During the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday, I am posting a letter a day expressing thankfulness for someone or something that has played a major role in shaping the first 30 years of my life.
You creep into every life from time to time. Sometimes you are a brief visitor: popping in for a weekend stay or even just an afternoon call. Other times you bring your luggage and settle in for an extended visit. You have paid me such a visit a few times. Notably, the first couple of years I lived in Kansas City and then the first semester of my sophomore year.
I thank you for these periods of sadness and discomfort because they have served to drive my heart further into the heart of Jesus. Our culture is a noisy one. It is so easy to be constantly entertained and surrounded by people. Loneliness, you have a way of plucking people out of their routine and forcing them to choose how they are going to deal with you. Although there have been plenty of times when I have tried to avoid you or drown you out (which is never a healthy choice), by the grace of God I have learned to sit with you when you come. I have learned that you cannot come calling unless God grants you access, so even though I never invite you, I trust the One who does.
Thank you for the silence you bring. In the times when I have stopped complaining and whining, I have been able to hear His loving whisper so much more clearly than I normally would. Thank you for the way your barrenness proves His abundance and faithfulness all the more. I vividly remember feeling, during my sophomore year of college, that I had entered into a dry and empty desert. My heart felt so parched and isolated. As I looked around the emptiness, though, I saw Him. I found that Jesus wasn't pushing me into the desert or leaving me there alone. He was waiting for me in it. Loneliness, I am thankful that even you cannot separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Thank you for the way you allow the Holy Spirit to minister to people in ways they normally wouldn't notice. I remember falling asleep almost every night during some tough months, alone in my dark dorm room, listening to a live recording of a Waterdeep concert. In those quiet hours, as Don and Lori Chaffer sang over me and their rainstick lulled me to sleep, I felt Jesus in my room with me. It was probably the most tangible His presence has been in my life. Even though I would have given anything at that point to just fast-forward my life to a happier place, I look back on that period of time with great fondness and gratitude. Loneliness, without you I would not have known that I was not alone.