Growing up I often thought a lot about people who were imprisoned for their faith and left alone in a cell because of their commitment to stand up for what they believed to be right. It was one of the things I admired the most and wanted to be like when I got older.
Ten or fifteen years have passed since then and sometimes I still find myself wondering how I would react to being entirely alone and holding true to what I believed even when no one else agreed.
A month ago we had April break here at the school where I dean. Normally I end up visiting friends or family during a portion of my time off but this time I ended up spending the break just me and Jesus.
During those five days I spent a lot of time driving and hiking through the countryside— and praying about what it means to walk alone and still live life to the fullest.
I think we all go through life stages where we are alone. Obviously single young adulthood is a big one that we often think of, but the reality is that walking alone is not limited to one life season. Walking through divorce, abuse, family dysfunction, betrayal by friends, mental or physical health struggles, and spiritual isolation are all lonely roads that can hit us at any time in life.
We were never made to be alone. If the world were how He created it, we wouldn’t all find ourselves walking a road with no companionship.
But it’s not. And that’s the stark reality that many of us face on a daily basis.
As I walked every day over my break, I found myself talking this reality through with Him. It’s a conversation we have had more times than I can count. In fact it is probably the conversation I have had with Him more than any other.
At first it normally starts with me coming to Him either in frustration or desperation.
“God, how can you ask me to walk this road alone?”
I’ve asked Him that question in so many different circumstances and every time the situation looks a little different. Sometimes it’s a path of surrender that feels isolating, loosing a treasured friendship, persevering in ministry, facing conflict, and so many others.
And every time the root of His answer is the same.
Princess, am I not enough for you?
Sometimes I tell Him no. That I want Him to pick an easier road for me to walk and that I want Him to provide whatever companionship I feel like I need at the time.
Sometimes I rant to Him for hours about how life isn’t fair and how I want Him to write the story differently. Honestly, sometimes I avoid Him for days or even weeks because I can’t bring myself to be ok with the road He’s asking me to walk.
But somehow, every single time, He wins my heart back.
As I walked through green fields at sunset the first night of break I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with awe. Yes, there have been countless times He’s asked me to walk alone and I have fought Him and thought that He was asking more than I could handle. But every time, He walked with me and didn’t leave me alone when I’d fallen and thought I I couldn’t get back up.
I’m starting to realize that often the moments where we feel the most alone are the moments where He is walking the most closely by our side.
That’s the thing that overwhelmed me that night as the sun set, turned the fields golden, and made even the puddles in the road look beautiful. As much as I run from Him sometimes, there is nothing in the world that I would rather have than Jesus— even if that means walking a road that has no one on it but Him for the rest of my life.
I’ve told Him that for a long time too. I’m not sure daydreaming about prison cells and being in solitary confinement for my faith as a child is a normal thing to do, but there was something about only having Jesus that fascinated me. Naively I thought that was only accomplished by living in a prison cell. As I’ve grown up I’ve realized that there are times in our life where all we have is Jesus even out in the big wide, free world.
As much as we kick and scream during those times, there is something incredibly beautiful to be said for the moments where we accept that He is the one walking this road with us and that we can be content with that.
Honestly, sometimes I think we put off really living until God fills our cup with more treasures than just Himself. But what if some of the sweetest memories are the ones we make just with Him?
Right before I turned twenty, I remember looking back on my teenage years and writing in my journal that the best moments in those years were the times I spent just me and Jesus— talking. Those moments were the gold. Everything else paled in comparison.
To be content with just Jesus isn’t a popular way of life in our culture today and sometimes even in our churches. And often it’s something we seem to forget in our young adult years where we may need it the most— especially when we are single.
I don’t want to focus on singleness as the primary life season where we are alone because we can walk alone in so many other life seasons too, but I think we often get discontent in this season and sometimes take any path out that we can find, even when it’s detrimental.
Not going to lie, it’s one of the things Jesus and I have talked about most on my walks with Him this year. He’s said it’s not good for man to be alone, and I believe He means that and that His plans to provide companionship are exceedingly beautiful.
But what if the season of waiting and walking with Him is meant to be just as beautiful? What if we skip over that and waste those moments because we’re so eager for what comes next?
And maybe the same glory in the waiting applies in every season where we walk alone. Maybe every time we look around and find ourselves walking the road of life with no one but Him can be one of the most precious seasons in our life instead of the worst.
During this last break I can’t say that I wasn’t tempted to spend the time holed up in my house being entertained by the internet and letting the days pass without really treasuring any of that time. But I knew there was something I wanted more.
I wanted to spend those moments hiking to the bottom of waterfalls with Jesus. I wanted to drive for hours around the glory of the smoky mountains in the spring. I wanted to climb to the top of viewpoints where I could see for miles in every direction. I wanted to stop at raging rivers and thank Him for His power. I wanted to pause in fresh spring meadows fresh and thank Him for leading through still pastures. I wanted to sing along to the praises playing in my car as I drove. I wanted to watch the sunset and walk for miles and beg Him to work in the lives of the ones I love. I wanted to treasure these moments and these days with just Him.
Because ultimately, no matter what gifts He gives and what other human companionship He provides in the course of my little life, He is the greatest treasure of all.
I’ve fought that truth more than any other but over time I think He is slowly getting it through to this wandering heart. And I can’t begin to tell you the peace and glory of letting Him be everything.
While I don’t believe He causes most of the circumstances in our life that leave us walking alone, I do believe that we need those times to grow.
Sometimes we have to stand alone for what we know is His will before we can realize how important it is to be true to Him.
Sometimes we have to go through conflict without the companionship and understanding of any other human being before we can realize how much His arm supports us when we lean all our weight on Him.
Sometimes we have to loose everything we love the most before we realize that He is the most beautiful of all.
He hasn’t placed us in solitary confinement for our faith, but maybe these periods of walking alone are the seasons in which He strengthens our faith and solidifies our dependance on Him like nothing else. And even more than that, maybe it is in these seasons that we become best friends with Him in a way that we never would have done otherwise.
I don’t know all that I’m going to say to Him when I see Him in heaven. I’ve played over and over in my head that moment where we will hug for the first time, and we’ll walk and talk for endless hours— in person this time. But as I look back over the seasons in my life where I thought I was all alone and then realized how precious His companionship was and started learning to treasure that most of all, I can picture looking into His eyes and telling Him…
“Jesus, thank you. Thank you for removing every other distraction and letting me walk with just you. Thank you for letting me loose everything in my hands so I could just hold yours. Thank you for teaching me to lean on you and become stronger than I ever would have dreamed when I felt weakest of all.
Thank you for letting me walk a road where I felt so alone at times, because it was in those moments I learned to love you most.
If all I have is you,
and nothing else but you,
I have everything.”