We had our annual retreat for the Core Team two weekends ago, and the turnout ended up being pretty low. I had spent so much time crafting a theme and talks – only to have the smallest percentage of our group able to attend. The retreat felt more like a really extended small group session, and my work on it felt unnecessary.
Luckily, though, I had previously met and somewhat knew each person that attended, so there was at least some comfort in that familiarity. On our second day, we had another woman join the group that I didn’t know at all. When we broke into pairs to pray over one another, I naturally got paired with her. There was that all-too-typical experience of being so willing to minister to others but being uncomfortable being ministered to yourself. As she asked me what I wanted prayers for, I inwardly cringed at the necessary vulnerability and authenticity of the moment. But I told her how, being so new here and unfamiliar and alone – I had been feeling really lonely. As we prayed, she spoke words of comfort over me. And she helped me lift my heavy heart to the Father with this simple, profound phrase: “God doesn’t want you to be lonely.”
Truly, up until that moment, this hadn’t occurred to me. That God didn’t desire my loneliness and suffering. That He actually would have something better and more beautiful in mind, if the world were perfect and the Fall hadn’t happened. And that He only allows these things in our lives because they can be used to refine and purify us by our suffering through them. I had forgotten how He is able to make good come from even the worst, darkest places and points of our lives. (Not that this is, by any means, a time of intense suffering. Just a hard transition.)
How do I forget so easily what it is that God desires for me…what it is that He made me for? Abundant life. Fullness of joy. Of course He doesn’t want me to be lonely – or angry or despairing or greedy or lazy. He doesn’t want me to feast upon things that fail to satisfy. All He wants for me is Himself. And He wants all of me for Himself. The paradoxical love of the Father is how He gives and loves without condition or expectation but desires us in completeness and totality. His love is all-consuming but never forceful. And with the utmost gentleness, He never tires of reminding me of what I should already know – that He desires my good.