Music off, television off, phone left on silent, I’ve been dabbling with the quiet because I need to hear from God, but the truth about the quiet is that it has opened me up wide, turned on my dulled senses, and faced me toward my rawest, loneliest places. It is a constant struggle for me to not reach for my phone, always at my side. With my mouth I say I want to walk with God, but with my actions I crave a culturally acceptable numbness that keeps me from pain.
Many of us know truth with our words and our songs and in our friendship conversations, but it feels rare to experience it in the seething corners of our hearts or in those hurt, magnified memories we keep close and shoved down. We start to feel the quiet working on us, and so we reach for the phone, scroll through instagram.
I’m finding, even as I pursue the presence of God, that the quieter it gets, the lonelier I get and the more I am left to deal with my own thoughts and what I really believe about God. I’m beginning to see how I’ve discounted that I have the mind of Christ, that I am actually supposed to be able to hear myself think.
I’ve started asking how lonely was Jesus in His flesh. Who knows what it’s like to be God with breakable bones? And then I imagine the desperate, internal communion Jesus kept with His Father, the kind of communion I want with Him, too.
Because of Jesus, I’m starting to embrace the lonely, not hiding from it any more, and rather asking Jesus into it with me. Only then do I find myself truly not alone.
Even in the intimacy metaphor we receive with marriage, even in our most unified moments, we can feel most alone. Even with your most favorite sisters, in huge crowds, and with a boat load of kids, we find ourselves deep in the crevices of loneliness. We find ourselves feeling exposed and unfixed because there is no people fix, no earthly father, no covering that will do other than the covering Jesus gives, the messianic fix.
I believe we blow the horn asking all to gather in community often because we think it will save us – save us from ourselves. Community can point us in the right direction, but it still won’t fix us.
We in our lonely can realize a love that hounds, the presence of invisible God, and only from the solitude found there can we reach out to community and practice the healing of togetherness in Him.
What if we allowed the quiet, faced the lonely, and sat in it a bit? Might that lonely place be exactly where the door is, the one on which we knock, the one Jesus promises to open?
inspired by the reading of Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen and written by Amber Haines from theRunaMuckLeave a Comment
Emily Cook says
This is very good.
I’m writing about technology distraction at my blog http://www.weakandloved.com/2012/05/mama-can-that-wait-thoughts-on.html
(I’d love it if you would come by and share your link with my readers)
but I hadn’t thought about it being a way to keep oneself numb. You are absolutely right, it is. Distraction can keep us running from IT, whatever it is we don’t want to face. And even surrounding ourselves with people, with our own babies… well, it won’t fill the God-shaped hole.
So glad that our Father pursues us, that His Word breaks the numbness! Praise to Jesus who gives His very self to us! 🙂
Thanks for starting my morning off right today!
Kathy @ In Quiet Places says
I am thankful for a God who never leaves us or forsakes us, but is always with us, in the midst of every day life – and in the moments we can have alone with Him, the most intimate moments of all where we grow to know Him and He grows us!
“culturally acceptable numbness”…that convicts me. Thank you for the eye-opening perspective–I have a feeling it’s being used to change me.
I love henry nouwen. It is a hard process to allow the silence in…really in…sometimes it’s a silence “forced” on us by life…and sometimes it’s a chosen silence. I have experienced both and these times have enriched and transformed my walk with the Lover of my soul.
Oh yes…so true what you write about community…sometimes we want a substitute…and I have seen in my life this statement to be so true…”We in our lonely can realize a love that hounds, the presence of invisible God, and only from the solitude found there can we reach out to community and practice the healing of togetherness in Him”.
Great post…blessings as we learn the art of silence~
I have never once considered ‘the desperate, internal communion Jesus kept with His Father’. I can’t fathom it, but I want it. Oh, how I want it.
Nikole Hahn says
Jesus will fix us in our lonely moments. Each of our needs are different, but sometimes God uses community to sharpen my senses and make me more aware that there’s something more out there He wants me to do or to be as I sit in Him. A person can feel lonely in a crowded place as well as by themselves. Beautiful post.
Wow. Thank you for writing this. I have no words right now…I am in that place of loneliness and quietness. And it’s hard and uncomfortable. Thank you again for writing this, it was for me, so incredibly timely.
Mrs. C says
love this !
“Might that lonely place be exactly where the door is, …the one Jesus promises to open?” Yes! Lovely.
I’m trying to interpret loneliness as an invitation from the Lord to grow deeper in relationship with Him. As much as I need (in)RL friendships, I need Him more.
