What To Do With Loneliness

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  • **Valentine’s Day can be difficult for many people.  Elisabeth wrote extensively about loneliness and here we offer an encouraging excerpt from her classic, Passion and Purity.

    The important thing is to receive this moment’s experience with both hands. Don’t waste it. “Wherever you are, be all there,” Jim once wrote. “Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”  

    A lovely moonlit night, but I am alone. Shall I resent the very moonlight itself because my lover is somewhere else?

    A cozy candlelit supper with friends—couples, except for me. Shall I be miserable all evening because they are together and I am single? Have I been “cheated”? Who cheated me? 

    The phone rings. Oh! Maybe it will be he!  t’s somebody selling light bulbs. Shall I be rude because he ought to have been somebody else?

    A letter in the mailbox that (for once) doesn’t look like junk mail or a bill. I snatch it eagerly. It’s from Aunt Susie. Do I throw it aside in disgust?

    I know all about this kind of response. I’ve been there many times. Something I wrote to Jim once must have revealed my resentment, for he wrote, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” That was exactly what I had let it do.

    There were times, I’m sure, when if anyone had tried to talk to me of the happiness of heaven I would have turned away in a huff. The painful thing was that other folks had not only heaven to look forward to, but they had “all this and heaven, too,” “this “ being engagement or marriage. I was covetous. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians about the happy certainty of heaven, he went on to say, “This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles.”   

    Even when I’m feeling most alone—on that moonlit night, in the middle of the candlelit supper, when the phone call and the letter don’t come—can I be “full of joy, here and now”? Yes. That is what the Bible says. That means it must be not only true, but possible, and possible for me.

    “Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance, this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.” 

    Taken in the right spirit. These are operative words. The empty chair, the empty mailbox, the wrong voice on the phone have no particular magic in themselves that will make a mature character out of a lonely man or woman. They will never produce a steady hope. Not at all. The effect of my troubles depends not on the nature of the troubles themselves but on how I receive them. I can receive them with both hands in faith and acceptance or I can rebel and reject.  

    **Excerpt originally published in Passion and Purity, pp 80-81.