And when that doesn’t work we think, ‘Well, we need more considerate people in our lives.’ But that doesn’t complete the picture because loneliness is also the presence of pain. Loneliness is not just the absence of people, it’s the presence of pain, the pain of separation from God and others. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam decided to choose the pleasures of sin, and in doing so, inherited the pain of loneliness.”
I’ve also read that the seasons of suffering we enter into in our lives can become a “battlegrounds for our souls.” It’s stated that the book of Job shows us there can be two ways to respond to suffering and we can look at it in the light of loneliness. We can see in Job 2:9-10 that we can curse God because of suffering or we can praise God, even in the midst of suffering.
If we were honest, I would testify that one of those choices would take more discipline than the other...
I know a widow who recently told me in her battle with loneliness (and the resulting depression), is that she would literally walk room to room within her home speaking to the darkness “You are not welcome here!” 1 John 1:5 says “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness!!” She took what I would call the “Warrior-Widow’s” stance in battling back against the pain that looked to consume her.
Because she is a personal friend, I would also tell you she continues to take that warrior’s stance today…
Philippians 3 talks a great deal of “The Priceless Value of Knowing Christ.” In fact that’s the title of that chapter. Paul uses the phrase, ‘fellowship of his sufferings.’ Paul Matthies goes on to write that “so many of us love to enter into the fellowship of God’s joy, but Scripture also calls us into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.” Our precious Savior knew to the depths of His soul the suffering from loneliness that comes from this world when He asked His disciples “if they could not stay awake even one hour” on the eve of his arrest. He felt in it the garden as He asked His Heavenly Father if “this cup could pass from me?”, and He felt it on the the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
And the word Forsaken can take on a lot of different verbs forms: Forgotten. Abandoned. Left Behind….and I would add..Widowed.
Matthies goes on to write this incredible statement “We don’t need to avoid the pain or numb the pain, we need to look at that pain and ask God for a deeper joy.” Think about that for a minute. Could the pain that comes from widowhood bring about a deeper sense of purpose? Could it develop a more intimate knowledge of knowing and sensing His love for us? A more personal understanding of sensing His presence with us? Could we come to the place of knowing we still belong?
Jesus Himself served as our example combating the loneliness that sought to overtake Him! How did He do that? He spoke truth to it. John 16:32 Jesus said, “But the time is coming--indeed it's here now--when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me!”
I am not alone.
I may not have the disciples around me. But I am not alone.
I may not have God’s intervention in having this pain pass from me. But I am not alone.
As I stand before the Sanhedrin and am assaulted, I am not alone.
As all of my friends have run into hiding or betrayed me, I know, I am not alone.
As I carry my cross naked down the city streets, I am not alone.
As I hang on the cross dying to make it possible for sinners to have a relationship with My Father and in this moment feel the most alone, I am not alone.
The Father is with me. I am not alone.
AND NEITHER ARE YOU.
Oh sweet friends, listen to my heart - You may not have your beloved here, but you are not alone.
You may never meet another to fulfill the roles your husband did, but you are not alone.
You may not share your life with another as you did before you carried your mantle of widowhood, but you are not alone.
Now you might be listening and thinking “That’s all nice and good, but nope. You still don’t get it. I really AM alone.” I understand what you’re saying. But the loveliness of God is that we can know by faith that while every fiber in our being screams of our “alone-ness”, we are in fact, not.
Look with me at this amazing story in 2 Kings 6:8
“When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.” But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Arameans are planning to mobilize their troops there.” So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there. The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?” “It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”
And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.
When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, OPEN HIS EYES AND LET HIM SEE!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was FILLED WITH HORSES AND CHARIOTS OF FIRE!”
Friends, we are so.NOT.alone. My prayer for each of you reading this is that God would begin open your eyes in a way that has never happened before, just like He did for that servant. That you would indeed see the angels and the chariots God has placed around surrounding you. Prepared to help you fight your battles. That you would sense His very real presence as you go about your day.
Psalm 139:2-12 says
“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
And just like Jesus spoke the truth to His circumstances. So can you. And just like Jesus did, we can choose to believe it.
A young widow recently told me “ As a widow I absolutely found peace in finally opening my heart to God and letting Him work in me!!”
She then sent me some of the passages of scripture that she had clung to during the deepest darkest nights that widowhood had brought her...here are some of them:
She began to trust Him for His provision. (Duet. 10:18)
For His forgiveness. (Col. 1:14)
She began asking to sense His presence. (Hebrews 13:5)
and asked to know of His grace. (Eph. 6:24)
To desired to know of His mercy. (1Peter 2:10)
And she began to depend on His promises to help. (Ex. 22:22)
She began accepting His work of peace in the storm (Psalm 46:10)
She began basking in His love (Psalm 52:8)
She began trusting that He would be her shelter (Psalm 94:22)
She began praying that she would receive His comfort (Psalm 119:50)
Elizabeth Elliot is quoted as saying “The wilderness is that season of our lives where God, through our loneliness, teaches us that his will is to do something in us, not merely do something for us. That is, by walking by faith and not by sight, he works in us a stronger faith, leading to a deeper worship that results in a greater joy.” and again “Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God and offering it back to him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself”
Friends, I don’t know where you are on your journey with God. If you’re new to widowhood, or if you’ve walked this road for a while. But I know this, God is faithful to you. He’s there, with you, even now. If you’ve not depended on Him to bring you peace or comfort, today you can. In this moment, you can begin to receive the peace that He promises to bring. And when we find Him, when we release the pain of our suffering to Him, we will find that only He can turn our wilderness of loneliness into loveliness.
I’m praying for you today!