Thank you for the beautiful post!
Thank you for your post on loneliness. I’m going through an extremely painful period of loneliness; my husband and I are going through a really rough time in our marriage and he recently told me he’s thinking of moving out of our house and leaving the marriage. I know I’m not alone because God is with me always, but human loneliness derived from the lack of communication and love from my husband is almost unbearable. Thank you for your words of encouragement and for reminding me that God is always with me in the lonely times. God bless you always.
Tanya Swartzentruber says
Lifting you up to Jesus Sam. May you find Him as the healer of your heart and your marriage. ♥
Mrs. C says
with you in prayer Tanya
I agree with you, Sam, that loneliness is the worst. It does seem unbearable.
It’s so hard with these metaphors we’re supposed to live out, those metaphors that reflect God, as with the love of a Father or the love of a spouse. Sometimes they just don’t reflect God how we need them to. Nothing can make you go more quickly to the actually source, though. There’s nothing like the real deal.
I am praying for you now.
Thank you. I love this sentence: “Because of Jesus, I’m starting to embrace the lonely, not hiding from it any more, and rather asking Jesus into it with me. Only then do I find myself truly not alone.” This is precious being in the presence of only Jesus, His Warmth and His love. Thank you again.
I kinda want to scream for you to get out of my business and thank you in the same breath. 🙂 Love you, Amber.
You know how we always write these in advance – or sort of in advance? It’s so funny how by the time, my post goes up, I’m the one that needs to hear it most of all. That Jesus, He’s a friend.
I love you, too. 🙂
Patricia Lai Fook says
This article really hit home. I embrace quite times but have not used my alone time with God exclusively. I go in and out without shutting down my busy mind to hear from God and not from the world. I’m printing this article and placing it where I will remember the promise I have made to myself in having a deeper connection with God.
Thank you for speaking directly to me.
Shelly Miller says
As usual, I love this along with everything you write. I used to think the loneliness was because of circumstances, moving away from friends, not reaching out enough to build new ones. Then I realized that I was seeking something to fill the void that would never be enough. Only Jesus can truly fill the lonley places. And I have sat with him long and frequent in those places and they are some my most precious times with Him. Thank you Amber, you’re so lovely.
wow… this brings so much clarity to my life. Thank you for your honest words and for the hope it brings.. I too am convicted by the “culturally acceptable numbness” but it is an encouragement to hear that facing loneliness can be good and bring healing. Once again, Amber, your words strike home. Thank you!
A unique amd inspiring memoir that captures the resilience of the human spirit,memoirs of hope beyond illness and courage,beyond despair came crashing down on what seemed a perfect life
use your faith in God I often find comfort in prayer especially if you pray for others in a similiar situtation.but wether you beloeve your illness is part of Gods plan or not,you should have a plan of your own,a plan to manage your ilness in life circumscribed by illness is essential
Beautiful post. I’m not feeling particularly lonely at this point in my life, and yet your words make me feel like crying. Perhaps they’ve touched a place of loneliness I’ve pushed deep down inside myself. Definitely something worth reflecting on and praying about. Thanks for sharing.
Came at a time that Im asking God to help me deal with these issues, not live in the emotional and live by his spirit. Not allowing it to dictate or it be habit, thanks enjoyed the read…
This was for me. Thank you.
Mmmm… I don’t know if turning it all off and sitting in the quiet is worth the risk. What will happen when the numbing social networking medicine wears off? Will I be able to tolerate the pain?
That’s absolutely the question I’m still struggling with. Kat, I’ve been wondering if the entire issue isn’t whether or not we can trust Him with the pain.
I think we know what we would say we believe about that, but actually living it out is another thing.
Leslie Kelly says
I am learning the meaning of “Be Still and Know that I AM GOD”. He is teaching me to “behave like a weened child”, stilling my heart and mind and helping me to realize more and more who He is and my desperate need for Him. I am increasingly more desperate for his presence every day and I am learning that he uses the lonely spaces to teach me stillness so that I can know Him. And the more comfortable I get with the stillness, the closer I get to Him; the more I want to know Him, and the more I need to know Him.
I never thought about “be Still” as speaking to lonlieness but it does. Great insight.
