The Loneliness of Intimacy with God

Loneliness in intimacy? That seems like a contradiction. How is it possible? How can intimacy with the Lord make you feel lonely? I mean the pain when you go deeper in the Lord and you suddenly realize that barely anyone around you can relate to what you've seen and experienced. I mean the loneliness you feel when you go deeper in the Lord but realize that no one else comes along. I mean the sadness when no one understands the things that move you most.

The Two Sides of Intimacy

Intimacy with God has two sides. When falling in love with Christ at first we are joined to a great, worldwide family that also spans all through human history. We become part of His body and are eternally connected with a huge, worldwide and timeless crowd of believers. As we mature, God stirs our heart for other people. As we connect with God, we find our heart go out like never before to the people around us in ministry. Our fellowship with the Lord fuels and creates fellowship with the people around us. Intimacy connects.

Yet as we go deeper in the Lord we also find another reality at work within us. A lifestyle of reckless and radical abandonment, making God our sole desire and highest delight in life, contending for His fullness and stopping at nothing to obtain it, searching out the Lord day and night, contending for the knowledge of God and the spirit of revelation, and wasting your life, time, education, money, relationships, abilities and opportunities in order to get to know Him and the depths of His being just a little more - all of this is very costly, the narrow road, chosen by only a few.

Loneliness In Intimacy

The narrow road is a lonely road. It's not a crowded freeway. Often it feels more like an abandoned mountain trail or an overgrown path through the highlands of Scotland where you can walk for days without meeting a single soul.

Few years ago I read a small booklet called "A Revelation of Christ". Its author unknown, yet he was the first I found who put into words what I had been feeling for years:
We can ONLY fellowship with Jesus, and the measure to which one 'lives and moves and has their being in Him' is the extent to which we can give our heart away to them in fellowship. ... We may not extend total, open relationship to those that have not met God in the inner man. We may only extend the same level of relationship to them that they currently experience with Jesus.A Revelation of Christ, p. 11, 22
This is not about 'ought' or 'ought not', it's about possible or not. There is a depth of fellowship only available between like-minded (or rather: like-spirited) souls that share the same depth in God and the same intensity in their relationship with Him, who have 'seen' the same treasures and tasted of the same pleasures of heaven, who are equally ruined for anything less. Their hearts are fixed on the same thing and they share the same commitments.

In my few social interactions as an introvert, I'm on a constant quest to find people with the same depth, the same hunger, the same yearning for God, similar experiences, the same quality and intensity of love and affection for the Lord. Just like 'the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth', I feel like that's what I do as well, hoping to find people 'whose heart is completely His' (2 Chr 16:9). Deep cries unto deep (Ps 42:7). The depth in me is searching for the depths in others.

And how exuberant the joy when you meet someone who understands. What unity you experience with those who instantaneously know what you're talking about because they've been to the same places in God, seen and tasted the same depths. People that can finish your sentences, who understand even when your words fail to convey what your heart grasps. People that 'know' (in its deepest meaning) Jesus as intimately as you have known Him. The depth of fellowship with them is otherworldly. You talk differently, you share different thoughts with them that to someone else may just sound like riddles, you get the rare freedom to share from the depth of your heart without the fear of offering its precious jewels to misunderstanding or even objection.

But encounters with this sort of people are rare. The narrow road is a lonely road, and the farther you walk on it, the fewer they get. This is the loneliness of intimacy.

Spiritual Hermits

I have to think of Lucy Pevensie from C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. In a wardrobe this little girl found the entrance to a magical world completely unknown to her and her siblings. Lucy couldn't keep her fascination to herself. She had to tell everyone what she'd just discovered. But soon Lucy had to realize that no one could relate, or even wanted to. Her experiences were belittled and scolded by her siblings - the people closest to her, those she naturally expected the most support from. Her siblings wouldn't go where she went, they weren't even interested in hearing about it. While being drawn to the lion Aslan - symbolizing Jesus - Lucy experienced a loneliness even in her closest relationships.

I have to think of all these believers in the spiritual outbacks of this world. Those who cultivate lovesick hearts and an ever growing hunger for the presence and the knowledge of God where no one else does. People in nations or regions that die from spiritual hunger without realizing, people who belong to the few who cultivate the secret place of intimacy and wholeheartedness before the Lord without having any support from the people around them or any people around them who inspire them to give even more and go even deeper.

