Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Henri Nouwen: Stay with Your Pain

When you experience the deep pain of loneliness, it is understandable that your thoughts go out to the person who was able to take that loneliness way, even if only for a moment. When you feel a huge absence that makes everything look useless, your heart wants only one thing–to be with the person who once was able to dispel these frightful emotions. But it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away.

It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing.


God does not want your loneliness; God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need. It is important that you dare to say with your pain and allow it to be there. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there. The pain you suffer now is meant to put you in touch with the place where you most need healing, your very heart. The person who was able to touch that place has revealed to you your pearl of great price.

It is understandable that everything you did, are doing, or plan to do seems completely meaningless compared with that pearl. That pearl is the experience of being fully loved. When you experience deep loneliness, you are willing to give up everything in exchange for healing. But no human being can heal that pain.


Dare to stay with your pain and trust in God’s promise to you.

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  • afinebalance

    This post came at such a timely time for me. I’m struggling with this very thing right now and it’s hard to believe that it will not always feel this way. This was very uplifting. Thanks for sharing this and all your other posts.

  • phyllis

    i too have been suffering extreme loneliness for the last year. my heart is broken and i feel so abandoned by my son. everyone tells me that God is going to bring me through this but at times i have felt so desperate that i didn’t want to live. please keep me in your prayers and thank you for this post. it helps to know i am not alone

  • Kathleen Berken

    Absolutely right. Nobody can tell us when it’s time to stop grieving. We grieve at our own pace, in our own time, in our own way. If it takes a life time, then so be it. If it takes a day, then so be it. You are not like the other person. It took me ten years to stop crying every May, the month my mother died in 1974, which also happened to be her birthday month and of course, Mother’s Day. Now I remember those days with affection and a smile.
    I lived in a L’Arche community with people with disabilities for almost ten years, and for some of them, a parent’s death which might have happened ten years ago can stay with them forever because the passage of time has less meaning. If you still feel it, it must have happened yesterday.
    Check out _Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark_ – for incredible first-person stories about L’Arche.

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