Aaron had developed some close friendships over the past several years. While they enjoyed each other’s company, more importantly, they openly shared their faith and encouraged one another. Circumstances, however, were causing the fellowship slowly to break apart. A couple of his friends had already moved away, and the busyness of life was making it harder for those remaining to get together. Worst of all, his job was going to force him to move away, as well.
He knew they would stay in touch, but he also suspected that the physical distance between them would change the closeness they felt. He felt sad about the upcoming loss, but there was something deeper bothering him.
The separation from his friends felt like a void. At first, he thought he was overreacting. As he began to pray about the situation, he realized that his attachment to his friends gave him a strength that he now felt ebbing away. His reaction was to try and hang on. He had mixed emotions about leaving. He didn’t want things to change. The changes triggered a feeling of loneliness, but he knew it was more than that.
One day, alone in the chapel, he read these words from Psalm 31:
Be gracious to me Lord, for I am in distress.
I am forgotten, out of mind like the dead.
But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My destiny is in your hands.
Be my rock of refuge,
A stronghold to save me.
For you are my rock and my fortress,
for your names’ sake
lead me and guide me,
For you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit,
You will redeem me Lord God of truth.
(Ps 31: 3-6, 10, 13, 15-16 NAB)
In that time of prayer, he recognized that the emptiness he had been feeling, like he was “forgotten,” was filled by God. In a moment of spiritual insight, he knew he wasn’t just feeling loneliness for the company of his friends; he was experiencing an alone-ness—that all he tried to hold on to in life for support and meaning would fade away, and that only the God who remained forever could fill it. He had been trying to fill his aloneness with activities and companionship, and in the short run, it seemed to work. But now, faced with loss and change, Aaron recognized that it was God who was his refuge and stronghold. He was the one who held his destiny.
Instead of trying to hold on to the things slipping from his grasp, he decided to let them go and give himself completely over to God. He celebrated his friendships, but he was ready to let his friends go and find a new path, even if didn’t include him. He committed himself all the more to prayer, as he desired to commend his spirit into God’s hands. He readied himself to surrender all and take whatever God had for him.
As a result, the anticipated loneliness never materialized. Rather, Aaron saw his move away from friends and familiar surroundings as an adventure, and with expectation waited for what God would do next. As his trust in the Lord grew, he found his spirit becoming more at peace. He also discovered that he more readily gave of himself when serving others, without expecting anything in return. Embracing his aloneness had led him to God, and at the same time, was a path to freedom.
Never Alone is the fourth in a series of stories on spiritual heroism.