Feeling down in the dumps? Feeling like nobody really understands nor really cares? Feeling dreary, dark and bewildered and confused? Feeling as if life does not have any real meaning and purpose? Feel like just throwing in the towel and saying: I have had enough!
St. Ignatius of Loyola would call this a state of desolation. One of the most common manifestations of desolation is that of loneliness—you feel alone in the world and nobody really seems to care about who you are and where you are heading in your life.
If we do not know how to cope properly with this state of desolation then this state can wreak havoc in our lives and do irreparable damage to our spiritual life and even our natural life. One wrong decision made in a state of desolation could be life-determining. How many young people today have recourse to violence toward others and turn on themselves when swimming in an apparently endless sea of desolation?
This state of desolation—manifested through a deep sense of loneliness—is all pervasive in all societies and situations today now more than ever! However, we are a people of hope. “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth!” St. Paul reminds us with these encouraging words: “If God is with us who can be against us…” and “When I am weak then I am strong…” (The strength being of course God). The Psalm calls God a rock, as well as our light and salvation.
To overcome the state of crushing loneliness that we all experience in some periods of our lives, let us have recourse to this simple but efficacious practice that can be carried out anywhere and with minimum effort.
Psalm 23: The Psalm of the Good Shepherd
When the dark clouds rain down their torrential storm upon your lonely and forlorn soul open up your Bible, rewind back to the Old Testament to the most famous of all Psalms, Psalm 23
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Find some place of silence so that you can read, pray, meditate, listen and allow God to speak to the depths of your heart. God does indeed speak in the silence of our hearts if we allow Him.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want….” Allow these words at the beginning of Psalm 23 to speak personally and intimately to you and to your lonely and abandoned soul! Pray these words slowly, calmly and with a truly open spirit. Pray them a second or third time. Then something powerful may happen! God’s gentle but powerful grace will touch the depths of your soul with this knowledge: I really am not alone; I never have been alone in my life; I never really will be alone for this simple but profound reason: “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…”
Contemplative Scene. Then from there create a contemplative scene with you alone walking with Jesus the Good Shepherd in the verdant, aromatic pasture. Stop and look into the eyes of the Good Shepherd who truly loves you as the precious apple of His eye. You are of great importance to Him now and always! He came to the world to save you, your immortal soul as if you were the only person in the whole created universe!
Unload. Now is the time to open up your wounded, lonely, sad and depressed heart and to talk to Him! Of all the people in the world, the Good Shepherd is the best of listeners. Not only does He listen to our words but can also read the deepest secrets of our hearts! There is no need to put on a mask with Him. He knows you even better than you know yourself! If ever there were a mind-reader or a heart reader, it would definitely be Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Be not afraid. St. John Paul II insisted at the outset of his inspiring pontificate that the world at large as well as individual hearts should not be afraid to open the door to Christ, in other words to open up their hearts to Jesus, the Good Shepherd of their lives!
What and How to Say It
Use the simplest words; the Lord is not picky or demanding in language proficiency. Tell Him all. Remember the words of the Apostle St. Peter: “Cast your cares upon the Lord because he cares for you.” Are you fearful of the future and what it holds for you? Tell the Lord this! Do you doubt about the past due to the number and seriousness of your past sins? Cast your sins into the Heart of the Good Shepherd. He did not come for the saints but for sinners. Is your heart severely wounded even from infancy? Fear not! The Prophet Isaiah teaches us about Jesus’ wounds: “By His wounds you are healed.” Are you suffering some form of sickness that seems to have no healing remedy? Never forget that Jesus healed the blind, the lame, the deaf, the paralytics, the lepers; He even brought the dead back to life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let Jesus be the Doctor of your woundedness and your sicknesses. Are many fears and doubts looming up before your eyes? Then call out with all of your heart: Jesus I trust in you!
The Good Shepherds Listening Heart
In all that you say to the Good Shepherd He listens most attentively and with a kind, compassionate and loving Heart. Furthermore, the Good Shepherd is never impatient with anybody. No, He is the epitome of patience. Still more, the Good Shepherd is never too busy to walk with us, listen to us, talk to us and to console us.
In sum, in moments of crushing loneliness do not turn to the false gods of this world—drinking, drugs, porn, illicit sexuality. These will only cast you into a pit of deeper loneliness. Rather, turn to the Good Shepherd and open up your lonely heart to Him because in truth “The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want…”