I met with a group of young Christians on the weekend to discuss the topic of loneliness. We each asked the question, "Where is Jesus when we feel lonely?" and discussed our experiences of loneliness and of God's intervention. We talked about the especially strange sensation of being in a room full of people and still feeling lonely. No matter the social sphere, stage of life or family dynamics, every one of us seems to be familiar with loneliness to some degree.
I shared the story of Zaccheus, and we spent time imagining what it must have felt like to have no friends, to be despised in fact, and to reach out with a thread of hope that this visiting celebrity, Jesus, might possibly be able to shine some ray of hope into our lives. Jesus blew Zaccheus' expectations out of the water; not only did he notice him, he invited himself to dinner at Zaccheus' and spent the afternoon with him. What an earthquake that must have been in the heart of little old Zaccheus.
After discussing that story, I invited the group to do a journaling exercise. We began by asking God to give us the name of someone we knew, who was lonely. Then we asked God what he would want that person to know. And finally, we asked God what he wanted to say to us right now. I used to get really nervous leading this exercise... what if no one hears from God? Or worse, what if everyone hears from God except one? But I've seen God be faithful over and over again, so my fears are steadily ebbing away.
Once everyone had finished, I asked a few to share. Matias went first, and a little nervously he announced that the name God gave him was my name, Jonathan! Everyone laughed, and I said "Great!" so he went on to say that what God wanted me to know was that I am never alone, and that everything is going to work out OK. It wasn't quite an earthquake, but I certainly experienced a tremor, as a downpour of love came out of Matias' and into me, straight from God above. I don't even remember what it was that God said to Matias himself, because I was so touched by what he had shared with me.
A few other people shared as well and Ashlee got the name of Matias' sister Isabella, who was there too. Ashlee explained that God wanted Isabella to know that she was loved and was an amazing singer. You should have seen Isabella's face light up. She had sung on our church's worship team for the first time just a few weeks prior. The look on her face, as the love and joy of God poured over her, was beautiful to behold.
My favourite part? Matias is only 9 years old. Ashlee recently turned 10 and Isabella is 12.
God never stops speaking to his children. If you need to hear God say to you that you're not alone and that everything is going to be OK, then the first thing you might want to try is to become his child again. Reach out in humble faith, like little old Zaccheus climbing his tree... and let him see your desperation. You don't really even need to ask since your Father knows everything you need, but your act of surrender might just be the key that unlocks your awareness of his closeness.