“Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living. Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” – Jim Elliot
I have been reading through Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot with my small group for the past few weeks. I just love these women and I praise the Lord for bringing us together to edify and build each other up in Christ; He has given us such grace and allowed all of us to be transparent through all of the circumstances to Lord is using to shape and refine us.
In chapter 17, Elliot talks about we can become (even oh so subtly) obsessed with one thing or another, be it relationships, passions, etc. Because we are either always looking back to what was and anxiously awaiting and straining for what is to come. We are in grave danger of wasting the present altogether, she remarks. This chapter stemmed from her separation from and the loneliness/uncertainty she felt in regards to her future with Jim Elliot. “Two lovers who are separated geographically can dwell mentally in the past and the future, reliving the happiness of having been together and anticipating the joy of reunion.”
Even though she’s talking more specifically about “lovers” I know this can be applied to many aspects of our own lives. Some of you might be tempted to argue in a spiritual vein, mentioning Romans 8:22-25 (see my recent post: Inward Groaning Too Deep For Utterings), which talks about how we groan and eagerly look forward to the redemption of our bodies…to stand before God face to face. Yes, that is indeed a right, holy and commendable longing and straining. Amen. But I don’t think too many of us (including myself) are often “guilty” enough of that. Besides the “longing” that Elliot and I am speaking of is not a heavenly or godly one, because that longing in itself should cause each of us to embrace and live life in the present more fully and for His glory.
But I wanted to pull from her chapter, the leaflet she wrote called Loneliness. I pray that it will minister to your heart. I know loneliness to be such a big factor and struggle in my life and in many others as well. Sometimes it’s just for a season: a week, a day, a brief moment. God has been so gracious to me and over the past few months really empowered me through the Holy Spirit, the preaching of His Word, being ministered to by the wonderful women in my small group, to discipline my mind to not let that emotion/feeling of loneliness take root or have power of my heart and actions.
Be still and know that He is God. when you are lonely, too much stillness is exactly the thing that seems to be laying waste your soul. Use that stillness to quiet your heart before God. Get to know Him (Rachel’s addition: just like you put in so much effort to get to know the man you love or date). If He is God, He is still in charge.
Remember that you are not alone. “The Lord, He it is that doth go with thee. He will not fail thee neither forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage.” (Deut. 31:8) Jesus promised His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matt. 28:20) Never mind if you cannot feel His presence. He is there, never for one moment forgetting you. (Rachel’s addition: I’m reminded here of the quote from the movie, The Count of Monte Cristo, when Edmond says to the priest as he lay dying, “I don’t believe in God.” The priest lovingly replies, “It doesn’t matter, He believes in you.”)
Give thanks. In times of my greatest loneliness I have been lifted up by the promise of 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” This is something to thank God for. This loneliness itself, which seems a weight, will be far outweighed by glory. (Rachel’s addition: I’d also want to remind you of Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Refer to the bottom section of my post on Doubting Castle and Giant Despair that talks on thanksgiving).
Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.
Accept your loneliness. It is one stage, and only one stage, on a journey that brings you to God. It will not always last. (Rachel’s addition: Bottom-line, you are always going to be lonely no matter who or how much you have if your wholeness and satisfaction and joy is not found first and foremost in your ultimate Lover, Jesus Christ. No person can or will ever be able to accomplish such feats of love for you. Think about it this way: Have you ever felt alone even when you were in a crowd or group of friends or even while in a relationship?).
Offer up your loneliness to God, as the little boy offered to Jesus his five loaves and two fishes. God can transform it for the good of others…(Rachel’s addition:….and His glory).
Do something for somebody else. No matter who or where you are, there is something you can do, somebody who needs you. Pray that you may be an instrument of God’s peace, that where there is loneliness you may bring joy. (Rachel’s addition: My dad told me the other day, when I was in a funk that I am most alive, vivacious, joy-filled when I’m reaching out and loving on others in my life, instead of dwelling and miring on my own self and problems. Selfless vs. selfish love. The first is freedom and joy. The latter, bondage to self and misery. I thought about it and realized how true it was).
Rachel B. Duke