Value of Loneliness

This morning I caught a few minutes of Jesse Duplantis, a television minister whose message is usually good and whose delivery is always lively. Though I did not hear his entire message, I was struck by this comment:

“Lonely times and wilderness times in your life—you’re going to have them—help you get clearer on your calling and your goals.”

Lonely times and wilderness times both refer to those times that come to all of us when we feel isolated, alone, and lost. We sometimes remain in those places so long that we begin to drift. It doesn’t take long before we conclude that there is very little worth working for; we give up on pushing toward our goals because they aren’t materializing anyway; we are left going in circles and getting nowhere, much like the Israelites who took forty years to make an eleven-day journey.

Duplantis is saying that those times are, instead, perfect opportunities for stopping to reflect on where we are going in life. The dissatisfaction inherent in those lonely, lost times provides the optimal environment for us to ask the important questions, such as: Where am I supposed to be headed? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Is this emptiness what God intended for me, or am I missing something really important here? What could my life be about if I only allow it to go in the direction I believe God has in mind for me, based on the talents I was given?

Asking these questions prayerfully and letting God provide the answers to us will not only reconnect us with our talents, goals, and calling, but also help us find our way out of the wilderness.

           

Above All, Trust

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is known in several arenas: paleontology, geology, philosophy, theology – but it’s possible that his most widely known writing is a poem from a prayer book entitled Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits (Loyola Press, 2005).

The poem is “Patient Trust” and it begins: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God….” This is hard for most of us to do. We think not only that it’s all about us, but also that it’s entirely up to us. This is not to suggest that we don’t have responsibilities. Among our responsibilities is to determine what we want to do with our lives, to get very clear about it, and to set about doing what we can see to do toward it. But if we have envisioned well, the goal will be bigger than what we can achieve by ourselves, and trusting God becomes part of our job.

The poem continues: “We are quite naturally inpatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.” Boy, do we hate the idea that it might take a very long time.

Part of the benefit of trusting is that we aren’t alone in enduring however long it takes. But there is another part too that has to do with allowing the ripening that must occur. You will be a different person at the end than you are today, and the “passing through” is the sacred shaper of who you will become. The only way to “get” that is by trust.