My introverted nature counted each second of the Thanksgiving celebration. Smile politely. Answer an awkward question. Force a laugh at a bad joke. Make sure the kids don’t break anything. Is it time to leave yet? Cold tendrils of loneliness clutched my heart.
A retired American couple had invited my family, and many others, to eat turkey and mashed potatoes at their luxurious apartment overlooking the ocean. I live in Mexico, where Thanksgiving is not a recognized holiday, so enjoying traditional foods with other Americans should have been a reprieve. Yet despite the savory meal and idyllic setting, this gathering was a poor substitute for spending time with the people I really missed thousands of miles away. Each holiday symbol—gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie—made the ache in my chest tighter.
For those of us who can’t be with the people we love, for those who long for a family that doesn’t exist, for those who find the holidays to be a painful reminder of broken relationships and aging hurts, how can we be thankful for lonely?
We are not the first people to experience loneliness. In Psalm 25, King David cries out, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”
Jesus himself was no stranger to lonely places. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)
We don’t have to pretend that lonely doesn’t hurt. Lonely does hurt. God sees that hurt. But he promises his presence in the middle of our pain, “Never will I leave you.” (Hebrews 13:15) He always has new hope. King David wrote another Psalm reflecting how God had answered his prayer, “God sets the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:6)
Father, thank you for the many blessings around me each day. Thank you for every breath. Open my eyes to see blessings that I forget or take for granted.
Jesus, you know loneliness. You know pain. You promise to stay by my side. You presence is my comfort. Please heal the ache in my heart.
Holy Spirit, I need a new hope today. You promise good plans; help me to trust that your good plans are coming. Give me patience while I wait. Thank you for your mercy and love. Amen.
Ellen in her own words: My husband Kyle and I live with our three boys in a low-income neighborhood in Mazatlan, Mexico. God’s love and grace brought us here and holds us close through all of life’s crazy ups and downs. I want follow where the Holy Spirit leads and encourage others to do the same.