THE DESOLATION OF LONELINESS

by David Sisler

Loneliness expresses itself in many different ways.

Loneliness may be a gnawing terror that jolts you awake in the night. Your husband tries to understand, but even as much as he loves you, he still does not quite get the point.

You've lived in the same house for so long, all of its nighttime sounds are as recognizable as the voice of an old friend over the telephone. The night sounds don't frighten you, and work exhausts you, but still when he is away on business, you cannot sleep. You never change the sheets until after he has returned the smell of his cologne and his sweat are your only comfort while he is away. The loneliness touches you in a way his absent arms cannot.

It may be the loneliness of an 18-year-old girl whose boyfriend has just departed for college. Her normally flawless make-up is streaked by her tears, her body is racked with sobs. Finally she takes one long, deep breath and says, "I am very sad, and not even my Daddy can make it better." She and her Dad sit on the edge of her bed, neither one speaking, both taking turns holding the stuffed bear her boyfriend gave her last Christmas. As she soaks one tissue with her tears, her Dad hands her another one and tosses the one that has caught most of her tears into an ever growing pile in the center of the room.

Even though they sit with their shoulders touching, she feels the loneliness of that first separation. She is right it is a loneliness that not even Daddy can fix.

Frequently it is a feeling that even in a crowd there is no one else around. The promotion was a long time in coming, but all of your hard work finally paid off. You were surprised how quickly you loaded your belongings into a rental truck to begin the journey to a new city. Now, with all of the boxes unpacked, your name emblazoned over your very own office door, the newness of everything is developing a rough edge.

Walking down the side walk at lunch time, jostled by dozens of strangers, you see a face in the crowd ahead. For an instant you think it is your best friend from back home and you take a few quick steps toward her. Then your shoulders and your spirits sag as the woman turns it was just a close resemblance. People look at you with a variety of reactions as you simply stop and stare. They think you are looking at them. What you are really seeing is the loneliness.

You were not married, but when she broke the engagement, you jokingly called it a divorce. The courtship was exciting. The two of you genuinely cared for each other. You took your time getting to know each other.

When so many of your friends said, "Why don't you just live together? That's the best way to get to know each other," your reaction was labeled old-fashioned. "I want to honor her with a public commitment of marriage," you said. Gradually the relationship changed. Although you still loved her, there was a growing dissatisfaction. It was nothing you could put your finger on, but something was not right. You even prayed, "Lord, if this planned marriage is not your will, let her bring up the subject." When she did, you were both relieved. You both believed it was the Lord.

But then the reality of the break-up settled in. The little habits you had developed with her the phone calls, the cards, the dinners, the walks became symbols, not of love, but of loneliness. Then one day, still calling you by her pet name for you, she announced she had a date with a new friend. Loneliness became your new habit.

The man writes, "I lost my wife to liver cancer three weeks ago. We fought hard together. Her mother took care of her during the daytime, and I took care of her in the evenings after work. The treatments didn't work. The prayers were never answered. I have lost hope that God listens to us when we need him. I am so lonely!"

The pain which this widower feels may be the most crushing form of loneliness. Such desolation can caused him to doubt God's mercy. But even in the despair which accuses God of abandonment, that man is not alone. The God who said, "It is not good for man to be alone," also said, "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you."

No matter what the cause of your loneliness, no matter how long you have been alone, look inside. Look into your heart. You are not alone. Your Heavenly Father is right there. He promised!

-30-

Published in the Augusta Chronicle 12/4/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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