I have always thought that there is a tremendous difference between being lonely and being alone. Lonely brings negative feelings and sometimes pain, whereas alone, is simply just being with oneself. I think of being alone as peaceful. It allows me to think, reflect and receive. Open channels so to speak. Although my self esteem is relatively alone, I am perfectly okay with being with just myself. I think alot of people are perplexed by this, but it works for me. It’s a great time to just listen and often this is precisely when I hear God the loudest. Not always..but that’s OK too. Blessings!
Amaris in Wonderland says
You are so right. I sense loneliness in the crowds, and hustle & bustle of the city, whereas when I have the opportunity to get out and roam the countryside (always) alone, I have so much peace. I literally can’t stop praising God for all that He shows me. My heart swells up with so much joy that I feel like it’s going to burst. The smallest details of creation are a wonder and testament to His nature.
I can just about see through my tears to post this. Thank you.
I’ve been praying for a long time over a relationship that God bought in to my life, a relationship that in many ways saved me, but a relationship that hasn’t developed in the way I want. And I’ve known for a while that my prayers had been answered, but I’ve kept praying because the answer wasn’t the one I was looking for and I wasn’t ready to accept it. finally, I have. I’ve not only heard but listened too. reluctantly.
Then today came, a day I so wanted, needed, to spend with this man. And I couldn’t. And I’ve never felt so alone, so single, so despairing. I tried to write in my journal but all that came was a question – why, Lord, why must I feel this loneliness? now here I am, another prayer with a reply, I’m reading the answer in your words.
Again, thank you.
God bless you Guinea..something in your words rings in me also..the thing we most wish for sometimes isn’t what it seems, but without the chance to try we just don’t know, It’s the not being able to that hurts so much. I just am afraid to believe anything anyone says anymore. May God send His healing touch to your heart.
I am sitting “in it” right this minute and I find Him all around me. It takes practice though. I have to fight the “feeling sorry for myself” and depression. I just have to “Be Still And Know That He Is God”….
I love “Reaching Out” and Henri Nouwen–so true–it’s in our loneliness where God truly meets us…in silence. At my church this past Lent, worship changed so there were intentional moments of silence, more than usual, throughout the service, and it really reminded me of how precious still silence is, even when we’re at times scared of it. But thank you for reminding us of how necessary it is! Wonderful post! Blessings!
This is beautiful. I want to commune with God and be able to lay everything else aside and be in His presence. A place where other relationships are not where we try to receive satisfaction, contentment or confidence. God is our all in all and until we can truly be alone with Him we will never be complete. Thank you for posting.
Glenda Mills says
Great post and so true. Being still before the Lord and entering into the quiet with Him can be both lovely and lonely. Breaking through into His presence brings a joy and a new song. Keep seeking!!
I have been lonely a long time. I was married for 29 years. Lonely for most of it. Divorced 2 years ago, (my choice) had 1 year of happiness with someone who disappeared without a word and now is sunk in depression that fears to take his life..I struggle to let it not take mine. I do know I am not alone though it feels like I am..God spoke to me years ago and said, “I will never leave you or forsake you”..now I know after all these years why He let me HEAR Him say that…He knew the hell I was to go through and He prepared me for it. Where I go now, I don’t know. But I know He holds my hand. Even in my desolation.
Gerry, I hear your pain, sweet sister. Can I say something to you? You are beautiful, you are lovely, you are precious and you are cherished by Jesus – and He knows a good thing when He sees one!
He is truly the only one who can heal our hurts and take away our pain… and He knows where you are to go from here. He does hold your hand, and He will never fail you. Keep taking one step forward after another, it’s always darkest just before the dawn.
Funny you should talk about this! A few months ago, I sensed that I get the message…(his message) clearest when i turn things off. I sense him there and gain insight with my dilemas….haha. And yes, it can be so utterly lonely to wait on him without all the fanfare. But…he is who he says he is and he always shows up…I get what I need and there’s no way I would’ve heard him above all the other distractions. He is faithful!
Thank you for this post 😀
Amaris in Wonderland says
I’ve been “there” for almost 5.5 years… I moved to another country with a culture that doesn’t permanently accept foreigners [or anyone that doesn’t fit inside the locally accepted mold]… (Tourists are good because they leave.) This, added to the fact that Americans are generally not popular in South America, has made me a very lonely girl, indeed.
I miss home, culture, food, friends, family (both hereditary and church)… freedom of expression – just being able to be me without being judged.
I finally realized that God has me in this place for a reason. I’ve done more Bible studies in the past 5 years, than in the rest of my years combined… I have particularly focused on David. He was one of the loneliest guys ever – but he found strength and comfort in God. Daniel and Joseph are two others who faced years of isolation, and used it to glorify the Lord.
