Thank you for the lonely times

The lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. –Psalm 23:1

The other week I found myself in this beloved psalm with a heavy and uneasy heart.  It’s something I turn to because I know it’s comforting and it has calmed me before.  However, I have not turned to it enough times to always remember what it says exactly and am always caught by surprise with that first verse.  During that time, I felt God leading me to that psalm again and it was exactly what I needed.  Mulling over the verse, particularly the last part, washed a sense of calm over me. It also slapped me in the face in the best way possible.

A wave of emotions engulfed me as I thought about my life and everything I have gone through during my college years.  Though I have healed in so many ways and am more stable now than I have been in such a long time, I’m still a work in progress. However, I like to think I have it all together now and I want others to think that too, but at moments such as this, my past creeps up and catches me by surprise.

These past 5 years have been some of the loneliest years of my life.  The thing that’s been the most lacking is close friendships.  It started with high school and then into college my first semester. Things started turning around the next semester and onward. However, in the blink of an eye, I went into the hospital to treat my bipolar illness and I was forced back home across the country, unable to say goodbye to almost all my friends and didn’t know if I would ever see most of them again. I was then home for almost a year and a half with very few friends.  After being surrounded by people all the time, I felt so alone as I would go for weeks without seeing anybody but my parents.  When I made the move out to Columbus it was and has still been a struggle. A couple of months after arriving, I went into the hospital again. I took the next semester off and found myself incredibly lonely.  Not being in a school environment and still recovering, day to day I saw very few people and was unable to make many new friends. I have though made some close friendships since moving here.  I have had some awesome, life-filling spiritual conversations that I had never experienced before becoming a Christian. However, I am not as connected to people as I want to be and am hungry for so much more.  Insecurity always creeps in as I scroll through social media and compare myself to other people who seem to have such close relationships.  I often feel like I am missing out on so much of the human experience.

The other night though, God started to speak to me. I have been desperately asking God why he still hasn’t blessed me with such close fellowship that I see all the time around me and in scripture.  I’ve joined a great church, made a lot of effort to get connected, but things still aren’t moving as fast as I’d hope they would in my first semester at Ohio State.  However, as I was coming home from dinner that night, after shamelessly crying to my mom in the restaurant, a song came on the radio. I don’t remember the song or the lyrics exactly but it was about how God is our greatest treasure. It hit home for me. Close earthly friendships are important, but Jesus should and will always be our best friend.  Jesus is always enough. We have everything we could ever need in Him.  The fact that I “lack nothing” seems quite radical when I consider my aching heart, but with Jesus it’s true and is such an essential thing to understand. We, even as Christians though, can fall into the trap of thinking that if we just had more friends, more money, a relationship, a great job etc., we would finally feel happy and fulfilled.  All these things aren’t necessarily bad and in most cases, are gracious gifts God wants us enjoy, however these things will never make us complete.  Only Jesus can fill that void.

Maybe I have just not been ready for this fellowship yet.  Though it’s painful and doesn’t always make sense, I know that God has me here for some reason. For one, he’s revealing more of my sin.  I selfishly often just want these friendships for my enjoyment and to heal my loneliness. That’s not God’s plan though.  He gives us gifts, such as friends, mostly, to bring us closer to Him.  At moments, I feel like God owes me these friendships after what I’ve gone through. But God doesn’t owe me anything. He’s given me so much grace that I do not deserve and I have no reason to complain.  Everything will happen in his perfect timing.  Now, God wants me to trust him more and look to him for my main source of joy and companionship. My trials have given me greater understanding of how weak and helpless I am without God.  I have learned how to lean on Him more and look to Him to comfort me in my struggles and pains of loneliness.  During my second hospital visit, He gave me incredible peace at times when I was all alone and felt that no one, not even myself, could understood what I was going through. He gave me the joy to dance like an idiot in my room in the middle of the chaos around me.  God even filled me with the holy spirit to calm my suicidal roommate and share a little of the gospel with her.   Most importantly, God has been refining my character and testing my faith, which is “of greater worth than gold” (1 Peter 1:7). And indeed, my faith has been strengthened greatly through these times and I am so thankful of that.

A couple days later at church during worship, a verse struck my heart:

Thank You for the lonely times

            When I learned to live in the silence

            As the other voices fade

            I can hear You calling me, Jesus

            And it’s worth it all just to know you more

So, Jesus, thank you for the lonely times. Though it doesn’t always feel like it, deep down I know it’s worth it. All the tears, agony, and confusion has brought me to you. They brought me to you when I initially accepted you in 2015.  And they have brought me to you ever since.  I wouldn’t give up any of my pain if it meant I would not know you well or have you at all.  I look forward and pray for the day when I am blessed with the strong fellowship I desire.  When that day comes, I will give all that glory to you.  But for now, I am going to be patient.  Jesus, I am going to continue to lean on you and rest in your glorious grace.

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