Andrea O Smith
God Met me in my Loneliness
"Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted." Psalm 25:16
Have you ever looked in the Obituaries section of the newspaper hoping to find someone specific? Not that you wish ill will or harm to someone, but if they were there, then you would get your life back. Have you ever been in the greeting cards aisle of the store before Mother's Day/Father's Day/Anniversary and stood frozen because none of these heart-felt professions express the truth of your relationship? You earnestly search for a funny card with a farting cat or some other oddity to offset the fact that you don't have the warm fuzzies that come with these holidays. You might even find the card that expresses the feelings you want to have for that relationship and buy that one in hopes that the receiver might get the message and want to reflect the imaginary person depicted in the foil words printed on the thin cardboard.
Some of you are horrified and shocked by those questions. If so, be deeply and eternally grateful that you cannot relate. Some of you read them and likely feel known, fully, maybe even for the first time. To you, I want to let you know: you are NOT ALONE. You are not a bad person for feeling those emotions or thinking those thoughts. They are a common reaction to trauma and abuse. You are a good person and want to be kind even when the other individual can't or won't admit to the hurt they continue to inflict. It feels ugly. It feels wrong. It feels countercultural, even counter spiritual, to not celebrate these individuals who are expected to be raised on a pedestal and praised. I am not saying it is good or healthy to have these reactions, but what I am saying is you are not the only one struggling to behave with integrity when your thoughts and feelings don't match who you want to be. Your reactions to abuse or neglect are not a reflection of the state of your heart. They are just that: reactions. You being hopeful for a time where you will not have to deal with this distortion of love is not wrong.
A few years ago, my husband and I had to make agonizing choices about placing strict boundaries around a relationship that was infesting and rotting the health of our family and home. It was corrupting our peace. Despite our best efforts to explain the pain being inflicted, it fell on obstinate ears. Not only were our boundaries scoffed at, but they were plowed through time and again. After further injury, we used a counselor and prayer to come to the conclusion that estrangement was the best option. It sounds terrible. It sounds atrocious. In reality, it was the most free I've ever felt and I haven't regretted one single moment. The growth that happened in me was exponential once the heavy chains of condemnation had fallen to the wayside. God broke the chains of oppression that I didn't even realize I was carrying until I felt the true freedom away from the abuse.
I explain that background to you in order that you understand the next part. Changing that relationship put a strain on many others. I lost some family members and people I thought were friends. I was okay with that too given the extensive research about the issues we were working around. It didn't feel good, but I was acutely aware of the necessity of pruning some relationships in order to have others flourish. I devoured as many books, websites and groups as I could to take in the full scope of navigating these types of relationships. Then I was mad. What was I supposed to do with all of this information? Why did I go through all of this tumult? To what end? How could I help other women going through this scenario without it looking like I was just trying to bash or get revenge on my abuser? Was that even possible? I felt utterly alone in my situation. Surely no one else had been going through this level of anguish I had experienced. In a prayer, I cried out to God, "Why? Why have I gone through this? What am I supposed to do with all this information that could help others, but I can't use it because it will look like I'm just trying to "get back" at someone that hurt me? "
God met me in my loneliness by bringing broken women to me. They started reaching out to me through messages and texts asking about walking through tough relationships as well as abusive ones. We would troubleshoot what boundaries would look like for them in order to cultivate a healthy relationship with their loved one. As these beautiful souls shared their stories, I realized how similar they all were. The thoughts and feelings that they were experiencing were incredibly relatable once they were able to vulnerably articulate their experiences. Each of us would gasp when we were granted the epiphany that we were not alone.
Friends, the enemy wants us to feel isolated, alone and abnormal. That's where he gets his foot in the door. That's where he presses those exposed nerves and lands the low blows. It was no coincidence that the serpent chose to talk to Eve when her husband, Adam, wasn't near. He knew that he could be more convincing to one than he could have been to both. Isolation was his first move. The coward cannot be strong amongst many, so his trick is to make you feel all alone. The fear and shame is then thrust upon you for you to carry whilst in your weakened state. Do NOT fall for these lies. You are NOT alone. You are not the only one suffering. You are not anything except what the Creator of all things declares you to be. He calls you loved (John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."), cherished (Ephesians 5:29 "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,") and accepted (Acts 10:35 "but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."). Jesus suffered too. He knows how you feel and He has compassion for you. You are not alone.
Dear God, You are our solid rock. You never waiver. You are our friend, counselor and guide. You love us in a way that not even the healthiest of earthly relationships could compare. You are our perfect Abba/Father!! Help us to remember that we are never alone. We are not isolated in our joyous occasions, our desperation and not in our complicated relationships. Help us to have the courage to be vulnerable with those around us about our struggles in order that we may serve them in feeling known and to boast your glory in bringing us out of the depths of despair. Help us to remember Romans 5:3-5 "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Remind us that we are not running this marathon alone. On our dreariest, darkest days, you are the light that shines as our beacon of hope. Thank you for your steadfast, perfect love even when we don't feel we deserve it. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.