I have to think of the people that, after having been touched by the Lord in a mighty way, return to their traditional, lukewarm churches where no one has a paradigm for what they have experienced. I have to think of the missionary couple who moved to a spiritually desolate region, completely stripped of any spiritual fellowship apart from each other. I have to think of the teenage boy who encountered God and due to a lack of other Christians in his area started reading the Bible on his own while his atheist parents scolded him for his insanity and religious fanaticism. I have to think of the group of people that consistently come together and experience the most intense prayer meetings, with crying and sobbing in and because of the measure of the presence of the Lord in their prayer meetings, venturing to places in the Lord that no one in the entire city understands. I have to think of a guy who had been part of such a community for a season and after his return home had to realize that there wasn't a single soul that shared the depths that he now knew.

These are the modern day hermits. People who - while living in cities, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people, even while being part of communities of believers - find themselves in a spiritual desert of loneliness. People who understand these words of David and cry with the same longing and commitment:
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1
Not necessarily hermits by choice, but by the depth they chose in God. Feeling lonely because they decided to go in God where no one else went, pioneers who wouldn't back down even when it meant continuing on their own where there was no prepared, beaten track, no one who preceded and no one who would come along. Hungry souls who cried out for more where others stopped. People who carved out yet another hour for the secret place at the feet of Jesus where others called it a waste of time. People like Mary of Bethany, whose sole desire was to pour it all out before Him, holding nothing back, no matter the cost, no matter the opinions of the people around, no matter the extravagance of the offering.

Leaving Everything For Love

The pain of loneliness - of not having people around you who support your dedication to the Lord, who understand your deepest longings for God and the intimacy you are experiencing with Him, who come along when you go deeper in the Lord, of not having anyone to talk about what you've found in Him while searching Him out, no one who understands - is great. Yet greater is the pain of not having more of what we tasted. Greater is the pain of not going deeper in the One we came to love so relentlessly.

Love demands us to press on, to go deeper in Him, to get to know Him more, to find out just a little more about Him, to fall in love just a little more. Oh how much would we give for that which even just bears the potential to bring us a single step closer, a little step deeper. How much would we give for experiencing just a little more of His love and giving back to Him just a little more of our heart. Love demands us to press on. He ruined us for anything less.

Like Peter we proclaim: "Lord, where else can I go?" (John 6:68). Everything I've know, everything I've tasted, everything I've been taught, everything I deemed valuable and precious - now that I see - it absolutely pales in comparison to being with You where You are and getting as close to You as I can.

We can't go back, we can't just stay where we are. We burned the bridges. To the one who has tasted of His depths backing down is the act of highest stupidity that man is capable of. We are ruined. He let us taste of more of Him, He awakened the hunger for more, now the yearning of love demands us to go deeper. Love demands us to advance. It won't be satisfied until everything is given for love, until it arrives at the end of the endless depths of the One it desires - Jesus Christ, the risen God, the beautiful and glorious Branch of the Lord, fairer than the sons of man.

Love's longing is to give everything, surrender all, leave everything behind to cling wholly, solely and irrevocably to Him as a bride clings to her bridegroom. Counting the cost (Luke 14:27-28) was yesterday, it's an idea absolutely absurd to the one consumed with yearning for the God he calls his sole delight.

Like Lucy Pevensie, the cost doesn't matter. Even though it's painful, it can't keep us from going after more. We've found more than life. We've found something that nothing we've known compares with, and we gotta have it, we gotta have Him - all of Him, all the way. The pull of yearning for Him is stronger than the pain of loneliness. There's no way back, no place for surrender and you won't surrender, no matter what it costs. Loneliness is a price too ridiculously low to even be considered compared to the depths of intimacy with Christ that are waiting for those who won't stop pursuing Him.

If the road leads through the valley of loneliness, so be it. If I have to forget my people and leave my father's house (Psalm 45:10-11), I'd gladly give it. If You tell me to follow You and leave everything behind immediately, here I am. If I am to 'hate' father, mother, wife and children (Luke 14:26), here You have it. If it means being misunderstood and scolded by the people closest to me, Jesus, who am I to complain or despair when the reward of intimacy with You is so exceedingly greater in comparison to what I give up. If it means advancing alone for the rest of my life, here is my wholehearted commitment, Lord.

