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Collaboration 5: Loneliness

Question:

When you feel lonely, how can you turn to God for help?
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Transcript of Video:

Any person that’s healthy emotionally and psychologically feels lonely from time to time and finds that loneliness painful. And I think that the thing that’s always the most important in prayer is to be honest with God and to ask for what we need. And so when I’m lonely, when I feel isolated, I say that to God in my prayer and identify it and I say, “I want to be relieved from this. This is painful. This is difficult for me.” And God always responds. Sometimes not necessarily alleviating the loneliness in the way that I want it to be alleviated. But God invites me into a kind of deeper intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Or God – I guess a better way of putting it is God takes that loneliness and transforms it into a kind of contemplative sense and an intimacy with Christ that it doesn’t get rid of the loneliness but it makes sense of it I guess.

I think it – you know, I mean, I think it … I think when I was younger – and I don’t think I’m too unusual in this in my life – that when I was lonely I would try to fill that isolation and think that another person was going to take care of that. And the longer that I prayed and the longer that I’ve experienced God’s presence the more I caution myself about that. I say, “You know another person is not going to take care of the way you feel today. There’s a possibility that God can do this.”

– Br. Tom Shaw

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44 Comments

  1. Stephanie on April 14, 2014 at 14:06

    Someone commented yesterday that forgiving himself makes it easier to stop demonizing and to forgive others. Self-forgiveness fills a lot of holes. Accepting forgiveness, accepting myself, not running away from who I am creates the space where being alone with God is richly satisfying, “as with marrow and fatness.”

  2. John Okerman on April 7, 2014 at 10:10

    When I feel lonely I have only used prayer on a superficial level. Today’s lesson will help me use prayer in a deeper and more meaningful way. It will also cause me to reflect more on why I’m lonely rather than seek the companionship of other people.

  3. Yvonne Morrison on April 6, 2014 at 10:19

    A great reminder to turn to God in prayer when you feel sad or lonely. We feel so much and know that with God’s help we can overcome the internal loneliness we may feel from time to time. We can take ownership with God’s help.

  4. Marilyn Weir on April 6, 2014 at 08:13

    I have lived alone for 23 years, not by plan. There’s much I enjoy about living alone as I need alone time, but I feel a constant deep subtle sadness that I attribute to not having a partner to share life with. Being alone and feeling lonely is not the same thing. I often feel content when I am alone, but sometimes I feel very lonely. As my relationship with God and Christ has strengthened, that loneliness doesn’t freak me out so much. It’s not comfortable, but it doesn’t freak me out. What I find helpful is to stop or slow down and breathe deeply and slowly – just breathe with it – and allow myself to be more conscious of God’s presence in my life, and tell myself it’s okay.

  5. Barbara A. Harris on April 6, 2014 at 00:04

    This was very touching to listen to, thank you Bring. Tom. So often I feel lonely because I am not socially active and it is painful when I think just once if they would would ask me to come along too. But I share my hurt with God and He always finds a way to resolve the hurt. I am no less lonely but the ache is not so strong.

    • Jan Sannes on May 13, 2014 at 15:57

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel so alone. I would love to have the opportunity to ask you to “go along”. Loneliness is a terrible feeling.

  6. Elke on April 4, 2014 at 23:53

    In times of loneliness, I often turn to look at Jesus on the cross. There, near his death, when he was utterly alone and abandoned by all, he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
    I’m sure these words echo around in every Christian’s soul, because sooner or later, we find ourselves in precisely that situation of aloneness.
    What strikes me every time I enter Jesus’ experience of his last hours, is that he never let go of his relationship with God (though I imagine he might have assumed that all was lost after all).
    And then: Jesus never got an immediate response from God, no revelation, no intervention. Only much later do we learn that God all along was working Jesus’ resurrection.
    Simply contemplating this event comforts me. And at times, it fills me with awe.

  7. Kathleen Sheehy on April 4, 2014 at 18:53

    God gave me a “picture” years ago during a time of difficulty. I saw myself standing in a doorway. Outside a rainstorm is in progress and I am wet and bedraggled. Inside, the room is warm and firelit, and Jesus is sitting in a wing chair. He looks at me, and I know all I have to do is cross the room and climb into His lap. That image has stayed with me and I often return to it.

