Dorothy Day called it “the long loneliness”—those lengthy stretches of boredom, pain, or suffering that can shape us so richly if we embrace them.
Boredom and suffering are the ugly step-sisters in our Cinderella stories. While we wait to be swept up out of our misery and peasantry into palatial splendor, the “sisters” keep coming down into our cellar to harass us. We have visions of glory and comfort, success and ease, influence and happiness—abundant life in our personal dictionaries—only to find ourselves stuck in some dimly lit basement of life.
Boredom and suffering are, of course, states of mind—not statements of our circumstances. One person’s boredom is another person’s rest. One person’s suffering is another person’s “opportunity.” It all boils down to perspective. It always does.
Our lack of spiritual imagination can keep us from embracing “the long loneliness.” Our stunted theological thinking makes us resist and resent intrusions into our “blessed life.” Life to the full does not—should not—include affliction. Or so we say.
But “the long loneliness” has always provided the shortest route to Jesus; not because He is a crutch for the weak but because His cross turns our grief into glory.
“For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:5) “This momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18a)
Our insatiable appetite for entertainment, stimulation, pleasure, and ease numbs our spiritual senses. We want excitement and energy. We hunger for spiritual titillation. Instead, we encounter emotional deserts, spiritual badlands, financial sinkholes, and relational prairies. Such seasons, consecrated to the One who has walked there before us, are (unexpectedly) the grist for our growth.
If you’re facing a “long loneliness” right now, “faith it” rather than “fight it.” Whether it’s boredom or misery, tedium or agony, He invites us to himself. “Come to me.” And in His company, today, “the long loneliness” becomes “the shared Journey” and “the changed life.”
Because of Grace.