Updated: Nov 25, 2019
Imagine a world where you’re almost always lonely and nobody really understands you…oh, no wait, never mind…you actually live in that world. Loneliness is something that everybody experiences. For some, it’s “physical” loneliness, that is to say the physical absence of other people, which is difficult for them. For others, it’s the fact they feel misunderstood which is the source of their loneliness. They could be surrounded by a multitude of friends, but still feel like they are “on their own.” Regardless, I think there is one thing we would all agree upon, which is this: “Loneliness is the stuff of hell…” (Fr. Gerald Vann, The Heart of Man).
So, you ask, what am I to do? Well, most importantly, realize that it’s a lie! That’s right, a lie. A cold-blooded, treacherous lie…told to us either by the hated evil one or by our beloved sulking self. To fight this lie, recall the truth…the truth that there is One present right now who knows you and who loves you more truly and more intensely than all of your family and friends ever could. Consider, for example, the most loving friend, the perfect loved one. You desire to do things with this person, to converse with them, to create memories and experiences with them, and it’s impossible to be very lonely so long as you are in their presence. But God is infinitely more than that. He truly knows and loves you. He has your best interests at heart. He wants to be a part of every thought and action of your day, and He is always present — with you, every moment, every day. As St. Augustine puts it: God is more intimately present to me than I am to myself. The presence of God…a thought that could change the whole fabric of our life, if we but developed the habit of living there.
This doesn’t mean that we should never feel lonely. Our feelings and emotions are often triggered without our consent, often even against our consent. Living constantly in the presence of God is not a guarantee against that heart-rending emptiness of soul. It is not meant to be a complete prevention of loneliness, but mainly a response. It’s true, we can and should take steps to help prevent loneliness (by visiting the Blessed Sacrament, living in the presence of God, engaging in more wholesome interaction with good friends, recalling that God has never not been there for us in the past), but there is no method of absolute prevention. It is much the same as with temptation. We can, and really must, take steps to avoid temptation as best we can (developing virtuous habits, avoiding occasions of sin, etc.), but as long as we live we will never be entirely freed from the onslaught of temptation. To feel loneliness is human, and everybody suffers from it. Even in this we are not alone.
“Believe, then, that in this topsy-turvy world in which we have to live, in this world so bereft of peace and so far from God — above all in our soul, that soul so crushed — God is present: loving, giving Himself, pouring peace into souls” (A Carthusian, They Speak by Silences). God is never far off. You are not alone. He is always there. Present within you. Loving you. Live in that presence. “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is. 41:10).