Where is God in the Loneliness?
Three weeks ago, my family and I picked up and moved everything from the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, to the busy streets of Washington, DC. I’m grateful for the chance to return to DC, but at the same time, everything about life feels upside down.
The thing is, all of my reference points have changed. I have new neighbors, a new grocery store, a new workplace; I go to work on a bus (rather than drive my car), and I pay about four more dollars for my lunch. The light switches aren’t where they used to be; my brother is five hours away, rather than five minutes, and thanks to traffic, it takes 25 minutes to get to Home Depot, even though it’s only 3.5 miles away.
I don’t mean to whine – and there’s a lot I’m thankful for – but the truth is, I’m disoriented, discombobulated, and at times, I’ve felt a low-grade sense of discouragement. I especially felt it last Friday when I left for work. I was headed to my bus, and as I started walking down the steps of my house, I made the mistake of turning around and looking back at the front door.
My two-year-old and four-year-old were standing there at the door with their faces pressed against the glass waving at me. I got a lump in my throat, walked back up the steps, opened the door, got down on my knees, and wrapped my arms around them. I didn’t have a breakdown or anything – but if the right music had been playing the background, I sure could have. And as I held onto a couple of little girls who are struggling with the newness as much as their dad is, it hit me how unnerving it feels when your sign posts have been ripped out of the ground and you’re left trying to figure out which way to go.
There are all kinds of people feeling it right now – they’re suffering through a divorce, sickness, death, job loss, leaving a church – any number of life-altering events. This kind of stuff is a punch to the gut, regardless of how thankful you may feel for the friends who are helping you readjust. Because sometimes friends can’t be there for the moments when it hits you the hardest – like the moment when I finally let go of my little girls and walked to the city bus by myself.
That morning, a sense of isolation hit me especially hard – but later in the day, an impression came to my heart, and I think it was a message from the Holy Spirit. It went something like this:
That loneliness you feel, that disorientation, that heartbreak as you said goodbye to your girls this morning – I’m in that, son. I know it’s hard to believe, and it’s even harder to feel, but please don’t forget that I am “close to the brokenhearted” and I “save those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Meet me in this hard time, place your hand in My invisible hand, and choose to believe that “I am with you, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
I didn’t instantly feel a change, but as the day went on, and I met Jesus in the midst of the isolation, peace began to replace the agitation; hope began to replace disappointment; confidence began to replace fear – and He brought the assurance that even if He does not immediately change my circumstances, He can still change me in the midst of them.