single-person-small1Do you ever get ambushed by a sense of intense loneliness? Most of our lives are too noisy and too rushed for us to feel anything, much less loneliness. But sometimes we may be suddenly gripped by a sense of intense loneliness.

I was, last Saturday, as I was driving alone to a holiday resort where I was scheduled to give a talk.

As a single parent, I had reasons to feel lonely. But this time there was no obvious trigger.

I shared this experience with my spiritual director. To my surprise, he pointed out that I had always been lonely. Even before I lost my first wife to cancer.

He suggested that the loneliness I felt was not just a loneliness for human companionship. He suggested that this type of loneliness was a more primal one. It was a loneliness for God.

He referred me to the account of Samuel. Samuel led a lonely life. He was separated from his parents from young when he was given to the service of God.

My spiritual director pointed out to me how Samuel’s lonely childhood prepared him to receive the presence and call of God (1 Samuel 3:10ff.)

Indeed, as the Psalmist points out so powerfully in Psalms 42:1,2, there is a deep yearning in the human heart for his Maker.

“As a deer yearns for running streams,
so I yearn for you my Lord.
I thirst for God, the living God;
when shall I go to see the face of God?”

I agreed with my spiritual director’s diagnosis. With so much going on in my life, I had neglected to attend to my most basic need, my need of God.

There are many forms of loneliness of course. The irony is that, in a world that is getting more connected, human loneliness is still endemic. Well, God did say that it was not good for humankind to be alone. We all need healthy relationships with other human beings.

Yet there is indeed a deeper and more basic loneliness, a loneliness for God HImself.

Wasn’t it Augustine who reminded us that God made us for Himself and that the human heart will be restless till it rests in Him?

So loneliness can sometimes be a friend. Or at least a wake-up call that calls us back to the fellowship of our First Friend.