Sometimes I feel like I’m living a semi-charmed life here in Korea. OneRepublic’s “Good Life” captures pretty well the carefree feeling I often have. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I can’t help feeling upbeat about it.
This past week, however, I felt something quite different: Deep loneliness.
Sometimes I feel lonely when I spend too much time alone or suddenly miss a specific person. But a more profound version of loneliness occasionally hits me, a general feeling of detachment from people that I can’t shake off. Whether I am alone, in a group, or having a one-on-one conversation with a friend, a feeling of emptiness persists. I start to believe I am incapable of having real connections with other human beings, and I don’t know what to do.
This past Friday, when I arrived at church for our weekly prayer meeting, the sadness that had been hiding inside rose up and overwhelmed me. At the praise leader’s first guitar strum, the tears started flowing. I often come to Friday prayer meetings feeling a bit beat up from the week and leave feeling restored and refreshed. I usually cry a lot in the beginning, but by the time the meeting ends, I am glowing with joy.
But at the end of this meeting, I just wanted to burst into tears. Still.
Thankfully my small group leader somehow knew, came over, and held me as I let it all out. But then on my way to the subway, I cried again. And back at home, I cried some more. It just wouldn’t stop.
Yet in the midst of this deep sadness, I sensed God saying I was being broken down to set me up for something good.
I fell asleep that night meditating on Isaiah 43:1-2:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
The next morning I sat through Praise Team practice with puffy, swollen eyes, feeling somewhat fragile. But as I listened to the words of the songs being sung, God spoke to me:
“You know you can’t really run away from your life, right?”
What? Suddenly He had my attention.
Was that what I was doing? Living a carefree, semi-charmed life far away from all my past emotional struggles? Vivid memories surfaced of deep loneliness from my past, and God said, “Turn and face all of it, the whole sum of the sadness you have experienced over the course of your life. Face it, because you can handle it.”
I remembered how touched I was just last week by the beauty of the cross,
by the worthiness of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world. I had told God in that moment that I was willing and ready to follow Him to the cross, to suffer anything, that the world might see more of His glory. And in this moment that felt like a bit of sharing in that suffering, He spoke again:
“Never forget that I went to the cross first. You will never suffer anything that I have not already suffered. And you are not expected to do anything in your own strength. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you.”
With those words, I felt something unshakable filling me.
A lot of cool things happened throughout the rest of the weekend.
There was much love, joy, laughter, and moments of deep connection with others––essentially I was restored emotionally and relationally. But I wasn’t just brought back to the same place I had been before all this turmoil hit me. I returned to the same joy and friendships as before, but I was different. Stronger, purified, established in a deeper level of confidence.
God is so good. Because He is with me, I have no fear of threatening waters or burning fires; they cannot drown or suffocate me. They simply wash away my filth, burn off my impurities, and leave me glowing and shining with light.