A woman went to her therapist and asked him to tell her what was wrong with her.
He said, “I think you’re depressed.”
She said, “I can’t be depressed. I go to parties all the time and I’m always meeting up with people.”
He said, “Well that’s exactly what I would do if I were depressed too.”
Let’s go. Intimacy Round 2: Loneliness. (Read Part 1)
I have become fairly certain that loneliness is not the result of a lack of friends. Surrounding ourselves with other human bodies won’t make that nagging ache inside our bones magically disappear. Nor will sex, drugs, porn, or a few cold ones. I want to point once more to one of my favorite passage in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:11, which reads, “He has set eternity on the hearts of men.” We are filled with a longing that nothing in this world can satisfy; only Eternity Himself.
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is on the run from an evil king who is trying to hunt him down and kill him. God tells Elijah to wait at the entrance of this cave, for He is about to pass by. This is what happened:
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper [literally: ‘a sound of silence’]. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Elijah waits for the Lord to pass by at the mouth of the cave, and what is he met with? A great wind, an earthquake and a fire, but the Lord is not in any of them. It’s not until he is face to face with the silence of the hills that Elijah is able to witness the Lord. The other things may have been ferocious and mighty, but all they ended up doing was distracting him.
In our world today, how easy is it to glue our attention to a church service, an electric worship set, or a charismatic conference? These are good things (just as God also showed up elsewhere in scripture as fire, wind, and quakes), but they are not to be the center of our focus. When we are face-to-face with the Almighty, in the intense silence of His presence, we have no response left but to hide our face like Elijah.
In my own life, I think about going to high school Snow Camp every winter. I remember looking forward to it because “I’ll get closer to God…I’ll make a real change this time!” I’d go, get ultra hyped-up for about a week after camp, and then be back where I was before.
God lives in the spaces in between the events.
He meets us in the silence of the morning and the cool of the afternoon.
The cure for loneliness has little to do with our external circumstances and almost everything to do with the weather going on inside of us. Michael Cusick describes it this way: “When you are empty, being alone with yourself is almost always a scary thing. But when you are full, it’s almost always a joy—like being with a good friend.”
An old mentor of mine named Ethan once told me that knowing God was nearly identical to knowing yourself. How can you love God, and know that He loves you if you barely know yourself?
Since I am adamantly against abstract depictions of relationships, especially with God, let me give you a tool that has helped me so much the past few years in battling loneliness and its effects, like addictions and insecurities. It’s an ancient practice called Centering Prayer, and the goal is silence. It may seem counterproductive to fight loneliness with solitude, but believe me, learning how to be alone is key to knowing yourself.
In Centering Prayer, you get completely alone, without phone, internet, music, books, or even the Bible. Next, say a little prayer inviting God to come and simply be with you. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. After that is the waiting in utter silence. The goal is not to work your way up some spiritual ladder, or even pray to Him. It’s simply to be with Him. Set an alarm for fifteen or twenty minutes and try to simply enjoy the silent presence of the Lord. Maybe He will speak to you and maybe He won’t, but either way, I promise that if you make this a regular habit, you will notice differences in your life.
I have seen myself grow more patient and less anxious. There is a greater peace and clarity as I go about my day. These 20 minutes help to clear away much of the stress and distractions from the rest of my day.
As believers, the deepest part of who we are–our center–is the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. What’s in the middle of a temple? God. By deafening ourselves with endless social media excursions, iPods, texting, TV, and movies, we have become distracted. We have wandered ‘off-center.’ That’s why it is so hard, if not impossible, to sit alone in silence for 20 minutes. It’s absolutely foreign to us. I could (and probably will) write a few whole posts on Centering Prayer.
Say you’re a guy who wants to date a girl. Would you only get to know her by going to rock concerts and movies and loud bars, or would you spend time talking quietly, watching sunsets and shooting stars, and walking on the coast? The same is true of God and ourselves. We will never get to hear the still, small voice of God if we are always drowning Him out with the noise of the world.
Talking. Listening. Being. Together.
That’s how relationship is formed, and how it grows and molds. Intimacy is not built during the rock concerts and dance parties, but in the silence that fills in the gaps between the noise. It’s when we catch a fleeting glimpse of another human soul that deep connection is made.
There’s so much more I want to say. Let me try to wrap up this bundle of ramblings by pointing to the most secure and self-aware Person I know: Jesus.
Peruse the gospels and see how He is constantly escaping the noise of the crowds and the company of His friends in order to be alone in a quiet place with the Father. No walking this planet knows him or herself better than Jesus, and the reason for this is evident.
He even gave us the instruction in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” It’s no mystery as to why our generation struggles with intimacy so much. The private things have bled out into the open. We don’t know ourselves.
Cure your loneliness by getting alone.
Get to know the Lord and yourself on deeper levels.