It’s a dull ache that starts in my belly and slowly creeps up until my eyes fill with tears. Sometimes it doesn’t creep so high and I can ignore it. Sometimes I can’t ignore it.
Loneliness has been my companion for a couple of years now. I lack community and true friends who are physically present. In the past, I tasted the sweetness of deep friendships, true community, love that is safe and free; yet after another move, I’ve lost all that. I’ve tried and pursued and initiated conversations, but for reasons only known to God, He’s left me in a small, foreign village, alone, with the waves crashing me against the Rock of Ages (Spurgeon).
Some days I feel I can rise above it all and keep going, put on a happy face for my darling children and loving husband. But I quickly sink back into despair. Especially around the holidays. Especially this year.
I don’t know why it’s particularly hard this year. Maybe because I’ve been lonely for what feels like so long now. For years my social calendar has been empty. There has been no meeting girlfriends for coffee after dropping children off at school, no spontaneous summer cookouts with friends, no one to rush over when my husband is at work and I find myself in the bathroom with the stomach flu, the kids waiting for their lunch and making a huge mess in the living room.
And yet, it’s December and it’s Advent. When my children run into the room exclaiming they can’t WAIT FOR CHRISTMAS!, I gently remind them that it’s really about Jesus’ birth; that’s what Advent is—waiting. Then God gently reminds me, You’re also waiting.
We are all waiting for Christmas, but there is a bigger waiting going on.
We are ultimately waiting for Christ’s coming again. Immanuel. And that is even bigger.
Maybe loneliness will stay with me the rest of my years on this earth. Maybe I’ll continue taking him to coffee and walking with him in the city, but I have another companion, too, something bigger I see before me: hope! Hope that I will not spend eternity alone and this loneliness won't last forever. I will get to have a great, big party with Jesus, who won’t be a baby anymore. My extroverted soul will get to celebrate with friends and family and Jesus! My bellyache will be gone, and loneliness will be a long-ago memory sweetened by the fulfilled promise of Immanuel, God with us.
As I wait and look forward to Christmas, I look even farther than December 25 to Christ’s ultimate return. Right now hope and loneliness are my constant companions, but someday loneliness will quietly leave me. So I rest in the anticipation of Immanuel—the abolishment of loneliness—which gives me joy in the waiting.
What is your constant companion in this broken world? What are the disappointments you live with every day? In what ways does the advent of hope—the promise of Immanuel—give you joy in the journey? How can you reach out to someone else who is hurting this Advent season?
Caitlin Lieder is an extroverted American mama of four, raising her half-German kids in Germany with her German husband who grew up in Kazakhstan. She enjoys reading, running, and playing the piano, and is passionate about evangelism and walking with other women in their journeys of seeking grace. You can find her on Twitter at The Mama Frau.