By Diane Eaton May 11, 1999
Moses view by Kent Wilkens
I have come to believe that deep inside every human being there is a big empty vacuum that craves for connectedness. In other words, all humans have a need to feel a connection with something outside of themselves – something that fills the deepest part of their souls. Without this, they experience deep loneliness, or in other words – disconnection. I call this dark void in the soul, the Sacred Place of Loneliness. I see it as a spiritual place. I believe that this ‘place’ is sacred because it is reserved for God and God alone. He is the only one who can satisfy the deepest part of our soul. Only God can give us the connectedness that we all crave. It is in this sacred place of loneliness where God fellowships with us and develops an intimate spiritual relationship with us. Then the pain of loneliness becomes the joy of solitude.
A place reserved for God
Scripture says, “... the Lord has SET APART the godly for himself.” Ps 4:3
That verse reminds me of another quote I once read: Lord, make me little and unknown, prized for thee and thee alone.
I believe that when we know that God prizes us for himself, we will no longer crave for anything else to fill the vacuum. We won’t even care if we are unimportant and unknown to people around us. When we experience connection with God, our soul is filled with peace and contentment – even while we experience the pain of loneliness and separation from human community.
A place to find our destiny
It is during times of deepest loneliness that God often gives his loved ones a sense of destiny. In fact, he himself leads them into solitary experiences in order to prepare them to hear his voice.
The preacher and writer, L. Ravenhill has said, “Great eagles fly alone, great lions hunt alone, great souls walk alone - alone with God.“
The following excerpt from Streams in the Desert says the same thing:
No bird is so solitary as the eagle. He who will fly as an eagle does into the higher levels where cloudless day abides and live in the sunshine of God, must be content to live a lonely life. God seeks eagle-men. No man ever comes into a realization of the best things of God, who does not learn to walk alone with God. We find Abraham alone at Horeb, Moses forty years in the desert alone with God; Paul sent into the desert. Let God isolate us. In this isolating experience He develops an independence of faith and life so that the soul needs no longer the constant help, prayer, faith, or attention of his neighbour. We must dare to be alone. Jacob must be left alone if the Angel of God is to whisper in his ear the mystic name of Shiloh; Daniel must be left alone if he is to see celestial visions; John must be banished to Patmos if he is deeply to take and firmly to keep the print of heaven.
Abraham stood alone in his calling and his commitment to venture to an unknown destiny. He stood alone when he obeyed God’s command to offer his son as a sacrifice. No one was there to comfort him.
Think of Joseph who was left abandoned in prison – forgotten. No one knew that he was there on false charges. No one cared. But through that lonely experience God was shaping him for an important duty.
There were many others in the Bible who knew the pain of loneliness; for example, Job, Moses, the prophets, and Paul.
It was in that place of loneliness where they received God’s direction, encouragement, hope and empowerment. During their times of loneliness, God forged within their souls a crystal-clear conviction of their destiny. That assurance gave them the bold faith to venture where no human would dare go. The results of their work have been astounding and will last throughout all eternity.
Jesus experienced loneliness Jesus was well acquainted with the pain of loneliness, especially during his Gethsemane experience. Imagine the agonizing longing of his heart when he begged his disciples to join him to pray. He must have felt extremely abandoned when they failed to remain by his side. Jesus had a very lonely calling, but he remained loyal to it.
In spite of the pain of abandonment, Jesus treasured the sacred place of loneliness. He said, “Yet I am not alone, the Father is with me.” John 16:32 He was well acquainted with the presence of the Father – especially during the turbulent times of his life.
Jesus carefully preserved the Sacred Place of Loneliness. He remained closely connected with his Father. He never let himself be distracted by others. For example, he did not allow Martha to pressure him into making Mary help her. He also kept an appropriate separateness from his mother and from the disciples. In other words, he did not allow anyone to invade the place in his soul that was meant only for fellowship with his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus did not cut himself off from people. He allowed a woman to anoint his body with perfume. He allowed her to touch him and minister to him, and yet all the while he kept his heart fully reserved for his Father, and in tune to his true calling. Because of his strong relationship with his Father, he was not distracted and drawn away by her. He could read her motives – her heart that was devoted to worshipping him for who he really was – her precious Saviour.
King David experienced loneliness
King David was well acquainted with feelings of loneliness and abandonment. He once said, “No one is concerned for me, I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” Ps. 142:4 During those difficult times, he sought refuge in God. He said, “I cry to you, O Lord; I say , ‘you are my refuge..'” Ps. 142:4 “I find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Ps. 36:7
David’s spirit thrived best during his times of loneliness and isolation. It was in the pasture, the hills, the caves, and the wilderness where God’s Spirit intertwined with his spirit. However, at one point in his life he took an attractive woman to fill the void. That only brought grief to his soul. His failures taught him just how important it was to allow God to fill the Sacred Place of Loneliness.
