Category Archives: loneliness

Looking for my lover…

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing..

(1Peter 3.8&9)

Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?…Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away…

(Song of Songs 8. 5,6-7)

As a sinful creature – saved, yet vulnerable to the old temptations and weaknesses, open to many distractions and easily swayed – among other sinners, I am answerable to the King of Kings for the way I treat his precious children. I am commanded to live peaceably, and not only that, but in a way which consistently seeks the good of others.

I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to love people when they are a generalised grouping, strangers whose lives have little impact on mine. It is a good deal harder to love those whose daily lives impact directly on me – for good and ill – because my own experience of them seems to get in the way all the time! It becomes hard to know what will be good for them, and harder still to do it, when I am preoccupied with how their latest actions have made me feel. It is as though “I” am getting in the way of the calling which God has given, to love and serve him in his people. My own needs for unconditional love, forgiveness and tenderness shout too loudly, drowning out the quiet voice directing me to obedient love for others.

I love that verse in the Song of Songs where the bride is described as coming up from the desert, “leaning on her lover”. She has found in a dry and arid place, the one who delights in her, and because of his love, she has the courage to return to the city and face the business of life again.

I too, have a heavenly Lord and Lover, who loves me – sacrificially – and who delights in me, who actually likes the person I am. He enjoys the playful spirit he gave me, so that while I may feel oppressed when the company of others suppresses it, when we are alone together, I can play and be glad, knowing I am loved.

He gave me a heart which loves to share, to listen to the hearts of others. When those around shut me out and refuse to be known by me, I go back and listen to his heart, and it speaks strong and loud of his joy, his beauty, his goodness. All these things are spread before me like a rich feast, with his great ambition for creation together with the pain which it is costing him. Here I find one who never keeps me at a distance, but reveals himself and is glad that I should be learning to know him. What a marvel, that God should choose to reveal himself to such as we are.

And this, my God loves all his children thus, seeing and cherishing each one; full of compassion for the struggles and pain which they feel. This, my God, longs to be known and delighted in by his people, and holds out his arms in welcome.

When I experience rejection by those I love, when I am not at liberty among them to be myself gladly and be delighted in, let me remember the heart of God. That great heart which is continually rejected and shut out by those he loves, whose tenderness is wounded again and again by their refusal to enjoy and accept him as he reveals himself through Jesus Christ. God knows my pain, and calls me to accept it in obedience, not dwelling upon it, but coming back again and again for refreshment and to lean upon the strengthening arm of my lover.

Then I will be in the right position to react as God reacts to us – in forgiving, loving patience, bearing with us in spite of all we have done and continue to do. As he has loved me, so may I love others, depending upon his strength and drawing on his love, so that all my needs are met in him and I am free to give as he does – to overflowing!

 

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Lonely or solitary?

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thought 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 know it completely, O Lord…

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.

(Psalm 139.1-4,7-12)

Do you like being alone? Does the prospect of time without other people present stir up fear, or anticipation? I know that each of us has a natural disposition which will incline us to one or the other, and that is a part of the wonderful variety which makes us all individuals. But I also believe that ultimately none of us need fear being by ourselves… Because as followers of Jesus, we are never truly alone!

The psalmist is well aware of the fact that God sees and knows him through and through, that there is nowhere on the earth that God is not present with him. I am never quite sure whether this is seen as a good or a bad thing! Perhaps there are times when our feelings are in such turmoil, or our consciences so troubled, that we feel we want to hide from God until we get sorted out. But the psalms reveal over and over that the best way to get sorted out, is to be in the presence of God, acknowledging our struggles, our failures, our anger and grief, and allowing the steady, healing and cleansing light of his holiness and love to quieten our spirit. Here is one of many such occasions:

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love , O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

(Psalm 94. 18 & 19)

This for me is one of the most precious truths of my faith, that in my solitude, I am never alone. I have a perfect companion. I have one who knows my thoughts, who understands my tastes, and who delights to share with me as I experience every moment of life and savour each detail of my days.

I cannot irritate him with my eye for the tiniest details of a leaf or flower; he waits joyfully and patiently while I appreciate the beauties which he has placed for me to enjoy! When my spirit lifts with the majesty of great trees around me, my companion hears my cry of delight and thanksgiving, and rejoices in my pleasure. Did you know that our loving Father loves to be thanked, to see us enjoying what He has made – from the tiniest detail to the most breathtaking panorama? It is one of the greatest pleasures of solitude, to have uninterrupted communion with the one who has made all this beauty, and be able to deliberately share our pleasure with him.

 And in my darkness Рwhether I have sought it out deliberately, because of weariness or grief; or have been overshadowed by it in spite of my best efforts to remain in the light РI am not alone.. there is nowhere that my Lord cannot reach me, cannot be with me, comforting and holding, his arms ever around me even when mine are too weak to hold on to him.

David spent many days and hours in solitude as a young man – shepherding sheep for his father – and I believe that he learnt then what it was to be loved by a God who was always present. We see from the songs David wrote that he hid nothing from God, whether of grief or joy, frustration and anger, fear and despair, triumph and rejoicing. He knew the presence of God was not simply a special feeling that came and went, but a fact, on which he could rely.

It is a fact on which I rely too, which transforms loneliness into solitude, a precious space shared only with my Lord, where I can be utterly at rest because I am utterly known, accepted and loved. Thanks be to God, who through Jesus his Son, brings us into this most intimate of relationships and gives us peace!