“I’m so lonely.”
Her voice cracked as she shared her story. Peg* told me she suffered from asthma and couldn’t walk far before needing to sit and catch her breath. She had no transportation, no family, and her only friend was also disabled and unable to get out to see her.
A social services agency had placed her in her current living quarters…a single room with a shared bathroom that cost more than 75% of her small disability check. With no transportation, she was unable to get to food pantries, doctor visits, anywhere.
For 45 minutes I listened to her talk about how the lack of human interaction left her feeling isolated and depressed.
Initially, I confess I found myself looking at the clock and thinking about my long to-do list. I wanted to give Peg some resources and move on with my agenda for the day.
But when she mentioned how lonely she was it saddened me. I realized this call was more about having someone to talk to than addressing her other needs and I turned my full attention to the conversation.
Before we wrapped up, I gave Peg information on a group that might be able to take her to appointments as well as provide some companionship. Immediately her tone brightened. “That would be an answer to prayer!”
Later that day, I spoke with Dan*. More than a decade ago, Dan had a good job making $80,000 a year. Then he had an accident at work that left him severely injured. He can never work again.
“I never in a million years thought I’d need to use a food pantry, but, here I am.”
He shared how he had been waiting more than a dozen years for his Workman’s Comp case to be settled. In the interim, his income vaporized and he struggled to pay bills. He put himself on a subsidized housing list. Just about the time he was going to be evicted from his home, his name came up on the list he’d gotten on FOUR years prior.
Although he’s grateful for a place to live, he feels trapped. He can never move, because he can’t afford any place else. He’s afraid to go places because his limited income gives him only a few dollars for gas, and he worries if he drives his car too often and it breaks down, he won’t have money for repairs.
“I’m so lonely.”
Dan went on, “I’m not married, my parents are gone, and I’ve lost touch with the friends I had at church after I moved.”
I shared with Dan about some new small groups forming in our church. I encouraged him to join one and make some new friendships. He assured me that he would and seemed excited at the prospect.
It had been years since I’d spoken to Joan.* When we connected again, she apologized that our first conversation after such a long time was filled with “emotional garbage.” She wept as she shared some recent heartbreaks. Then, for the third time this week, I heard the words…
“I’m so lonely.”
She confessed an issue she had been too embarrassed to talk about with anyone else. She didn’t want to be judged, so she preempted rejection by others by pushing them away first. But the result was the same…she was feeling lonely and unloved.
Every day we come into contact with people who are lonely despite being surrounded by others. For one reason or another, they feel as if they’re doing life alone.
Do we see them?
Or are we so blinded by our own agendas, needs, issues, thoughts, that we pass right by and never offer the attention they so desperately need?
I have never forgotten a story a friend told me years ago. She was in a food store checking out. The cashier seemed distracted and was barely civil. Instead of becoming annoyed, my friend gently asked “is everything okay?” The cashier broke down and shared that her daughter was ill and she was terribly worried.
“Would it be okay if I prayed for you?” The cashier seemed surprised, but nodded in agreement.
Right in the middle of that store, my friend chose to ignore those in line behind her and concentrate all her attention on the hurting cashier. She took that woman’s hands in hers and prayed for healing for the child and peace for the mom. It was a short, simple prayer, but when the cashier wiped her eyes, she smiled and thanked my friend for seeing that she was distressed and doing something about it.
I wondered if I would be obedient enough to listen to those nudges from the Holy Spirit and boldly act on them, or would I dismiss them as uncomfortable, and maybe even a little bit crazy?
Some days, I get it right. I listen. I’m present. I pray. I encourage. I’m a judgement free zone where long-held secrets can be shared without fear of retribution. Other days, I try to shut out that still small voice and move on with my busy life.
I’m a work in progress and I want to do better.
But regardless of whether I’m present for you or not, God always is.
He sees you even when no one else seems to.
If you’re feeling lonely today, read this promise from one of my favorite Psalms and know that you’re never alone.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10.
Never forget that you matter to God. You are loved. And if you’re feeling lonely today, I would love to pray for you. Just leave your request in the comments.
*Names have been changed.