“I don’t know another soul here,” I thought to myself during the class break, feeling distant from the other adult students I was observing. I began to face the fact that, in a way, we are always alone. That is, we are bound within our mind, our consciousness, our self. Even our closest friends, even our spouses cannot breach that border. I have often wished not to be so alone, trapped within my own thoughts.
But are we really alone? Those of us who have experienced full reconciliation with God through Messiah’s atonement have been reunited with our Maker. In wrestling with my own “aloneness” I want to explore the divine response to this phenomenon—as a type of “therapy, healing and change of outlook.” First, let’s see what Yeshua went through on the cross.
Yeshua felt alone, was alone, on the cross. He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was in blunt contrast to His prayer conversations in which He addressed God as “Father.” Yeshua knew that His Father was always with Him. Yet in being crucified, the Son of God submitted to temporary “abandonment” in order to bear our rebellion. He experienced the penalty we deserved—separation from a holy God, i.e. absolute aloneness. The one person who was never truly alone embraced isolation from everyone and everything—utter darkness—in order to liberate us from the aloneness birthed in sin.
After His resurrection, as our Shepherd finished His work on this earth, He gave us this guarantee, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)!!! Knowing our capacity to feel alone, separate, detached, disconnected, He assured us as His disciples, “I’ll always be with you, in every situation, no matter what’s going on inside of you.”
Elijah thought he was alone. In a cave, following the astounding victory on Mt. Carmel, the prophet was convinced of his aloneness. Then God spoke to him in a whisper. The Author of the universe was right there, with the prophet, at the mouth of the cave, when Elijah was depressed and suffering by himself. God, entirely aware of His servant’s inner state, challenged him to come out of his introspection and go back to his history-altering calling. Thus he “finished well,” setting in motion the destinies of two kings and the young prophet who succeeded him.
I sometimes find myself in such a cave. There, I become consumed with self-doubts, self-condemnation, and pointless regrets about my past. In that cave I need to hear the whisper of my God. I need to remember and rejoice in the truth David learned. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [a fitting metaphor for the loneliness of depression/discouragement/self-focus] I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Practicing His Presence
Now I’m sitting alone. It is a holy moment. Silence…and I am with Him. Simply with Him. No agenda, no list, no regrets. It is not a lonely aloneness. Because Someone is with me. This must be what is called “the secret place.” The psalm that speaks of such a place (Psalm 91) contains enormous promises of God’s presence, protection, and abundance when I “abide with him.” This practice of being “alone,” but conscious of His presence with us is, I believe, our indispensable communion. Once united with Him, I can enjoy the richness of shared life with the people around me, and I am no longer alone.