Soon I will discover what it is like to be alone in the house after my husband leaves for work. There will be no sleepy teenager glued to his bed and in need of resurrection. For the first time in twenty-one years, there will be no homeschooling routine to wrestle with–a change I welcome, but in the back of my mind, there is the real possibility that my unfamiliar alone time might turn out to be a season of loneliness.
Passing the halfway mark of 2020, loneliness is all around us. Flirting with emergence from COVID-19 isolation, we crave the sight and sound of friends and family–even from a social distance. My own small day-time solitude will be interspersed with times of connection and will end every day with the blessed return of my husband.
However, when Elisabeth Elliot wrote about loneliness, she shared a perspective unique to a widow, a cross-cultural missionary, a single parent, a care-giver to a dying man–all deeply isolating roles with very little comfort in sight. Even so, she persevered in the belief that loneliness can be a “pathway to holiness,” and offered timeless insight:
The answer to our loneliness is love–not our finding someone to love us, but our surrendering to the God who has always loved us with an everlasting love.”The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot
Jason Gaboury echoes this challenge in Wait with Me: Meeting God in Loneliness. Asking the question, “What if your loneliness is an invitation to friendship with God?” frames God as the pursuer of my heart and reframes the wilderness, not as a place of abandonment, but rather as an occasion for intimacy with the God who meets me there.
Gaboury invites readers into an imaginative reading of Scripture–not as a replacement for inductive study, but as an enhancement to the relationship God extends to us whenever we meet him over the feast of his Word. Rejecting the isolation of anxiety and ambition, the believer finds inspired words, crafted by a lonely psalmist or an angry prophet to demonstrate that God is neither surprised nor repelled by the raw emotion that travels alongside our loneliness.
The goal (and the great challenge) for 21st century believers is to pay attention in the grip of loneliness. With our average attention span plummeting in ten years from 20 seconds down to 9 seconds, we have become masters of distraction, plugging into Netflix or a phone app whenever we’re threatened with the mere twinge of unpleasantness.
Since God does not avoid complexity, it should come as no surprise to us that his invitation embedded in our times of loneliness is multi-layered. Gaboury shared a question posed by his mentor that has changed my thinking forever:
What if the loneliness that drives you to seek consolation was meant to expand your heart in compassion for Jesus? You can’t love someone you don’t know, and you only know someone whose experience you’re willing to enter into with empathy and compassion.”
Entering into a true friendship with Jesus involves staying awake to his suffering, waiting with him as he asked his first-century disciples to do. We are called to pay attention to the patient and persistent call of God to pray with our fellow-worshipers, to expand the boundaries of our heart in order to make room for those who feel that just maybe they’ve done things that exempt them from invitation to the feast around God’s table.
Are you willing to acknowledge your own sense of loneliness if it means entering into a greater understanding of others and a deeper life with God?
Do you sense that God is inviting you to be present to someone today in a demonstration of his love?
May we experience God’s transforming work,
Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Wait with Me: Meeting God in Loneliness or The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God by Elisabeth Elliot simply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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