QIs it good for us to be alone?
aWe are created to love and be loved. Genesis says, “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18). In the New Testament we read that God’s intention for us is that we love one another as He has loved us (John 15:12). According to New Church theology, ”The hallmark of love is not loving ourselves but loving others and being united to them through love. The hallmark of love is also being loved by others because this is how we are united. Truly, the essence of all love is to be found in union” (Divine Love and Wisdom 47). “No one should be wise and live for himself alone, but for others at the same time. This is the foundation of society, which could not otherwise exist” (True Christianity 746).
Since it is the nature of love to connect with others, this is even more true of Divine love. “Love's union depends on mutuality, and there is no mutuality within ourselves alone. If we think there is, it is because we are imagining some mutuality in others. We can see from this that divine love cannot fail to be and to be manifested in others whom it loves and who love it. If this is characteristic of all love, it must be supremely characteristic, infinitely characteristic, of love itself” (Divine Love and Wisdom 48).
Swedenborg writes some people live a virtually solitary life, thinking that by giving up social life, business and involvement with other people they will have more time for meditation and preparation for heavenly life. Sadly, such people in the next life continue to live by themselves and for themselves, and having difficulty experiencing the happiness of heaven, which comes from being with others.
QIf God is always present with me, why doesn't it always feel like it?
aOur ability to love others can only grow through challenges and trials. When we are being tested, we may feel distant from our friends and from God. David wrote, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent” (Psalm 22:1-2). “You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them…. Loved one and friend You have put far from me, And my acquaintances into darkness” (Psalm 88:8, 18). You may recognize these words as describing the loneliness that the Lord himself felt when His disciples abandoned Him and He was crucified.
In times of trial we feel distant from the Lord, but He is actually closer at those times. "As long as the trial lasts, we assume that the Lord is not present, for we are being harassed by evil demons, so harassed in fact that sometimes we have so great a feeling of hopelessness as scarcely to believe in the existence of any God at all. Yet at such times the Lord is more present than we can possibly believe. But once the trial subsides we receive comfort, and for the first time believe that the Lord is present” (Secrets of Heaven 840).
Ironically it is often when we are separated from people we love that we realize how much we love them. Sometimes it is the effort to get through really lonely times that helps us value and work on our relationships. As common as feelings of loneliness are in this life, they can be part of the process that leads us to find the connection and mutual love that will make up our heavenly life to eternity.
The Rev. John Odhner is an Assistant to the Pastor at the Bryn Athyn Church.