Dear Friend, Alone and Miserable

Dear friend,

Your heart is broken.

You feel abandoned and weak, a shadow of your former lively self.

I have been praying for you. At church this weekend, we prayed Psalm 147, and these verses leaped out at me, sounding so applicable to you, my friend:
The Lord heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.
I guess I've never thought about every star having a name, but there we have it: "He tells the number of the stars; he calls each by name." So the stars have names. What's more, God calls them by their names, implying that the stars respond. The stars are in relationship with God. Not just cold, mechanical constellations that guide navigation, stars have a sort of life and dignity, simply because God makes them and calls to them.

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As I repeated the Psalm response after the cantor, I wondered how calling stars by name and healing
hearts are related. Why do they appear side-by-side in praise of God's power?

Well, both of those tasks are enormous, far too big for any human person. We would never think of asking a mere mortal to call the stars by name! And yet, don't we often look to others to do that other God-thing, to mend our brokenness?

Sometimes we have one particular person in mind, someone who just needs to change, grow up, or otherwise improve--and then things will be better. Then the ache will go away.

Sometimes we have no one in particular in mind, just a wish for a phantom best friend or lover or spouse who will appear one day, taking away the agonizing loneliness.

While the people in our lives certainly contribute to, or detract from, our happiness, God alone can heal us. God is God, and makes us whole.
Trust in the Lord and do good
that you may dwell in the land and live secure.
Find your delight in the Lord
who will give you your heart’s desire.  (Psalm 37:3-4)
But you know this. You have always believed this. Even now, you freely tell others, "God alone fulfills us." Yet your heart no longer understands. Your day-to-day experience screams at you, "I AM ALONE!" Utterly alone. You did not prepare for this, you do not wish for this, and you have asked the Lord to restore all things. But each day ends, and you seem to be alone.

When I see the crucifix on my wall, I think of you. Jesus hangs on that cross, in agony. This was how he loved us. The vast crowds trickled away. His disciples scattered. Flanked by criminals, Jesus died minute by minute.

Even then, there was no rest for him. He comforted a repentant thief ("I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise"); he managed household details ("'Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.") To his very last breath, Jesus poured himself out for others.

You, my friend, feel that your pouring days are done. You feel empty. Take heart! God's power fills an empty container more plentifully than a full one.

As St. Paul says, "in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. . . . For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me" (Colossians 1:24, 29).

Right now you feel you no longer have those powers people admired in you: the power to delight, to instruct, to care for others. And yet, St. Paul was on to something; right now God may be exercising his own power in you. It's an unfamiliar power, and so far you're not a huge fan. It looks a lot like failure. But so does that crucifix.

Hang in there.

Your friend,