  8. Jack Zamboni on April 4, 2014 at 17:08

    I’ve been moved throughout Lent, and even more this week, by the Brothers’ vulnerability and transparency in these videos. Robert and Tom, especially, have spoken from a place of openness and honesty that encourages me to be more open and honest with myself, my family and the people n the congregation where I serve as priest. Thank you.

    • Tammy Lee on April 5, 2014 at 18:10

      great observation….I too will think about that and pray for the courage to practice it too!

  9. Lynn Taylor on April 4, 2014 at 16:36

    I am not sure about this. I have not been successful at alleviating my loneliness. I denied it for such a long time. I am now at a point of working on acceptance of my loneliness. And ask for help with sincerity

  10. Deacon Susan in California on April 4, 2014 at 16:15

    I rarely feel lonely. It helps me grow in compassion for those who suffer loneliness when I read all these moving comments, and when I see and hear Bp. Tom being so vulnerable.

  11. Marion Larsen on April 4, 2014 at 15:12

    I wonder whether God didn’t create the universe out of a longing to love and to BE LOVED, to know and BE KNOWN. If so, that longing might well have been stamped on our hearts and souls as well. So, it makes good sense to turn to God when we feel lonely, for He may have put that longing into our hearts so we WOULD turn to GOD. I agree with most of the posts I have read which say that contemplative communion with God does direct that longing and ease it. Then, perhaps we are in a better position to “love our neighbors as ourselves”, as we are asked to do.

  12. Julie Watt Faqir on April 4, 2014 at 15:05

    exactly as Bishop Tom expressed by asking God to help me feel less lonely. It isn’t up to others, it is up to me and God.

  13. Ross Bliss on April 4, 2014 at 14:28

    I stop, and pay attention, and within a few seconds I sense again the companion presence that is still there, the wordless intimacy that is always available if I just stop and notice.

  14. Sr. Donna Morgan on April 4, 2014 at 12:27

    God is the only one who can fill the hole that loneliness creates. Prayer and meditation help us to connect with God, but sometimes alleviating the loneliness requires the presence of one or more humans that are always sent to us by God. The lesson here is to depend on God “to give us our daily bread”, whatever that daily bread might be.

  15. Beth on April 4, 2014 at 12:09

    Unequivocally, Yes, loneliness has brought me closer to God. When I feel, no one is there, He is. In the still quiet of loneliness, I speak to Him, and listen. His presence is always there.

  16. Melinda on April 4, 2014 at 11:42

    When the loneliness ‘feeling’ comes upon me I eventually remember that it is just a feeling – not fact. Feelings are so mercurial and can change on a dime 🙂 I need to remember that even though I may feel lonely, I am never really alone. God is always with me, in me, and cares deeply for me. I so relate to Br Tom’s statement that another person is not going to take the feeling away. For me there is no point dwelling on the feeling. I need to connect with God (prayer-meditation), make a gratitude list (either on paper or in my head) and then take action (do what is before me to do).

  17. Cush on April 4, 2014 at 11:15

    When listening to the reflection today “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” kept going through my mind — certainly not not one of my favorites, but that seems to be my prayer today.

  18. Jennie M Anderson on April 4, 2014 at 11:13

    Often in my lonely times I have turned myself away from companionship (even God’s comfort) and although I have spent most of my life “alone” I have felt the pain of loneliness most intensely when I’m with folks with whom I don’t connect well… in all of these conditions I find that when I open myself to God’s love, some of the pain of loneliness eases, sometimes enough to make a new or renewed connection… God does the best in healing my loneliness, I have rarely felt that need met by another person only. Thanks for this meditation Brother Tom. Peace.

  19. Anne Anninger on April 4, 2014 at 11:07

    Thank you, this was SO helpful to me.

  20. gwedhen nicholas on April 4, 2014 at 10:28

    I feel the presence of God and the cloud of witnesses with me. I don’t feel lonely. I used to, and I would sort of revel in the loneliness, which was wrong. I should have turned to God, and known His presence, and prayed to Him. I have taken that loneliness and submerged it in God, and now I don’t feel it anymore. Thanks be to God for His awesome Presence.

