Are you feeling lonely? One of the emotions that chaplains encounter in all of the institutions they serve is loneliness. People living in institutions are cut off from family and friends. Loved ones often can’t visit them because they are behind doors that are locked. Some of these locked doors are physical while others are emotional. What’s more, being institutionalized means that you are no longer visible in the lives of others. You cannot attend family gatherings or take part in family traditions and special events. Neighbors no longer “bump into you” in the grocery store or see you walking down the street.
One of the greatest fears that women have in prison is the fear of being forgotten by their loved ones. Mothers aren’t there to help their children pick out backpacks when school starts. They miss out on birthdays, weddings, and the births of grandchildren. Life goes on for those on the “outside” and the institutionalized are often left to themselves to cope with the grief and loss of missing their loved ones.
Loneliness is difficult and there are no easy answers. The pain of loneliness is real, and it can be quite overwhelming. Offering up explanations or providing possible insights as to why God might allow such loneliness cannot take away the hurt, they may feel. As chaplains, sometimes all we can do is pray with them and encourage them to continue wrestling with God in the midst of their pain and confusion. However, God has a plan in any and every situation. While the devil wants the lonely to get desperate, discouraged, even to give up hope, God knows how to bless the lonely and draw them closer to himself.
Join me in praying for all the lonely wherever they may be:
Lord God, when your children experience the pain of loneliness, help them turn their hurting heart to you. And when we see people who are suffering from loneliness, help us love them as you do and direct them into your open arms. We know you long to bring us to heaven where there is no more loneliness or pain of any kind. You suffered loss to bring that gift to us, through the sacrifice of your Son. Therefore, when we experience loneliness in our own hearts or witness it in others, assure us of your love and mercy. Keep all the lonely and broken-hearted close to you until we see you face to face. Amen.