Ideally, the church is made up of people who have a healthy balance of private meditation & communal interaction, to spur each other on… We can’t pour out on each other, what we haven’t had the time to refill. Still, i hope this new version of my life will soon include some sisters in Christ!
In your reply, you bring up the concept or theory of a healthy balance. I love the way you express it so perfectly. Private meditation and commununal interaction to spur each other on. That is in my opinion is “it”. Balance and moderation are something that I attempt to work on daily, in all aspects of my life. You have helped me to bring prayer and God into harmonious balance. Thank you for that. In your home away from home, I hope you find purpose ,which I believe you have, peace, laugher and friendship. Blessings!
I will pray for you, Amaris. I am a prayer warrior and Missionaries have a special place in my heart! God will bless you and reward you for the work you are doing in His name! How I wish I could be where you are! Instead, I am stuck in a house, when I’d rather be doing the Great Commission! Your crown will be so heavy when you get to Heaven, that you will have to lay it down at Jesus’ feet. Keep on working in the Lord’s service….”the pay ain’t much, but the retirement benefits are out of this world!” I will pray that you will find sisters in Christ there to fellowship with.
God bless you, and know that Jesus loves you and cares for you.
I will be praying every day for you!
With love and prayers for your journey!
Paulette Curry says
Wonderful article….Thank You
I am searching for some peace at this time, I’m lonely in the chaos of my life. I need to step out and just be, I’m feeling like eveybody and everything wants a part of me and I have nothing left for me. I need to spend time with my saviour, my renewer the one who gives me my all.
A blessing to find this post. I struggle in my community with lonlieness. As a new mom in a new neighborhood 10 years ago I struggled for so long to find connection. I should have been working on letting God into my lonlieness. Community won’t fix it!! You’re so right. No matter how many friends I have, invites to parties….etc. I won’t find happieness. Only in Christ.
Another wake up moment. Very powerful! Thank you.
Beautifully written. I agree with you wholeheartedly! Seeking the solitude, the loneliness, is the hard part. Not running from “the noise in our head” we find there is nearly impossible. But, He finds us there. I loved where you said you invite Jesus into the loneliness with you. Beautiful! And, yes, I do believe that is where the door is. It takes great courage to go there and not run away. But, when you get to the other side of the door, wow!, redemption, transformation, a new life in Christ – it all makes sense. I aim to write a post on my blog about my own personal struggle with solitude and loneliness.
Thank you for sharing.
Beth Williams says
I love the quiet –just hearing birds chirp, looking at the sky. I get soo tired of noises-bleeps, boops, phones, etc.
I think there should be a day or 2 when everyone just shuts down, shuts off & tunes in to the world around them & finds God in the small, simple joys of life.
You point me to a beautiful place of quiet, that is less lonely ,as in a sad place of void, but more a simple uncluttered place of being…… being filled to overflowing with communion with Him. I forget when it feels lonely that I am not in fact alone at all. A paradox. An upside down truth, we are never truly alone because of His omnipotence.
You write this beautifully. Stripped down to the bare, the simple , with less of the world’s distractions, we are truly much more in communion and covered up in fellowship with Him. Thanks for words that lead to these lovely possibilities… much more time being in His presence, with Him and Him alone.
You couldn’t have said it any better.
I feel this often. And then I have to remind myself that my relation with Christ
is not based on my feelings. That is so freeing .
But thank you for sharing this just the way you did.
I can so identify. Satan would love for us to identify the negative part daily, if we would just allow it.
Blessings to you,
Diana Trautwein says
Oh, Amber. As always – thoughtful, beautiful and true. Being alone is not a bad thing, yet our culture tends to make us think that. Solitude is a gift, actually – a sacred space into which we can step with confidence and trust, knowing that we will be met there. Sometimes that meeting is more palpable that others, but we’ll never experience at all if we don’t step into our aloneness and embrace it. Thanks for this.
Thank you, Amber, for these thoughts. I have been moving a lot the last five years and often think that if I just had more friends where I am currently living, things would be better. You are so right, though, that sometimes community is a way to hide – I want to hide from the ugliness in my heart that God is seeking to expose through my loneliness and through the uncertainty. Really thankful to read these words today.
Diana Trautwein says
supposed to be ‘than’ others….need to proof before hitting ‘submit.’ :>( and experience IT at all. Sheesh.
