I look at all the lonely people. –The Beatles
The woman sits in crowded room full of friends. They are laughing and sharing stories and complaining. Her best friend sits to her left. A new friend sits to her right. She looks around and sees all the smiles. The women are happy. She uses a different word to describe herself: lonely.
The man is by himself. The dim sound of the repetitive television news bounces off his barren walls like a super ball ricochets off concrete. He takes another swig of his mass-produced, bland beer and fondly remembers yesteryear. The days gone by. The innocence lost. The mistakes. He knows his best days are behind him. It is a bitter pill to digest. He swallows another numbing drink. He could use many words to describe himself. But the word at the top of the list: lonely.
Mother Teresa calls loneliness the worst disease in the world. Maybe brilliant minds at various medical schools would take exception, but you get the feeling the old nun is on to something because feeling unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is brutal.
I like that you’re lonely
Lonely like me
I could be lonely with you
A person can be lonely when others are absent. A person can be lonely in the presence of people. Perhaps especially there. Loneliness can happen when surrounded by family and friends and even the person you love the most.
Loneliness has little to do with the lack of company or the quality of the company. It has to do with lack of purpose and passion. Pray. Pray that your loneliness is replaced by something you are willing to live for. And if you are really blessed—something you are willing to die for.
But something more is going on.
This is for the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by. -America
Loneliness is also emptiness. It takes more than purpose and passion and the presence of people to fill our emptiness. Augustine writes: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
We think of loneliness as physical and relational and we are wrong. We are spiritual beings. The Psalmist sings:
Alongside Babylon’s rivers we sat on the banks;
we cried and cried,
remembering the good old days in Zion.
In the end, it is Zion we are seeking. No person or passion or possession can replace it. Zion is the place we long for even if we don’t know we are longing for it. It is the place where we become the best us. It is the place we become our most authentic us. It is the place our emptiness is filled. It is the place we find our true home.