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Scripture and Loneliness

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Trish Irvine

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Not long ago, I found myself at home alone and filled with an aching loneliness.  The way this loneliness suddenly pierced my heart took me by surprise. It wasn’t caused by one large event or situation, but rather a combination of different factors in life.  Nevertheless, the magnitude of the feeling of isolation caused me to feel a pain worse than many physical pains I’ve endured.

My phone was nearby and I wanted to mindlessly scroll through Facebook until I forgot the pain.  Or watch something on TV until I didn’t feel alone anymore. Yet I knew that these things wouldn’t ease the suffering.  In fact, they might intensify the pain I was experiencing. I knew that the only one I could turn to who would understand and fully embrace my pain was the Lord.  And so I turned to a specific passage in Scripture that the Lord has often used to heal me.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve developed a love for “the Potter’s house” found in Jeremiah 18.  The first time I prayed with the passage was at a retreat and it has been a passage I return to over and over again, the same old words of Scripture bearing new fruit in my life.  

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me:  Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)

My favorite type of prayer to use with the Potter’s house is called imaginative prayer, when I enter into the story and experience it as though it were happening to me now.  Generally, I imaginatively walk to the Potter’s house, knock on the door, and sit before the Potter as He shapes a piece of clay on a pottery wheel. It varies from time to time, but that is the overall theme.  

This time, however, I lived the passage differently.  My pain caused me to run down the path to the Potter’s house, throw open the door without knocking, and sit on the Potter’s lap as I sobbed out my sorrow.  The Potter wrapped His arms around me and allowed me to cry. Despite the fact that I remained sitting on my couch in my home, the tears were real, gut-wrenching sobs.  While I was still in pain, I could feel it lessen as I shared my burden with One who knew me.  

Eventually, the loneliness passed, but first the Lord caused me to truly experience it and express it.  He wasn’t scared or annoyed with what I was feeling. Instead, He wanted to share in my suffering. And in sharing in it, He desired to take it from me when it seemed good to Him to do so.  

As days have passed following this time of prayer, I am amazed by how authentic it was.  I hadn’t planned to pray at that time and I wasn’t in a room I usually pray in. However, I needed the Lord and when I turned toward Him, I found Him abundantly present.  In my calmer moments of praying with the Potter’s house, I tend to be more formal, knocking at the front door and sitting independently in my own chair. In my pain, I ran to the Lord and I got as close to Him as I could, knowing that I needed Him.  Knowing I was weak, I had to rely completely on the Lord for strength. I was incredibly honest with the Lord, pouring out my heartache to Him in a mixture of words and movements of the heart. It was one of my most real moments of prayer.

More recently, I went back and prayed with this moment of prayer, placing myself in the Potter’s arms to see what more He might have for me.  He calmed my heart again of new and different worries. The Lord caused me to realize that this is what He always wanted of me: to just be close to Him.  My presence is what the Lord wants along with my authentic and imperfect heart.  He wants this heart just as it is, with all the desires and indifferences, with all the joys and sorrows, with everything that it bears.  Paradoxically, the Lord fills us with a new strength when we acknowledge our weakness and hand over all our burdens to Him.

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