Kristen Strong says
“We in our lonely can realize a love that hounds, the presence of invisible God, and only from the solitude found there can we reach out to community and practice the healing of togetherness in Him.” ~ Oh this, Amber! It isn’t until we feel safe being alone with Jesus that we give community its proper place in our lives. As usual, your words reach all the deep places and heal. Love you!
This speaks truth to me. Thank you for sharing your heart!
Yes and amen. I’ve been doing some serious and intentional seeking of solitude and silence since March. Once a week, my husband (bless his heart in the truest sense of the word) takes my two boys out for 2-5 hours at a time and I sit. Yep. Crickets. I sit still and do nothing but wait for God and also grieve and allow myself to feel past pains and feel. I never realized how little time I spend feeling while I am whizzing through motherhood at full speed with constant companionship (usually all under age 10). But, I am allowing for the difficult, excruciating experience of emptiness and, like you, I am being filled. I am giving Him room to move. I don’t go into this with much purpose except to allow God time to move in my heart. Sometimes even our quiet times are loaded with our own devices. I sure appreciate this blog post. I am starting to really savor these alone times and I am (glory to Him) bearing the fruit of abiding as I witness it flow out from those times — patience, grace, gentleness. With you in productive loneliness.
thank you for taking a risk and writing this.
imperfect prose says
do you know how comforting it is to know that you get lonely too? sometimes, when i feel lonely (which is almost every day) i think i’m the only one going through it (because i feel so alone)… funny how we’re all feeling lonely, together. i love how you found comfort in Christ instead of feeling sorry for yourself amber. a beautiful post.
marina bromley says
thank you. so encouraging. i too long for solitude, and have a hard time finding it lately as we’ve opened our home to our daughter/sil and 4 grandkids. i know it’s a season, that i’m making memories, but i’m so tired of the ruckus that i long for the quiet. the lonely. a peaceful place that i think i used to know.
we are never alone, and i’m glad that you relate that in your writing. thanks so much for sharing.
I’ve just lost my father. This is the second father we’ve buried. I could not be there for the funeral. I have been home bound for 4 years due to Parkinson’s Disease. I’ve lived through many terrible storms, but I’ve found that “there is no pit so deep, that Jesus is not deeper still” (Coorie ten Boom, “The Hiding Place”). I’ve actually been in so many hospitals without even a Bible or phone or anyone, but Jesus has never left me (Heb. 13:5). It is hard sometimes, when one has no family living close by, but I always have Jesus and His Word, He walks and talks with me in my loneliness. His Word rings in my ears, during the worst time, and when I think I can’t stand it any longer, I pray for those who are missionaries, who have left everything, family, friends, to follow Jesus. We have a mighty and awesome God who meets all our needs, both spiritual and physical (Phil. 4: 11-19). So I consider myself blessed to be alone with Him. He will always be there, even in my deepest and darkest hour. God bless you and I will pray for you during your journey!
With Christ’s love for you,
Isaiah 49: 15-16
Chique Weiz says
I always feel God’s presence in serenity, Need not to be lonely but feel the peace within. I feel blessed every time I have the precious time to communicate with our God.
Darcy @ Message in a Mason Jar says
I read an article by psychologist Sherry Turkle recently. She says we have to learn how to be truly alone before we can be truly together. Technology keeps us from real solitude and facing ourselves and God in quiet…and so we are just a shadow of ourselves when we enter the company of other people. One pastor I know says because of technology he can’t find solitude even when the house is empty. To get real solitude, he drives all the way to the lake house, beyond the reach of cell towers.
Janet F.Newton says
Thanks for words that lead to these lovely possibilities… much more time being in His presence, with Him and Him alone.
Deanna Broxton says
What an absolutely beautiful post. I found it quite by accident, and I’m so glad that I did. I’ve been in this lonely place before, and struggled with it. I’ve wanted to run from it, because like you said, it is hard to deal with all of the stuffed emotions that begin to surface. But yes, it’s in that lonely place that He can reveal Himself to us more fully and minister to our souls. In His presence our loneliness is swallowed up and we become whole. Bless you for sharing such an inspiring post.
I can really connect with the aloneness. I moved from “Paradise”, Florida, to a “Desert Place” Arizona. I felt that aloneness. God had to get me attention by moving me from all I knew and the green lushness to a dry brown place. But the great thing about getting to know God one on one was that the Desert Place turned into an oasis because God brought me closer to himself.
I know this is a late post to what you have written but I am reading it for the 1st time in the Beach House book that is going along with (in)courage.