  21. Margo on April 4, 2014 at 09:55

    “It is through friendship that we will be of most support to one another. Celibacy could be unbearably lonely unless we uphold one another with affection. Our friendship with one another does not draw us way from the centrality of love of Christ in the heart, for that is the very thing we all have in common.”
    Some times a particular relationship is exactly what helps you through loneliness that is isolating and overwhelming. Not only in an immediate encounter but in the memory of an energy that together is there. This is the same in prayer. I cannot demand intimacy from God but the memory of it brings me back to seek it.
    Thank you for this. Margo

  22. Greg Little on April 4, 2014 at 09:53

    I certainly felt lonely at times in my life when I was younger and tried to fill that loneliness with people. I also found it didn’t work. I can say that on reflection it seems to have been a long time that I felt lonely. Part of that may be because I have embraced mu natural introversion. Part of it is probably because my wife provides me with true companionship – sometimes not comfortable but usually comforting. Part of it is because I have deepened my relationship with the divine and am aware more fully of God’s presence in my life.

  23. Pam on April 4, 2014 at 09:35

    There are many times when I choose to be alone, when I choose solitude. I often do that when I garden, for example, and it is a very special time with God. Loneliness is different, because it comes unbidden and unwelcome. It sounds ridiculous to say this, but it never occurred to me to ask God to take the pain of loneliness away. I most commonly experience loneliness in the late afternoon when I am by myself in the house. I think that particular experience of loneliness goes right back to my childhood when I would come home from school and have to be alone until my mother returned from work. I don’t know how old I was then, but I suspect I was too young to be left by myself. That is the particular time of day and circumstance when I tend to experience loneliness. Thank you for your reflection because I believe it has illuminated a part of my life that needs healing, and I know God is very able to do that.

    • LindaR on April 4, 2014 at 11:21

      I pray Spiritual Communion every afternoon with the person who sent me the form for those prayers. He is hundreds of miles away, yet through God we are emotionally together, and also united in prayer with everyone else in the worldwide Anglican Communion who also happens to be praying at the same time we are.

  24. Jyaito35@gmail.com on April 4, 2014 at 09:17

    When I am lonely I sing a loud song to God and praise His Holy Name. I don’t really feel I am lonely because I know He is always here with me.

  25. Pam on April 4, 2014 at 09:12

    Brothers, this has been a hard week with difficult questions :). For me I think there are depths to loneliness, there is a place so deep and lonely inside me that I know that only God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can fill and this is the way it should be , I am guessing. I have come to realize that this is because ( even though He lives with me) we are separated. It is this separation that is the cause for the loneliness and longing and one day this will no longer be so when I am with Him – Hallelujah! Other lonely times are because we do need people and for me it is as simple as that – longing for love and friendships. I do not confuse the two anymore. But yes I agree with you Win, church can sometimes be a lonely place but I too have found the joy of praying and sitting by myself in church and it has often been the times when I have felt Him the most. I remember when I did a trip through Europe with three friends and every morning we would find one of those lovely old churches and find a quiet spot of our own to speak to God and just sit and be……. And I must be honest felt quite disappointed when somebody else found my spot!

  26. Lorna Harris on April 4, 2014 at 09:06

    I have felt lonely recently so this from Father Tom was, as so often is happening with these morning chats, just what I needed to hear. I too realize intellectually, although not always successfully emotionally, that expecting another person to alleviate loneliness is not a good idea. That’s not to say being with other people cannot alleviate some loneliness but using them for that purpose is not a good thing (from a variety of points of view). I have come to rely on God to help me – not to take away my loneliness but as someone to be with me when I am lonely. I talk to Jesus in prayer as well. That helps me float on top of the lonely feeling, as it were, rather than being drowned in it. Perhaps that is why the image of Jesus walking on water now comes to my mind. Hmm.

