[God] knows that you and I will go through those times of separation and abandonment or rejection. We will feel loneliness. And what is it that loneliness cries out for above everything else but presence? Loneliness wants presence. What is it that fear cries out for above everything else? Help—present help now. If you think about it, all through the Scriptures, God’s servants are crying out to God, requesting His help for some reason or other. And God makes His presence known over and over again.
—Charles F. Stanley, “His Empowering Presence”
The corrugated metal ceiling was 40 feet up, yet it looked so much farther. I lay on my top bunk, just high enough to see across the tops of dividing walls that separated living areas into a vast human maze within a warehouse the size of several football fields. As far as I knew, here in the middle of a day where hundreds of volunteers prepared for the world’s largest evangelism conference in history, I was completely alone.
I had come to this conference in the Netherlands, ready to join the media staff as a journalist-in-training. But when I arrived, they had no record of my acceptance; it felt as if the official letter in my hand had been a prank. During meal times and breaks I made friends from throughout the world. Yet when it came to work, they scurried off to important duties and I floated around, asking how to help. This carried on for three days, and it was one of the most acute moments of loneliness I’ve ever experienced—adrift in a sea of people, without purpose and far from home.
Dr. Stanley reminds us loneliness is inevitable, a human condition that none of us can escape. But when he says that “loneliness wants presence,” it strikes a chord in me.
Dr. Stanley reminds us loneliness is inevitable, a human condition that none of us can escape. But when he says that “loneliness wants presence,” it strikes a chord in me. In my experience, I desired the presence that would come with working closely on a team, gearing up to serve more than 10,000 people. I prayed a lot those three days, asking God if this had all been a mistake—if I had traveled this far for nothing. I cried out for some kind of an answer, not this roiling uncertainty.
Right at my breaking point, when I felt trapped and unmoored and ready to fly home, I received the invitation to join the catering team, which was something I knew nothing about. The duties did not include reporting on the event with fellow young journalists; instead, I helped serve meals to thousands of evangelists each day. It’s not something I would have originally signed on for, and yet I learned some invaluable lessons about serving others, all the while bonding with new friends from across the globe. What amounted to a few days of loneliness became for me a lifetime of memories and new understanding. Chiefly, that in all that empty space surrounding me in a Dutch warehouse, Someone sat on the bunk below me the whole time.