“Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16 [NASB]
As I meditated on Psalm 25 recently, verse 16 (above) resonated within my heart. It struck me that David lamented his loneliness to the Lord, but more notably that his lament of loneliness actually preceded his lament of affliction. He goes on to describe the severity of his affliction and doing so only increases the significance of his mentioning the sorrow of his loneliness first.
“The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins. Look upon my enemies, for they are many, And they hate me with violent hatred.” Psalm 25:17-19 [NASB]
The path of child loss for most is an indescribably lonely one. It is multifaceted beyond comprehension and is almost always accompanied by significant secondary and tertiary struggles. Even those who are blessed with a strong inner circle of support must trudge through many aspects of their sorrow alone. Try as we may, we can never articulate the indescribable ache of our hearts in a way that fully ushers others into its presence. It is a sacred pain whose depths must ultimately be confronted and traversed alone.
Perhaps all great pains isolate like this, being truly known and understood only by the afflicted one. The very affliction that isolates us then compounds its painful impact by the loneliness it creates. David experienced this so much so that in the midst of his many afflictions he first laments his loneliness.
I’m so thankful for the transparent heart cries and prayers of David, the other Psalmists, and the prophets. Their laments are an encouraging reminder that many before us have navigated the treacherous path of loneliness and affliction. Most importantly they leave us inspired guidance for how we can successfully navigate it as well.
David begins Psalm 25 by expressing his absolute trust in God, “To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust…” Do I trust Him? When my world has fallen apart and I am left sitting alone in the midst of the ashes, will I choose to trust Him? Throughout scripture He is calling us to trust Him regardless of our circumstances. When we are lonely and afflicted our first choice must be to trust Him.
“Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” Isaiah 50:10 [NASB]
He has revealed His character to us through His Word. When I find myself walking in darkness with no light I can confidently trust Him because He has revealed He alone is worthy of that trust. Though I may not understand the circumstances He has allowed in my life, I can trust Him in the midst of them knowing that my Sovereign God, the Lord God Almighty, is continually exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness because he delights in those things (Jer. 9:24).
“‘but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:24 [NASB]
Wait for Him…
The second action David takes in response to his loneliness and affliction is to wait upon the Lord. David said three separate times in Psalm 25 that he waits for the Lord. Throughout this Psalm David demonstrates expectant waiting. He is trusting in God’s character and promises and waiting for Him to act in accordance with them. He is not passively waiting, but actively waiting upon God. David demonstrates this when he says, “My eyes are continually toward the LORD, For He will pluck my feet out of the net” (v.15). David cried out to God to vindicate (v. 2), teach (v. 4), lead (v. 5), forgive (v. 7), and instruct (v. 8), and he waited expectantly for Him to do each of those things.
“Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed… Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day… Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.” Psalm 25:3, 5, 21 [NASB]
In the midst of his loneliness and affliction David continues to obey the Lord. He is trusting and waiting upon the Lord to lead Him, and as the Lord leads, David strives to obediently follow.
“Good and upright is the LORD; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. For Your name’s sake, O LORD, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. … Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.” Psalm 25:8-12, 21 [NASB]
I find it of great comfort that He not only leads and guides us in the way we should go, but it is also He who strengthens us to trust Him, wait for Him, and walk in the way in which He leads. With great thankfulness I praise God that I am strengthened according to His glorious might to walk in obedience.
“Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders. My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word. Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law.” Psalm 119:27-29 [NASB]
Rest in His Forgiveness…
In the midst of David’s declaration of reliance upon God he acknowledges his failings and trusts in God to forgive his iniquities. The adversary delights to use the despair of loneliness and deep affliction to taunt us that we have erred beyond the bounds of God’s forgiveness, that we are now abandoned and forsaken. Praise God that Psalm 25 reminds us that forgiveness is available according to the character of God, not the perceived degree of our sinfulness. His infinite compassion and lovingkindness exceed the wickedness of our greatest iniquity and out of their overflow He pardons us.
“Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, For they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way. … For Your name’s sake, O LORD, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” Psalm 25:6-8, 11 [NASB]
Remember you are not alone…
Though David laments his loneliness in Psalm 25, he is lamenting it to God. Through his lament we clearly see the intimacy of his relationship with God. He knows God and he is confident God knows him and sees him in his loneliness and affliction.
“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. … Guard my soul and deliver me; Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.” Psalm 25:5, 20 [NASB]
In addition to the same knowledge of God David enjoyed, we also have the confidence of having and knowing Jesus Christ as the great high priest who lives to continually intercede for us.
“but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:24-25 [NASB]
We know that Christ was tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Scripture even records specifically his experiencing aloneness in the midst of deepest affliction. Christ testified that during that time He was alone yet not alone, because the Father was with Him (John 16:32).
“Behold, an hour is coming, and has [already] come, for you to be scattered, each to his own [home,] and to leave Me alone; and [yet] I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” John 16:32 [NASB]
We may feel or actually be alone here, but we are never truly alone. We have a Father who sees, knows and deeply loves us out of the infinite overflow of His goodness and lovingkindness. We have a Savior who has experienced and knows the deep pain of loneliness and affliction and He is continually interceding on our behalf. Praise God, though we may be lonely, we are not alone.
“Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all his troubles.” Psalm 25:22 [NASB]
David concluded Psalm 25 by interceding for Israel, longing for the blessings of God’s promises and provision to extend to others. Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 1, we are instructed to consider others and to comfort them with the comfort we have been given.
“Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 [NASB]
God intends to use both our spiritual gifts and our testimonies for the building up of His church. In the midst of our loneliness and affliction we must fight the strong temptation to withdraw and isolate. Through His strength we can and should obediently seek to share with others the comfort He has given us. In so doing we will not only have the joy of obedience but also the blessing of seeing Him use and redeem our pain for His glory and the good of His children.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if [I am] to live [on] in the flesh, this [will mean] fruitful labor for me…” Philippians 1:21-22 [NASB]
Persevere, lonely and afflicted sojourner. Confidently trust Him, expectantly wait for Him, urgently obey Him, peacefully rest in His forgiveness, thankfully celebrate His abiding presence, and tenderly comfort others with the comfort you have been given. “For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay'” (Heb. 10:37).
Come, Lord Jesus.
Artwork: Sarah Harmening
6 thoughts on “Lonely and Afflicted”
What a very moving post, thank you for your courage in sharing it with us!
Even in your sorrow you bring us back to the truth. I do want to isolate myself at times. It seems like no one understands. It will be three years in March and I still feel alone in my grief. Like it’s not really what happened. I have followed you and another mom and am thankful for the truth that you share even in your sorrow. I guess I’m still trying to process that my son is really gone. I have found a network of other moms who can comfort each other and bring hope to the darkness of death. Thanks for sharing.
I so relate. I am continually dumbfounded that the realization that Sarah is gone continues to hit me like a sledgehammer to the gut. How can it continue to regularly shock me in such a way 20 months later?
I am really having to purposefully battle that temptation to isolate right now. I agree, having a group of moms who know the pain of child loss is a tremendous blessing, I’m so thankful you have found one. Thank you for your encouragement. ❤
Oh, Karen, my sister in Christ and my friend. You are such a blessing to me. I am grateful for the depth in which you study and apply God’s word- both the Old and New Testament. I am thankful for your transparency as you grieve, how you’ve allowed God to comfort you and then you in turn, share this comfort with us. I have witnessed such growth in you since I became reacquainted with you at my church’s Coffee, Cake and Conversation event for women that you shared at – I believe that was last Spring, 2018.
I love your Song Choices and Sarah’s beautiful art.
Was this artwork of hers completed? Were the lined only letters by design? She is still blessing us. Thank you for sharing this, as well.
God Bless you and your family. And thanks again. ~ Christy
Hi Christy, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. No this piece was not finished yet, but I think that actually made it a little more special. ❤