During our current pandemic-induced distancing, most of us have experienced a shrinking of our social interactions. We are working, schooling, and worshiping from home. The bulk of our community activities, sports, and entertainment options have been cancelled. Most of us are setting limits on socializing and family gatherings as well. The downshift in personal interactions has opened up a common ache among us: we feel lonely.
Loneliness has been addressed in recent years in regard to strange loneliness that prevails even when we are always-connected via social media. As reported in Psychology Today, “In the last 50 years, regardless of geographic location, gender, race, or ethnicity, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States” and “individuals who spent more time on social media every day felt lonelier than those who spent less time.”
The trend toward loneliness was already on the rise before COVID-19 arrived. And now? We’re feeling it all the more acutely.
All this makes the arrival of Jason Gaboury’s Wait with Me: Meeting God in Loneliness (InterVarsity Press, 2020) prescient. Gaboury shares his personal, persistent wrestling with loneliness, helping readers to do the same. By going the way with us, Gaboury lends courage; staring down the beast of loneliness alone is not a task high on anyone’s list! But facing it, entering into it, even finding its silver lining, is Gaboury’s invitation throughout the book. Page by page, we are encouraged to see these pockets of loneliness as places we can ask God to wait with us, meet with us, and make us more whole.
Another help is that Gaboury comes at the task from indirect paths that open up fresh insights to the structure of loneliness. Ambition, restlessness, anxiety—these each contribute to loneliness in specific ways and can be sacred places where we can meet God. I found the chapter titled Risk helpful in our current moment, which explores the unavoidable loneliness of pursuing justice:
“Distinct loneliness accompanies risk. Activists and artists know this kind of isolation and the loneliness that accompanies the vulnerable work they immerse themselves in. As more of us engage in civil activism in-person or online, we will experience an increase in loneliness.” (89)
So often when loneliness invades our inner world, our gut reaction is to chase it away as quickly as possible. (Hence our penchant for social media.) But when loneliness is part-and-parcel of needful work, such as with establishing a more just world, we cannot run from it. The world needs changing; we need changing. Normalizing the experience of loneliness and finding God waiting for us in the midst is a step toward wholeness. Thankfully, we have fellow a traveler in Jason Gaboury.
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