Loneliness

prayer_loneliness“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”
Eleanor Rigby – song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Joseph Conrad, novelist, asks the question: “Who knows what true loneliness is – not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask.”

In spite of all the advances in technology, enabling us to travel and communicate more easily, loneliness has become a major problem in society. Perhaps the heaviest burden of life is the experience of loneliness or isolation. People feel helpless and alone in a world which doesn’t seem to care. Family members are sometimes so caught up in the rat race that they have little time left for elderly relatives. There is no sense of belonging to a supportive group: people without faith may even wonder if God cares.
Solitude is not to be confused with loneliness. Neither does loneliness necessarily mean living alone, as the following very poignant little poem by Jacques Prévert illustrates:

“He put the coffee in the cup
He put the milk in the cup of coffee
He put the sugar in the café au lait
With the coffee spoon he stirred
He drank the café au lait
And he set down the cup
Without a word to me
He lit a cigarette
He made smoke rings with the smoke
He put the ashes in the ash tray
Without a word to me
Without a look at me
He got up
He put his hat on his head
He put his raincoat on
Because it was raining
And he left in the rain
Without a word
Without a look at me
And I,
I took my head in my hands
And I cried.”
 (Original in French)

If you are feeling lonely or abandoned, it is helpful to remember that Jesus suffers in your loneliness. Jesus faced the dark hours of his death utterly alone. On the cross he felt totally abandoned, even by the One in whom he had placed all his trust. He cries out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then with his last breath he regained his trust, abandoning himself completely into the Father’s hands, reaching out to receive him: “Into your hands I entrust my spirit.”

Mitch Albom, in his book ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’ says that “the only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.” We have God’s reassurance, given repeatedly throughout the Bible, that God will never abandon us. Jesus himself, during his public life, could say with confidence, “I am never alone.” In another book by Mitch Albom – ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ – he tells us of the advice given by Morrie as a way to deal with loneliness: “Feel it completely – let the tears flow – but eventually be able to say, ‘All right, that was my moment with loneliness. I’m not afraid of being lonely.’”

Here is a little parting thought from Dag Hammarskjold : “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into something to live for, great enough to die for.”

Prayer

Lord, help me to bring life and healing into lives that are sad and broken, to bring hope into situations of hopelessness, to reach into the heart of the hurting world. In Jesus of Nazareth you embraced our suffering world: in him you experienced loneliness and isolation when you were misunderstood and rejected. I lift up to you today those who feel abandoned, those who live alone and who have no one to care for them or share their joys and sorrows. Brighten their day with the warmth of a friendly word or a smile, so that they will know that somebody cares. Amen