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On Your Knees

I have been married for 28 years. In those 28 years we’ve been closest of friends and worst enemies. We’ve held each other and cried and with one look dissolved into laughter. We’ve argued and shared secrets. We’ve waited for doctors after surgeries and held hands on the beach waiting for the sun to set. We’ve been through the worst nightmares and the greatest blessings. I love my spouse with all my heart. I’m lucky.

I also feel lonely much of the time. God created us for relationship. He gave us a longing for fellowship with others and with Him but He left it up to us to decide how to meet that need. I believe He brings people into our lives, provides opportunities to connect with others but developing relationships is in our hands. I was at a spiritual growth retreat this weekend. One of the questions asked was whether or not we had friends we could turn to. I was one of many in the group who said, “no”.

Why did I say, “no”? I started this post about my marriage. I’ve stated before I have good friends – and I do - but finding someone to turn to when you suffer with mental illness isn’t easy. I said, “no” because at that moment, surrounded by over 100 women, I felt completely alone. The pain I struggle with doesn’t go along with coffee at Starbucks. It doesn’t get fixed in a quick conversation after church. When friendships are shared over texts and quick calls it has a hard time penetrating the wall of pain that surrounds someone who is depressed. When those around you lead “normal” lives, psychosis has no place.

As I said, I wasn’t alone with my answer. I think many of us – not just those with mental illness – struggle with loneliness. So, what is the answer? What does the person with 2000 friends on Facebook, sitting in her living room crying alone, do? What does the person with a regular coffee klatch, who goes home and drowns her pain in a container of ice cream, do? What does the person with the same group of buddies from high school but no way to share his struggles and pain, do? That question was posed at the retreat and there were many answers: ministry, small groups, being vulnerable. All were valid answers and all were met with a resounding, “It’s not that easy!”

It’s not that easy. Ministry can lead to isolation as busyness takes over and leaves no time for connection. Small groups are wonderful if you’re able to make the commitment. With everyone’s complex lives - working, small children, health concerns – it can be difficult to find the time to meet regularly and form the bonds we so desperately need. Being vulnerable is a double-edged sword. A woman shared her story of severe domestic abuse that left us all in shock. I overheard one woman commending her for sharing – something I was so glad she did – but the tension in the room she created made me wonder if that kind of vulnerability is too much. The dance of vulnerability – sharing enough but not too much – can be challenging to learn. So, again I ask, what does the person in such pain they are driven to their knees do?

Stay there. Stay on your knees and pray for the only relationship that can meet ALL your needs. Stay with the one who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) Stay with the one who understands isolation, who, despite having a group of devoted friends, had to go off into the desert to seek solace with His heavenly father. Stay with the one who can handle your vulnerability – with all its shocking, unrelenting pain – because He knows all of it, all of you.

What I’m looking for in a friend – companionship, consistency, concern – can’t be found in a single person 100% of the time but it can be found in God. He cares for me. He cares for us. The response still remains, “it’s not that easy”. It’s not. Trusting God can, at times, be harder than trusting our friends, but the pay-off is worth it.

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