“But how do I know he’s real?” I asked staring into the mirror while having my first philosophical conversation about Jesus.
“You can’t see him,” said my Mother. “You believe in him by faith. Jesus lives inside you and you will never be alone.”
But that’s not how I felt. I had a rich imagination as a child that lasted through my teen years, generously helping me see and believe Jesus was indeed with me. But there’s all the difference in the world between someone continually reminding you that Jesus is in you and believing it yourself when you’re all alone, especially all alone and grown up.
The sadnesses of life have a way of opening the door to loneliness. Loneliness is a very real experience even for those who intentionally choose to follow Jesus, seeing and believing that he is with them. The striking thing about Jesus is that while he was on earth he never avoided just “being.”
Yet we do.
I know I’m running from loneliness (or the sadness of my mother-in-law's last stages of cancer) when I fanatically start looking for one hundred things to do. Recently I found myself more eager to do God’s will than he was for me to do it. It’s a striving, a sense that we need to try harder at everything we do. In reality I was avoiding just being. The opposite happens, too, when we have a passive, paralyzing response to loneliness that manifests itself in doing nothing.
Here’s the problem: When we avoid facing sadness and loneliness while seeing and believing Christ is with us—we hurry up everything in our lives to fill the void. We hurry up that forbidden relationship, that must-have job, that one more commitment, that drug addiction, that pornography site, that obsession with whatever—even being famous.
Facing our loneliness and sadness frees us to receive more of Christ’s presence preparing us for what he will give us to fill the void and usually it’s not something we ever thought of or imagined. We have to have a different way to imagine the process of loneliness and turning to Him. Feeling what our hearts feel is what it means to be human before God. He never wants us to push those feelings down, rather He wants them poured out before him so He can heal.