With love more demanding than the grave (Song 8:6), call me away. Take me where others feared to tread. Take me where love is costly and precious. Meet me on the narrow road and see me through. I'm in it all the way. I'm in it for it all.


25 comments:

  1. Great blog post! It came from your heart's deepest and it drips from anointing. Keep on the good work preparing the way because I know surely there are many who will follow no matter if you meet them or not. "Love demands us to go deeper. Loneliness is a price too ridiculously low to even be considered compared to the depths of intimacy with Christ that are waiting for those who won't stop pursuing Him." I encourage you in your commitment and pray to be able to do the same but one thing I know he will see us through because he promised to never leave or forsake us. 

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    1. Thank you very much, Genoveva! Yes, you're right, we can only give more, we can only go deeper. And sometimes the impact we have on others remains hidden to our own eyes.

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  2. Thanks for posting this, It has encouraged me.

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  3. Benjamin you have such a great gift with expressing yourself. I could not have expressed it any more clearly. What you wrote was everything I have felt. It would grieve me to find that those closest to you could not appreciate or understand what only the Spirit of God does to someone when you are set free really set free from bondage. Thank you for your article I will be sharing this on my facebook.

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    1. Thank you for your compliments, Veronica! Good to know that, though I'm not a native speaker, I somehow manage to get my thoughts across. :) But bittersweet to hear that there are many more out there who know this kind of loneliness as well. Thanks for sharing and for your kind words! I appreciate it a lot!

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  4. You encapsulated so perfectly the longing and depth of my desire for intimacy with our Lord. It is a solitary road but so utterly fulfilling when His manifest presence is felt. Truly nothing else matters. Praying you experience more of Him and yet never have enough.

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    1. Thank you very much! The same to you: An ever increasing experience of His love and longing for you in the process of walking the narrow road! Blessings!

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  5. This blog is so true.....Glad to know there are people out there who understand what this means :).So glad you actually thought of writing this coz I thought I was silly for feeling like this :)....God bless!

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  6. Thank you so much for this post. This perfectly describes how I'm feeling now. God sent me on a journey to a small town in Georgia for 7 years. Now that I have returned to Massachusetts, I couldn't fathom that a city with churches on nearly every corner, lacks the awesome glory of God that I had experienced down south. I found a different church home since then, but still the anointing in that southern church is unmatched. Furthermore, God has called me to a physical place of separation. Away from the lifestyle and people that I've known. Indeed, it is a lonely place. It's comforting to see other believers here in the body of Christ that are aware of this loneliness. Please pray my strength in Jesus Christ as I continue to press on to the mark of a higher calling. No turning back.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. I hope you find a new spiritual family where you feel at home among friends who share your passion for the Lord. But sometimes the Lord sends us to new places as pioneers to start communities where we impart the DNA we received to others. I often encourage people who feel like they live in a dry and weary land to start investing in 2-3 people around them. You may find yourself being part of a new spiritual family that goes hard after the Lord sooner than you expected. :) Many blessings!

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  7. Can't agree more. I feel this way too. I remember one time it got so bad that I searched even the internet to find anyone, someone who was paining, paining from the longing for Christ...GOD saw my thirst for fellowship...ultimately I found one lady's blog ( Kaywin''s blog about Jesus) I could relate to her craving for the LORD's return. Even so, I miss Him so much everyday, I cry for Him...but I know one day this thirst will be answered by the only one who can relieve it. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Absolutely! I definitely agree that the internet is a great way to find like-minded people. And even more, it's one of the primary ways for me to find the resources that take me deeper in the Lord and encourage me to press on. No matter where we live, it's always right at our finger tips. :)

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  8. Wow! This puts language to what I've been feeling the past few months; the Lord is so good; thank you for sharing what He has revealed to you.

