General

How to overcome the curse of loneliness

Examining the life of St Abraam

It is written in the life of the Coptic saint St Abram the bishop of Fayoum (1829 – 1914), “His Christian parents sent him to a nearby Church School but, when he was only eight, his mother died. Young Paul Gabriel was a lonely child...”

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Here the young Paul Gabriel suffered from the emotional hurricane of loneliness. At his tender age he experienced the dark feelings of abandonment and felt deprived of the communion of others. How then did he overcome this?

The story continues “but he loved prayers and psalms and through them discovered that God could fill his heart”… So how did he fight loneliness? Was it by gluttony, indulging in sexual lust or drinking? Was it through burying his pain by vainly watching TV shows hours on end or through playing video games excessively?  [although I believe a good movie here or there can do well in extracting us out of ourselves]

No. It was through his praying, especially the praying of the psalms. We experience loneliness because we are deprived of hearty fellowship with others. By replacing that instead with hearty communion with Christ, we will be relieved of our emotional affliction.

 

St Poryphios explains this in greater detail

The Greek saint (1906 – 1991) writes in his book Wounded by Love…

When you find Christ, you are satisfied, you desire nothing else, you find peace. You become a different person. You live everywhere, wherever Christ is. You live in the stars, in infinity, in heaven with the angels, with the saints, on earth with people, with plants, with animals, with everyone and everything. When there is love for Christ, loneliness disappears. You are peaceable, joyous, full.

Here is a wonderful insight into the exalted spirituality of this great man. He is in ecstasy through his relationship with Christ! He is filled to the brim! Grace overflows in his soul! Divine power penetrates every aspects of his being! He suffers not from loneliness because the love of God is perfected within him.

This makes sense inasmuch as relating this to our relationships with others, it is at times when their is genuine love and enjoyment of the company of the other, then the two parties will not be feeling lonely or unhappy. They have reached a perfect equilibrium of noble and loving human interaction with each other, casting out any dark emotions from the soul.

So by seeking communion with Christ which absolutely occurs first and foremost by praying more (being fueled by the essential reading of holy books), God will help. So how do we do this?Keep the psalms and the psalms will keep you! (Pope Shenouda III)

It is a a life-changing practice to try to memorize 2 – 3 psalms at one time for however long it takes and to repeat them continually in your mind when you are going about your daily duties or you have any free moment of solitude such as walking, driving, in the bathroom, etc.. This is especially easier to do with small psalms.

In this way you will be “keeping the psalms and the psalms will keep you” (Pope Shenouda III). This technique helped me survive my university years and first filled my soul with indescribable joy at this period. It is at this time I truly first became an Orthodox Christian and tasted its great sweetness.

 

Other practical ways

  • Getting involved in one or more services in your church
  • Going to extra meetings in your church and other Orthodox churches
  • Writing a list of people’s name who are really good listeners and whom you know are reliable, friendly and have provided you comfort in the past. Then try to reach out to those people. You’ll be suprised about how many names you might find which you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
  • Keeping yourself busy. Use a stop watch to put pressure on yourself for all tasks that you do and to make yourself concentrate harder. Spend 30 mins doing one thing, 30 mins another, 30 mins another, etc. Take breaks in between. Even if a task takes longer than 30 mins, use the stopwatch for pressure.

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