Earlier this year, the United Kingdom appointed a minister for loneliness to confront what Prime Minister Theresa May calls a “sad reality of modern life” (“British people are so lonely that they now have a minister for loneliness,” time.com, Jan. 18, 2018). And in an article in The New York Times, Eric Klinenberg concluded, “Millions of people are suffering from social disconnection” (“Is loneliness a health epidemic?” nytimes.com, Feb. 9, 2018).
In my own life, when circumstances have made me feel alone, I have been grateful to still have somewhere to turn for guidance and support. Turning to and trusting God, whom I understand to be universal divine Love, not only deepens my love for Him, but always brings answers in delightfully unexpected ways. It has led to opportunities to forget self and perhaps be of help to someone in need, to meet those whom I might not have otherwise met, and to build relationships on stronger and deeper foundations – relationships that have spanned years and distance.
In this way, “alone” times are not always fruitless times. They can be times of great spiritual progress. In the textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy wrote these thought-provoking words: “Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth” (p. 266).
When I was in college, although surrounded by students on a daily basis, I was very lonely on weekends. There was a lot of binge drinking and partying going on, and I yearned to meet others with whom I could have experiences that did not involve getting drunk. I kept myself busy, but when weekends didn’t seem to improve, I sent away for an application to transfer to another school.
The application sat on my desk throughout the first semester and well into the second. Every time I glanced at it, I felt uncomfortable. From my study of the Bible, two ideas had begun to take shape in my thinking. The first was based on an answer Christ Jesus gave after he was asked when the kingdom of God should come: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21). If the kingdom of God is within me, I reasoned, then I could see and feel divine Love expressed in every place at all times, and my desire for peace, joy, and companionship would be fulfilled. Love, God, could not be more present in one place than in another; the “seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love.”
Secondly, I felt nudged to more fully understand the nature of my fellow coeds in the context of the first chapter of Genesis, where the Scripture says that man is made in the image and likeness of God. I saw that as God’s children, students on one college campus could not be more or less innocent and pure than on another campus. I knew that the genuine expression of joy involved creativity and unselfishness rather than self-destructive elements, and I strove to see my peers in a spiritual light, as God saw them. Praying with these ideas brought me peace about my situation.
That spring break, I traveled and performed with the college choir. It was a very special bonding time for everyone, including me. Then, when it came time to choose housing for the next year, a new option was presented that was designed with an approach to living, studying, and weekend activity that was precisely in line with my earlier prayers. In fact, it met the need for many students on campus hungering for this kind of environment, including some of my new choir friends! Praying to know more about the kingdom of God and the nature of man as His image and likeness had not only lifted my thought above a feeling of loneliness, but also resulted in tangible proof in my college experience of divine Love’s provision.
There are no vacuums in the kingdom of God. God, the divine Love that is always present, lifts us above what seems like a void of joy and sets our happiness and affection on the permanent foundation of spiritual reality. Secure on the rock of Christ, the divine Truth Jesus exemplified, we can’t help but feel embraced by God’s infinite love and see it manifested in the most wonderful and practical ways!