I was very sick last Sunday night. It was the worst I’ve felt recently. My faced turned pale and I felt thoroughly exhausted. I thought about four things that night.
First, I thought about the pain of those who were sick. Being sick is painful. When we are sick, we lose motivation, and we become discouraged. While we are sick, if we don’t protect our hearts, fear and worry also enter into our hearts. If we don’t strengthen our hearts regularly, our hearts could falter from sickness. As I age, I meet a lot of sick people around me. I meet people who are sick in their bodies and hearts. I hope our church becomes a caring and comforting community that intercedes for those who are sick. Those who are always healthy do not understand the sick and weak. One of the reasons God allows healthy people to be sick is in order for them to understand the pain of the sick. Pain comforts pain. Wound heals wound. Tears embrace tears.
Second, I thought about the sick who are alone. When we are sick, being together with family comfort and strengthen us. However, when we are sick and alone, it makes us even more lonely and sad. There are a lot of people around us who live alone by themselves. There are a lot of single fathers or mothers who are caring for their children alone by themselves. I would like our church to be a community that cares for those who live by themselves. I would like our church to be a comforting community that cares so much for each other that no one feels like they are alone. Mother Teresa said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” A community that cares and encourages one another in love and good works cannot be established by a single person. I would like for us to cultivate a community that comforts and cares for one another.
Third, I thought about how I need rest. Although I teach on the importance of Sabbath, I could not give a gift of Sabbath to myself. Even as I teach not to overwork, I often overworked. Humans are not machines. Machines break down easily when it is treated harshly. And if that's so, then how much more so would that be true for weak humans like us. Humans are not iron. We are like a feeble reed and a dying candle. We are easily sick and wounded. So we must treat ourselves with care. Working hard is important, but we need a rhythm of work and rest. Our body getting sick is an outcry of our body for a little rest. It is the wisdom of our body asking to stop and rest. After immigrating to America, I’ve been running diligently for 34 years. Without sabbatical month or year, I’ve been pastoring faithfully. But now I could feel myself aging. Please be understanding when I take rest once in a while.
Fourth, I thought about cultivating the muscle of solitude. Getting old means that the season of loneliness has come to your season of life. It is natural to feel lonely in the latter days of your life. It is natural to feel alienated with others. It is a difficult thing for a helper to receive help and a comforter to be comforted. However, do not envy the youth. Just as we have experienced, the youths have their own pain. That’s why Professor Nahn Do Kim has written a book called ‘It’s Youth because It’s Painful.’
Those who are aging and living by themselves have to accept their reality to some point. Even if you are part of a good community, you cannot ignore the reality. Because we are human, we feel lonely in the midst of marriage and isolation in the midst of a large crowd. Then we need wisdom to sublimate loneliness into solitude. Respected spiritual leaders distinguish loneliness from solitude.
Loneliness is a sense of isolation. It is a feeling of being separated and disconnected from our neighbors. It is a negative emotion of being alone. In contrast, solitude is a time alone with God. It is a time spent before the Word of God. It is a time of meditation of the Word. Solitude speaks of ‘the joy of being alone.’ Solitude is a positive emotion. Spiritual life signifies surpassing loneliness and entering into solitude. When a lonely feeling comes to you surpass the loneliness and enter into solitude. It is wise to enter into a place of deep solitude. Spend a joyful time of dwelling in the presence of God through solitude. I have experienced numerous moments of inspiration and immersion in the time of solitude. Do not be afraid of spending time alone; instead make time to develop the muscle of solitude. I pray that you will possess the wisdom of turning the inescapable loneliness into solitude. Shalom.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.