The account of David’s failure and restoration gives us hope in God’s faithfulness to draw his children back to himself – even when they slip away. None of us are any different in our struggle with temptation. Our lonely times are times of testing and we will often find other ways to fill it. We will fail to let God fill the empty place in our soul. However, like David, it is our failures that will help us see our need to let God fill the Sacred Place of Loneliness.
Abandoning the place of loneliness
We dread loneliness. We try to avoid it. We send our toddlers to nursery school to be “socialized”. We are perpetually organizing events in our communities and personal lives as an attempt to fill the void. In fact much of what we do in our lives is for the very purpose of filling the void. These measures might fill us for a while. They might even give us a sense of success and recognition. They might dull the pain of loneliness. However, because they are never adequate, we will keep on searching for more ways to bring satisfaction. Sadly, by doing this we are selling ourselves short because we never discover the beauty of relationship with God.
We must not allow anyone to fill the void of this sacred place in our souls – not even the most important persons in our lives. Adam, Samson, Abraham, and Ahab all made unwise decisions as a result of allowing the voices of their wives to enter into that sacred place that was to be reserved only for God. Their bad choices caused grief for a lot of people – even generations later. King Saul is a good example of someone who failed to stay connected with God. In fact, he didn’t want God in his life at all. Instead, he gave in to the voices of the people. (Yet he refused to hear the voices of those who were trying to warn him.) As a result, he lost his ability to be an objective leader. He lost connection with God and became a failure. Think of the misery and painful loneliness he must have endured as a result – right up to the end of his life.
This hidden spiritual place within us must always remain sacred – guarded from intrusion – guarded for God and God alone. It is where one learns to separate out God’s voice from all other incoming voices. It must be carefully protected by well-defined boundaries. If those boundaries are weak, other influences will invade and damage our relationship with God. We protect this place by desiring God’s will more than anything. We protect our oneness with God by being willing to stand alone with him rather than compromise with others. When we are alone with God, we can honestly express our deepest feelings, our complaints, our anger, and our fears to God. God is not afraid of our strong emotions. He understands us better than anyone. It is with him whom we should wrestle through and resolve our issues of life. The important thing is that no matter how strong our emotions are – like anger, grief, fear etc, we must not turn our back towards God.
There will definitely be times when God works through circumstances to draw us away from the crowd and towards him. Loneliness can be very agonizing. Yet somehow we must learn to accept them, and even treasure those times of solitude. We will be rewarded eventually if we recognize that God is calling us towards himself. While it is true that we need relationship and accountability with others, that must never be at the expense of our separate identity and oneness with God. We must learn to reserve a spot in our hearts, separating it from the crowd in order that God alone can fill it. After all, on the Final Day we will stand alone before him.
Enduring the pain of loneliness During trials such as losses, sickness, burnout, discouragement, broken relationships, failures, rejections, etc., people often feel abandoned or misunderstood. Above all, they experience loneliness. This song is a desperate plea to God to fill that place of loneliness:
“Once I stood in the night with my head bowed low,
In the darkness as black as could be; And my heart felt alone, and I cried, ” O Lord, Don’t hide Your face from me.”
Like a king I may live in a palace so tall, With great riches to call my own; But I don’t know a thing in this whole wide world, That’s worse than being alone.
“Hold my hand all the way, every hour every day, From here to the great unknown. Take my hand, let me stand Where no one stands alone.”
Elijah struggled with loneliness and depression. God did not criticise him. Instead God met him, speaking in a gentle whisper. Then God gave him food as well as an important job. When we cry out to God in our loneliness, we too will experience his tender love. Regardless of our feelings, God will teach us to trust that he fully understands. That is really all we need.
Throughout history, many gifted people have produced magnificent creative works in the midst of agonizing loneliness and rejection. We still enjoy their art, literature, music, poetry, theology, sermons, and other forms of creativity. The inspiration for these works was birthed in the lonely place and therefore they were not a product of the trends of the day. That is what gives them a lasting quality which transcend time and culture. Such magnificent works as Handel’s “Messiah” have profoundly touched countless around the world. Even in our day, this timeless work is performed in hundreds of places every Christmas – and brings glory to the Good News of Christ.
In some special way, God can also use us in our loneliness. He can spring something beautiful from within us that profoundly touches others – in a way that counts throughout eternity. But most importantly, he will reward us with his marvellous presence, reminding us that we are indeed:
Prized for God and God alone.
*This article was sent to me by a friend some years ago, the original source is unknown.