Mourning into dancing, ashes into beauty, darkness into light, weakness into strength. In Scripture we’re presented with all of these images of the Lord turning things upside down . His life, death, and resurrection so powerfully break the hold of sin on this world that things that once only pointed to the devastation of sin now beautifully point to the glory and majesty of the Creator. It’s marvelous isn’t it? But how far does this reversal of distorted things extend? We’re quick to see the Lord’s hand when a situation that might have only caused sorrow now produces joy. We see it when we ourselves or others change, when our responses transform and take on a new light. But I think it goes even further than that.
There are some things that the Lord chooses not to transform yet. Take loneliness for example. When you find yourself in a situation without community, without the people you love nearby, when you’re alone, he most often doesn’t take that loneliness away instantly. He comforts you in it, he meets you in it, and yet you still feel the absence of living alongside of people. It’s possible to be both comforted and lonely at the same time, to know that he is good to you in this moment and yet not feel the blessing of the community that you long for.
It’s in this context that I want to think about the Heavenly reversal I spoke about above. Is it true here too? Initially if you asked me what ashes into beauty looked like when I thought about loneliness I think my first thought would have been the end of loneliness, a friend entering your life maybe and the joys of Christian community. But as I continued to think about it he does turn my loneliness on its head. Loneliness that points to the devastation of sin is a kind that produces bitterness and a life turned inward. Have you ever noticed that when you’re lonely you tend to withdraw even more? It becomes even harder to pick up the phone and call someone. There may be people in front of you but you don’t want to reach out. But the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit on a life in Christ transform loneliness into something that awakens your heart to the Lord. You still feel lonely and yet that feeling points you to your Savior. You long for him in a different way and knowing his presence more sweetly you’re able to point outward. Future friendships become, not things to fix loneliness, but places where you can reach out and love another lonely person.
Loneliness exists only because of the presence of sin in the world and yet in the glorious power of our Father in heaven, because of his Son and through his Spirit, it becomes the stage for something beautiful. He turns the ashes of my loneliness into the beauty of knowing him and loving others.