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  9. You put into words things I was not able to put words to really. I have felt isolated all my life, but no matter who rags on me and derides me, mocks my choices and my lifestyle, I will NOT quit. I have pretty much given up finding people to join with. Even when I joined prayer groups in a local charismatic church, I did not blend in. I refuse to pray the wasted prayers of those who are satisfied with a token from God. I want His best and that is how I pray. Unfortunately, it is too strong a stream, fiery. It confronts the 'leaders' of these groups. They say they don't want me to leave, but, I need to tone it down. I would not be any different than the rest of them if I did that. It would be nice to be part of a group, but I refuse to do business that way. I have set my face like flint to, in effect, go to Jerusalem. Nothing will stop me. I am on a path that I just recently realized is getting much narrower as the days go by. How narrow can it get? How low can I go? I guess I will find out in the days ahead. Going ever deeper, ever higher and ever wider with the Lord!

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  10. I absolutely relate to this writing and for many years since I moved away from my last fellowship I have mourned the loss of such companionship. When I just read this, I was reminded of Elijah who thought he was the only one - and God showed him different.

    Then it came to mind, there may be people who have known God more deeply than I ever did, and they are waiting for ME to grow up so they can fellowship me!! Then, as I re-read this post, it sounds self-centered!

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  11. This. Thank you. It makes me crave the depths of God even more.

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    1. Awesome article. I was just in prayer and God related to me how the road, if I choose, that I will walk is a lonely road. I told him as long as your there I am willing to walk it. For years I would try and talk to people about my experiences and quickly come to find they did not understand, even though they said they did. Our languages would not meet up together. God revealed to me the same thing happened to Adam when he did not find anyone on his level but then God gave him Even. So everything you said was right on point!

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  13. Oh JESUS! okay so this IS PERFECT FOR THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD. ITS THE MOST REWARDING FEELING IN THE WORLD WHEN I GET STIRRED UP BY THE LORD WHILE SEEKING HIS WORD OR EVEN PRAISING HIM. And everytime I try to mention it to other believers (that experience) or even those who I am believing to be saved... it doesn't come out right or they don't understand. I have now come to the conclusion that my heart that yearns to love wholeheartedly..whether family or the sport that I do(I run track). I realize that passion and yearning is for me and him. I am a person who will give all of myself to the one I love or even my last. Reading this the Holy Spirit has confirmed.. that I am right where he wants me. AND ITS FUNNY BECAUSE WHEN RESPONSIBILITIES GET CRAZY I LITERALLY FEEL FRUSTRATED BECAUSE I CANT GET THAT LIMITLESS Intimacy TO SPEND WITH HIM AND HIS WORD. THE song that Jenn Johnson made "In Over My Head" is totally for me. I am 23.. and long for other young adults to know of this love, but unfortunately...I realize not many people will grasp that this is what it is about. I hope maybe me and you can meet in person someday and chat about our journeys with the Lord!
    my facebook name is Domonique Diamone White... friend me and message me!!!!!!! -Dom

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  14. Oh! so true. Thanks so much for this...It would take wayyy too long to say all I could say....He is my all and it has been a journey since I was about 8 to present..I am 73 this Oct.! I live for nothing else...Just Him. And that is radiated to all in my life. Loving Him, even with my faults and miseries. His Presence sooo strong 24/7 ! Thanks so for a perfect article. God bless with love and prayers everyone..Patricia

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  15. One more things, loves....I wish the whole world would read He and i by Gabrielle Bossis!!!!! Oh what love of our Jesus! Like nothing you have ever read...Such mercy and kindness and invitation for Him to be our All and All. You can obtain it from: amazon.com It is like pure joy + Love and prayers...Patricia

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  16. I wish there was a way for all who feel this way to connect. You are so not alone. LY

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    1. That's a really great idea! You're not alone in this either! :)

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  17. I am just starting on the path to find Jesus at 32. I've never been in the Bible and it came at a time I was considering remarriage. But now I'm so confused on everything that's going on in my life and trying to understand the Bible and relate it to my current situation is very confusing

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  18. The loneliness and longing you are writing about is inside me, and even if there are people who have the same thirst I don't think I can be with them. It's like seeing an island quite near you and never being able to cross the water that separates you from it. It's not the pain of loneliness, it's the pain of yearning for Christ. It hurts so much and never lets go. It's like being physically hungry craving for food and never seeing anything or anyone around but only feeling the neverending pain the hunger causes.

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