  27. Christina on April 4, 2014 at 08:51

    Thank you Br. Tom. Your words are a revelation – if I had been asked, I would have assumed that you, living in community, would not experience loneliness. I now live alone and most of the time, life is good, but on the odd occasion, like Jim above, I would like to have some person to make me feel cherished again in a human companionship. (I’m a difficult case though because I love my independence!)
    This morning’s prayer: For All those Lonely People. Christina

  28. Mary Caulfield on April 4, 2014 at 08:47

    Sometimes it helps to sit in silence and imagine the beating hearts of other lonely people, then to think about all of that life and thought out there in the world. If I sit long enough, I can feel God’s beating heart.

  29. Kathryn Dodge on April 4, 2014 at 08:16

    I try to take time to be alone every day, to build my relationship with my Creator with the hopes that in times of significant need, I will not have to begin at the beginning, that there will be a familiarity that easily offers comfort.

  30. TM on April 4, 2014 at 08:13

    I’m of two minds about this question. Part of me says, as someone who was an only child until age 7, it’s up to me to be my own companion at times. If I’m lonely, it means I have to find something better to do to occupy myself. I am lucky that I do have a home and family and I’m never lonely for long. Another part of me, though maybe it is left over from that more child-like time, remembers Jesus as “our friend and helpmate”, and I have an ongoing dialogue with Him sometimes.

  31. Win on April 4, 2014 at 07:39

    It may be ironic, but the place where I’ve felt the most lonely in the past has been at church! One time during a midweek service when I was the only person aside from our priest, I cried, and he asked me why I was crying. I told him because I was the only one at the service this morning and he said to me, “Now you know how I feel when I come to celebrate and cannot because no one is here!”
    Years later in a different parish I’ve come to read Morning Prayer regularly in our beautiful chapel and frequently, I’m the only one there. I would imagine all the company of saints being with me and that would help, but finally I realized what a privilege I had to be there just by myself. It was a precious time to be with God alone. Who could ask for more?

    • Gayle on April 4, 2014 at 08:19

      thank you.

      • Marianne on April 4, 2014 at 23:45

        Win,
        I have felt this loneliness in my garden before when I’ve been out there making it beautiful knowing that no one but me would be seeing it. One day when these thoughts came to me, a beautiful bumble bee flew into a crocus bloom quite near me and I imagined her saying, “You’re not alone; I’m here with you, and thank you for planting these flowers for me; I love them!”

        Blessings on your path,
        Marianne

  32. Br. Stephen Francis Arnold, OSB on April 4, 2014 at 07:11

    I focus first on an icon, pray for relief and let the quietness of the moment let the voice of God and the icon saint calm me.

  33. Christopher Epting on April 4, 2014 at 06:50

    When I feel lonely, I “still my soul and make it quiet, like a child on its mother’s breast” and remember that there is no place where God is not. God is in me and I am in God. I am not alone…even when I feel lonely.

  34. Jim on April 4, 2014 at 06:15

    I think I’ve turned to God with this issue most of my life. Many times, I recall asking that God bring people into my life especially a special someone who could help me feel loved and wanted. Other times, I realized that I was praying for God to help me feel God’s presence more fully because I felt a distance or a separation.

  35. Michael Kolenick on April 4, 2014 at 05:55

    When I feel lonely, I seek out the Holy Spirit through prayer and contemplation. When I do, I usually get God’s answer either from within myself or through others.

    • Susan on April 4, 2014 at 10:09

      Michael,
      I can identify with your response. Through contemplation and prayer, I feel God’s presence. I feel alone when others do not seem to be on the same wavelength as I am. Through contemplation, I feel God’s assurance that I am not alone.

  36. Carl Riedy on April 4, 2014 at 05:53

    Thank you, Brother Tom, for such a personal and honest reflection this morning. It will help me have a more candid conversation with God throughout the day.
    A spiritual mentor once described a period when I was lost that I was in a personal exodus. This notion of an “exodus” reminds me that this is also part of God’s plan for me. Will I just ask Jesus to walk with me?
    Peace this day,

  37. Bob on April 4, 2014 at 04:01

    Thinking about the previous days, it feels this is the consequence of isolation, which is about broken relationships.

    I’ve been thinking about how to keep relationships well formed, and not focusing on the negatives, but reading all the positives from the love that is shared around me. Turning to God to strengthen ties with him and with those in the world would be a way of combating loneliness and sharing.

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