“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
I love all the lights, glitter and excitement of the holidays! Christmas music usually starts playing at my desk on November 1st. I start daydreaming about how I’m going to decorate my home, what order I want to watch all my Christmas movies in, and all the presents I want to buy for my friends and family (with no thought of how I’m going to pay for them). I’m captivated by the romantic songs about winter wonderlands, warm fires when it’s so cold outside, and trimming the tree with decorations bought at Tiffany’s. Then there are the touching commercials and the family-oriented movies…the excitement of little kids and the romance of mom and dad under the mistletoe. It’s all about having someone to share the holidays with …family…which is wonderful.
But what if you don’t have a family of your own or you’ve lost someone you love or you’re still waiting for the chance to love that special someone? The season can become very lonely with reminders around every corner. It can even become overwhelming at times. So what can we do? Well, I try to remember that, while all the cultural festivities of the holidays can be fun, this season is really a celebration of the gift of Jesus. Where would I be without Him—the One that laid aside His heavenly robes to be born in a stable 2000 years ago to suffer loneliness, sorrow, and pain and to give His life on a splintery, wooden cross for the salvation of the world? He suffered such immense loneliness on the Cross so that I would never have to; the loneliness I feel at times is just an echo to remind me that I am meant for another world. So I go for a walk to think and pray or just sit still for a while and know that He is God. Or I soak up some Scripture; I’m reading through the Gospels right now. It’s been refreshing to just read through and be reminded of Jesus’ earthly ministry—how kind, how loving, how sincere, how fierce, how gentle he was in his interactions with people. Or I try to find some way to serve or love someone who may be feeling lonely, too.
Elisabeth Elliot is one of my spiritual heroes. She became a spiritual mother to me in my teen years when I discovered her writings. She has taught me a lot. She is the widow of missionary, Jim Elliot, who was martyred in Ecuador in 1956 (three years after they had married). She remarried years later and was widowed again, but this time she lost her husband to cancer. I highly recommend anything she’s written. Here are some ways she found hope in the midst of deep loneliness and grief:
“The next thing to do is to accept my loneliness. When God takes a loved person from my life, it is in order to call me, in a new way, to himself. It is therefore a vocation. . . .
The acceptance of loneliness can be followed immediately by the offering of it up to God. Something mysterious and miraculous transpires as soon as something is held up in our hands as a gift. He takes it from us, as Jesus took the little lunch when five thousand people were hungry. He gives thanks for it and then, breaking it, transforms it for the good of others. Loneliness looks pretty paltry as a gift to offer to God – but then when you come to think of it so does anything else we might offer. . . .
The last of the helps I have found is to do something for somebody else. There is nothing like definite, overt action to overcome the inertia of grief.”
(Elisabeth Elliot, “The Ones Who Are Left,” Christianity Today, 27 February 1976, pages 7-9.)
So this year, if you are lonely, offer it as a gift to God. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) And don’t forget that God makes amazing exchanges—His beauty for your ashes, His righteousness for our sinfulness. He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He will accept your offering and give peace and comfort to you in return.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
(HT: Ray Ortlund for the Elisabeth Elliot quote.)