As a woman twice widowed, as implied in today’s devotional, I’m no stranger to loneliness. Speaking of that subject in my book that shares my journey through grief, I wrote, “Quite honestly, my first time widowed, I found no hope in loneliness, but then, how could I? Even though I had faith in God, I just couldn’t stretch it far enough to believe that God, or even praying to God, was “big” enough to arrest my intense loneliness. I figured that appeasing loneliness was my job, not God’s. The result of fighting [it] on my own created for me a hefty-sized list of ‘I-should-have-known-better’ regrets.”
I also wrote of my fear of creating more regrets when widowed the second time (eight years ago now). At that time, although I still questioned God’s ability to handle my immense loneliness, I knew I dare not repeat my history of self-managing it. My only hope was to surrender my loneliness to God. But how does one place something in God’s hands? The only solution I could come up with was to pray.
Eventually, I found David’s prayer of Psalm 51:10 an appropriate prayer. So, whenever loneliness came to visit, bringing with it a truckload of human approaches on how to quiet it, I would actively begin praying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Surprisingly, to my great joy, the Spirit responded, filling me with enduring grace—and the self-control—to hold steady.
I soon adopted Psalm 51:10 as my go-to-prayer, using it when I felt overwhelmed by challenges that filled me with anxious thoughts or gnarled my emotions with threads of depression. Sometimes, it seemed I had to pray the words consistently for days, while other times, praying them seemed to take effect immediately. Ultimately though, whether I mouthed David’s prayer when lonely, or distraught and angry, or at times when I felt tempted to compromise or self-manage some aspect of my life, I always found the words, “Create in me a clean heart and a right spirit,” effectual.
I believe what makes it productive is that its words express a dependency on God’s help. Naturally, then, it’s a prayer that continues to work humility into me, resetting my heart spiritually each time I sincerely utter its words.
These days, I continue to apply that prayer when shards of loneliness scratch at my heart or anytime I detect a hint of unrest or discontentment with life’s offerings. I whisper that prayer on days when I awaken feeling grumpy, low in spirits—and haven’t a clue as to why—or in moments when the world’s woes fill me with despair or fear, each stealing my hope. Thankfully, praying for a clean heart and a right spirit brings me back into alignment with the God of Eternal Hope, restoring to me, as David reports in verse twelve, “the joy of our salvation.”
So it is, I continue to live amazed, recognizing this eternal truth. Undoubtedly, God’s grace is BIG enough to help us successfully deal with any issues that war against our soul. We just have to allow God the opportunity to reveal that. The humble prayer of Psalm 51:10 opens the way for that revelation to continue to transpire in our individual lives.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13 (NRSV)
While several strategies for reopening the world are being discussed, I encourage you—the people of God everywhere—to allow this season to be a formative one during which you can make new discoveries about God and increase your faith. Use this time to embark on a life of prayer, a life of study, and a life of action—involvement in the community.”