When Our Lonely Places Become Sacred Spaces
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (NIV)
I wasn’t alone, but I’d never felt lonelier.
Swallowing a lump of tears, I coaxed my lips into an upward turn. Then I willed myself to focus on the friend who sat across from me as she told a laugh-out-loud story about her son’s first date. I giggled at all the right times and hoped she wouldn’t notice the laughter never reached my eyes.
I love this friend. We’ve been sharing unfiltered life for years. We've prayed one another through the throes of potty-training and the woes of driver's education, through the highs and lows of marriage and the peaks and pits of faith.
But on that day in the coffee shop, even the comfortable conversation of a dear friend couldn᾿t cut through the loneliness that shrouded my heart. In fact, the lilt of laughter and the knowing nods merely magnified the ache inside.
Even my closest friends couldn’t truly understand the season of disappointment I was walking through.
Those who knew me best weren’t oblivious to my heartache. They acknowledged my grief and did their best to walk with me through the discouragement. They created safe spaces for vulnerability and never mocked my tears. But even when my trusted people were present and available, my heart often felt detached and unreachable.
My friends could cover me in prayer, but they couldn’t understand my hurt. They could acknowledge my disappointment, but they couldn’t erase my ache. They could make space for my sadness, but they couldn’t change my circumstances.
Loneliness strikes when we’re left alone in our struggles, but it also shows up when our struggles leave us feeling alone.
We continued to chat until our coffee cups were drained, then my friend pulled a wrinkled wad of paper from her pocket.
“I’m not sure if this will mean anything to you,” she said with a shrug. “But when I read this verse this morning, I felt like I was supposed to share it …”
When I got home from the coffee shop, I curled up on the couch with my well-worn Bible and a fresh stream of tears. I unfolded the crumpled piece of paper my friend had given me and looked up the verse she’d scribbled in hurried scrawl.
It wasn’t a soul-boosting psalm or a spirit-soaring promise. It was just a string of eight words tucked in the middle of a Gospel I’d read dozens of times.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
At first glance, it seemed like an odd verse to share. But as I spoke the words aloud, I found comfort in their tender truth — Jesus knows the lonely places, too.
However, along with that wisp of comfort came a wave of conviction. Luke 5:16 reveals that Jesus didn’t just know the lonely places; He willingly chose to go to the lonely places.
It was in the lonely places where Jesus sought intimacy with His Father instead of the empathy of others.
And in our lonely places, God invites us to do the same.
We may want someone to step into our struggles and feel our pain, but God invites us to step into His presence and find peace.
We may look for comfort from the friends around us, but God offers consolation through His Spirit within us.
We may long for someone to listen and understand, but God invites us to be heard and known.
It’s not easy to trust God in our disappointments or sit with Him in our struggles. But as I follow my Savior’s example, I’m learning that what looks like a lonely place in our eyes is often just a sacred space in disguise.
And when we seek Him in those places where no one else can go, we find Him waiting with a hope that no one else can offer.
Dear Jesus, I want to find You in my lonely places. Give me courage to seek You in my struggles, and open my eyes to recognize Your presence in my pain. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 107:35, “Yet He transforms a dry, lonely desert into pools of living water, parched ground into lively springs.” (VOICE)
Romans 5:5, “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (MEV)
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Visit Alicia Bruxvoort at her blog today for more encouragement and a free printable to help you connect with Jesus in your lonely spaces.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How has God turned your lonely places into sacred spaces? Tell us about it in the comments so we can encourage one another in our seasons of struggle.
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