Daily Riches: The Agony of Being Alone (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

“. . . the immense silence where I live alone.” May Sarton

“The thirst for companionship, which drives us so often into error and adventure, indicates the intense loneliness from which we suffer. We are alone even with our friends. The smattering of understanding which a human being has to offer is not enough to satisfy our need of sympathy. Human eyes can see the foam, but not the seething at the bottom. In the hour of greatest agony we are alone. It is such a sense of solitude which prompts the heart to seek the companionship of God. He alone can know the motives of our actions; He alone can be truly trusted. Prayer is confidence, unbosoming oneself to God. For man is incapable of being alone. His incurable, inconsolable loneliness forces him to look for things yet unattained, for people yet unknown. He often runs after a sop, but soon retires discontented from all false or feeble companionship. Prayer may follow such retirement.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God.
Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
1 Kings 8:28 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Heschel is very polite when he refers to what we sometimes fall into as “adventure.” Has your “thirst for companionship” ever driven you into “adventure?”
  • Have you experienced the painful limits of human friendship, no matter how good? . . . that no friend, but only God, can ultimately suffice “in the hour of greatest agony [when] we are alone”–when our “immense solitude”, our “inconsolable loneliness” can be salved only by the companionship of God?
  • In your well of loneliness have you been able to “unbosom” yourself in prayer to God?

Abba, come to me in my well of loneliness–in that immense silence where I live alone.

For More: Man’s Quest For God by Abraham J. Heschel

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