Walking Through Solitary Seasons with Joy
By MANDY SAELER
My eyes were heavy as I hammered away at my laptop keys, occasionally crinkling the wrapper of my late-night protein bar. It was after 10:00 PM and the minutes were passing quickly as I sat in the hotel lobby, catching up on things that had fallen behind as I had traveled. A gentle springtime draft wafted through the lobby as new arrivals entered, and I paused to watch a group of friends shuffle into the elevator after a late night swim. The noise of the restaurant slowly died down as couples and families made their way back to their rooms.
To my surprise, the hotel staff was especially friendly and seemed to take special notice of me. In the few short hours I sat in the lobby, several employees sporadically stopped by my table checking to see if I needed anything and wishing me a good night. One brought me a cup of ice water from the restaurant before it closed, and another brought a bottle of cold water to replenish it a short while later. It was a “regular” hotel, and I was a bit taken aback by the thoughtfulness of the employees. It was just a bottle of water, but it was more than just a bottle of water to me. It was God speaking volumes to my heart of His care for me and His love over me.
My life had changed dramatically in recent months. After my closest friend and roommate had moved several states away, I found myself alone nearly all of the time. While I relished the solitude, it was very different from the life I had previously enjoyed living and “doing life” with my friend. Now, life was much simpler, and I was alone most of the time, caring for every detail of life on my own — making meals and filling an evening were now all up to me. My heart was content, and I was even slightly excited for this new season, and yet at many times, I felt a keen sense of loneliness as I remembered what life had been like before.
As I looked down at the bottle of water sitting on the table in front of me, I was overwhelmed with the reality of God’s care, even in the small things. That night, through the small gesture of a bottle of water, I knew that I was not actually alone. God was with me and caring for me — and that bottle of water proved it.
For years, I have prayed a prayer. It’s simple, always the same, and I have uttered it more times than I can remember. “Lord, be nearer, dearer, and sweeter to me than any other.” It expresses my desire for Christ to be above everyone and everything else in my heart; that He truly would be my dearest heart-friend and, as He promises to be, my All in all (Eph. 1:23). God answers the pure longings of our hearts in ways we don’t expect, and it has been through seasons of loneliness that I have seen Him answer this deep-hearted prayer of mine.
The word loneliness carries a downcast, Eeyore-like stigma and it can cause us to miss the beautiful part of being alone. As we walk through lonely seasons, we can easily think of ourselves as victims of loneliness, or as a bound-and-gagged prisoner who must endure a sentence. However, loneliness is not intended to punish us, but to lovingly push us into the arms of God. I have come to learn the beauty of enduring the “company” of loneliness — because it is in loneliness that a special invitation into intimacy with Jesus Christ awaits us.
Give Him Your Burden
Whether you are filled with the isolating pain of betrayal or a cloud of depression is hanging over your heart, cry out to your God. While you may be tempted to carry your own burdens, be aware that the enemy would love to have you in a self-pitying place of isolation where “nobody understands.” Give your burdens to God: tell Him what is heavy upon your heart, ask for His help, and surrender your struggle into His faithful hands. (See Matthew 11:29-30; 1 Peter 5:7.) The enemy cannot tell you that you are alone in your struggle when you are walking it with your God. Surrendering to Christ truly brings relief to a heavy heart and new strength to live the life that is not your own. (See Galatians 2:20.)
Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved (Ps. 55:22).
Look to Him
Have you ever been on a hike where you are so preoccupied by the path that you miss the view? Maneuvering over rocks and roots, and trying not to tumble down a mountainside can take all of our focus. When we finally stop and look up, we realize the incredible beauty of the view that has been present all along, if only we had looked.
All too easily, we become preoccupied with the challenges we are facing and neglect looking to our heavenly Father for all that we have need of. We forget to embrace His promises, receive comfort from His Word, and be strengthened in His Presence. We miss the beauty of His faithfulness and fatherly care when we set out to endure the journey alone. The strength, joy, and victory of Jesus will meet our trials face-on for us as we are faithful to set the gaze of our hearts upon Him.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Ps. 34:4-5).
Embrace His Words
Embracing God’s Word displaces the enemy’s lies and deflates the bemoaning of our circumstances. The thoughts we think and the emotions we feel all must be filtered through the reality of God’s Truth. If you are faithful to look to Him, you will know what is true by what He has already spoken in His Word and the Truth He has poured into your heart as you’ve sought His face.
Purpose to remember His Words to you, and hold on to them as treasures. Here are a few that I hold on to:
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms.
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7
It’s the strength of His promises that gives us firm footing amidst any trial and everyday life. Acquaint your heart with His Word and you’ll find that you truly do have all you need in believing and receiving His promises.
. . .
Loneliness has taught me to live in the reality of His presence when the presence of others has been void. When we live in the light and reality of the presence of Jesus — always with us and alive in us — it changes everything. The joys of life are sweeter when they are shared with the One who is nearest and dearest to you. The trials of life are quelled when you acknowledge the Calmer of the storm who lives in you.
Loneliness has taught me to enjoy the small things of life — even sharing in laughter — with Him. It has been loneliness that has taught me to look to Jesus as my dearest heart-friend. I realize now that God has given me loneliness at times to answer that simple request: “Lord, be nearer, dearer, and sweeter to me than any other!”