After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.... Matthew 14:23 NIVWe think of loneliness as something to avoid. It’s undesirable and fought against and yet this is the word Oswald Chambers chooses to use to describe one of the Christian disciplines. I think of loneliness as being more than alone—it’s that state where one feels bereft of companionship. Richard Foster in Celebration of Disciplines calls it solitude.
Solitude with God repairs the damage done by the fret and noise and clamour of the world. –Oswald Chambers*
The friendship of a soul who walks alone with God is as abiding as God Himself, and, in degree, as terrible.... A friend whose contact and whose memory does not make us ever do our best is one in name only. Friendship to a soul undisciplined by loneliness is a precarious sea.*“Loneliness marks the child of God,”* he says and calls shallowness a disaster. Is there a correlation between depth of spirit and character and being alone?
"The child of God who walks alone with Him is not dependent on places and moods...."* I must admit that I have been very dependent on situations and moods; when they are good, I feel good and when they’re bad, I feel awful. But living like that is like being a yoyo on the end of a string. It brings no peace and leaves me at the mercy of the capricious whims of those around me. No wonder I’ve spent much of my life blaming others for the pain that I feel.
This has begun to change. The excruciating pain of walking away from Pearl, she who made me feel so wanted, loved, desirable and adored, and the enormous hurt from several close friends who chose to abruptly cut me out of their lives has forced me to God. I have been learning the truth of the psalmist’s declaration: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." Psalm 73:25 NIV
Chambers writes: "The discipline of [the entirely sanctified] life consists of Suffering, Loneliness, Patience and Prayer."* Is this easy? No. Is it rewarding? Infinitely. God uses suffering and loneliness (the latter often causing the former) to draw us to him. As we endure, choosing God over other ways to ameliorate pain, we spend more time in prayer and learn the patience of waiting on God for him to fix things his way.
These days, I love my times with God and the place I’ve created to be alone with him. I didn’t always. I remember when I thought ten minutes in prayer was eight minutes too long and reading a single chapter of the Bible a day a huge accomplishment. Today I am grateful for the pain and loneliness God brought me. My life and relationship with God is richer and deeper because of it.
Lord, it hurt so much to lose those I loved but you have turned the coal to diamond, exchanged the mourning for gladness and replaced the pain with healing. Thank you for your mercy and grace and for caring enough to draw me closer to you.
*“Christian Disciplines, Volume 2” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, pages 318, 319