I recently had a very bothersome technical issue in a meeting on Microsoft Teams where my microphone wouldn’t work and nobody could hear me. As someone accustomed to talking a lot (though I prefer to think I’m ‘warm and friendly’ not just… ‘loud’) this was sad. Now imagine it’s not just a planning meeting, but the college bar, except you can’t join in any conversations or crack any jokes. That’s right, you’ve got yourself a good old language barrier.
Look at that smooth segue into her year abroad. Classic linguist. But stay with me. I’d like to share a few reflections on living in a lonely situation and how, as a Christian, my relationship with God was a real comfort and help. Imagine how much harder the lockdown we’re going through at the moment would be if you couldn’t talk to anyone. Maybe you’re an international student and suddenly all your uni mates are asleep in a different time zone when you want to chat. God cares deeply about each and every one of us because He made us and literally died for us. We can cry out to Him and know that He hears us. Whether it’s a happy word of thanks, an angry shout of frustration, or a tentative, anxious whisper, God hears, listens and cares.
Prayer is a wonderful gift given to us all. On my year abroad, I went to church where I met some lovely people, but couldn’t exactly call them my friends. The best advice for making friends is to be yourself, but what if you can’t communicate and show people who you are? Your words express so much of your personality, don’t they. I was terrified about having no friends for 8 months for this reason. However, looking back, I’m actually grateful for what was sometimes a lonely time, as it forced me to turn back to talking to God about everything.
Admittedly, praying shouldn’t have been the second-best option. I should always turn to God first, and it makes sense, doesn’t it, that you’d feel better talking to someone who you can say literally anything to, whenever (because God doesn’t sleep) and wherever, because there’s nowhere on Earth that you can step out of God’s presence. Society puts a lot of pressure on us to be open and show our authentic selves, but we all have things that we’d rather die than have everyone find out. Wonderfully, nothing is off-limits when it comes to prayer because God knows me fully and loves me in spite of all my flaws.
You know when someone well-meaning asks you “what’s wrong?”, but you don’t have the words to articulate how you’re feeling? Maybe you yourself don’t even understand what’s going on inside. In Romans 8:26 the Bible says this about God’s Spirit:
“… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Prayer is such a gift because when I’m so overwhelmed that I have no idea where to begin, God already knows my pains, joys, fears and longings.
So, prayer is a gift. Someone to talk to no matter what we’ve done or failed to do, who always understands, because when Jesus willingly went to be brutally executed, He faced all of the loneliness and pain and hopelessness that we face at times in our lives. Thankfully, after some hard work and perseverance, I did get better at Russian and now have many deep friendships based entirely in the Russian language; but talking to God doesn’t require you to learn a language or pass an aptitude test before you get to approach the One who created the universe, and has always known and loved you. Why not try it for yourself?