Overcoming loneliness through prayer
In today’s column, a woman shares how the dark clouds of loneliness lifted as she opened her heart to God’s love and found a more satisfying basis for relationships than smoking and drinking to fit in.
Loneliness has become so widespread in the United Kingdom that a “minister of loneliness” has been appointed with the hope of resolving what is being called a health epidemic caused by social isolation. At one time or another, no matter where we’re from, most of us have probably experienced some degree of feeling lonely and without sympathetic support. Being connected with others – a normal desire of the heart – is widely considered to be a fundamental human need.
In my case, I found there was a deeper, spiritual need underlying this human need. Years ago when I was in my mid-teens, I felt very disconnected from my peers. Although I had friends, feeling out of sync with them and other classmates made me feel alone. I thought that smoking and drinking would make things better, but it didn’t. In my heart, I wanted to feel a genuine and open connection, sharing with others my age, but I had no clue how.
After a few years, in my late teens, I began to realize that ideas I was learning in the Christian Science Sunday School I had begun to attend could help me in this situation. I was learning to pray from the basis of what the Bible teaches about God as all good, and each of us as also good because we are made in His spiritual likeness. These ideas brought a light that started dissolving the dark clouds.
I began to see that God’s infinite goodness was with me – always. God’s ever-presence was revealed in a powerful message of hope through the biblical prophet Isaiah millennia ago. It is still relevant today, even in the midst of bleak loneliness. “The Message” interpretation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down” (Isaiah 43:1, 2).
What a promise of God’s, divine Love’s, constant companionship and comfort! Being entirely good, God could never send “rough waters.” With a genuine desire to embrace this spiritual fact, we see more of our God-given goodness right now, no matter how deep the waters we might seem to be in.
As I sincerely prayed with these ideas, several things happened, though not without some ups and downs along the way. I came to understand that expressing God’s goodness was natural for me; God had created me with an innate ability to feel and express, for example, joy and love – whether I was alone or around people. And if these qualities came from God and belonged to me by virtue of my identity as God’s spiritual image, then in expressing them I was actually opening my heart to the very presence of God, infinite Love itself.
I also saw that if this was true about me as God’s expression, then it was true about my peers as well. This spiritual fact that we all are in Love’s presence reveals our real relation to each other. As God’s children, we are spiritual sisters and brothers – not isolated or incompatible.
I got a sense of just how powerful these ideas are when, with an honest expectation of healing, I set about seeing myself and others in this spiritual light each day. The desire to smoke and drink dropped away. A tendency to criticize, which so often separates us from others, lessened, and a desire to help others increased. By the time I went off to college, although I was still working out relationship questions, compatible friendships came with more ease. And another aspect of this healing was that I came to value being alone as a time for listening for spiritual ideas and inspiration.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, had the deepest compassion for humanity and its struggles, including for those who are “solitary, left without sympathy,” as she wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” adding that “this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love” (p. 266).
I love to pray knowing that divine Love is the tender source of infinite good for all, and present for any one of us to turn to at any time, even where there is a sense of being cut off. Willingness to companion with Love, to become conscious of and express God’s nature, can fill our silences with a quiet joy and also guide us to wholesome and uplifting fellowship and activity in daily life wherever needed.