By: Jen B.
Loneliness is rampant in today’s culture. It’s an epidemic in every part of the world. Everyone has experienced this unpleasant feeling at one time or another. Remember that time on the playground when all the kids were playing and you were sitting on the sidewalk, wanting to join in but was either too shy to approach them or they never made an effort to approach you and invite you to play with them? Or maybe you felt left out in high school because nobody saw you approachable enough because you were labeled awkward, weird, or different from the rest like I was. I was a socially anxious teenager growing up. I couldn’t relate well to most people or keep a conversation going. I grew up in a very sheltered, protective environment which made it difficult for me to connect with others and engage in social activities. As a result, I tried to keep myself under radar as best I could to avoid judgment and ridicule from people, but to my dismay and chagrin, they found out since I didn’t do a stellar job apparently. My senior year, I suppressed my desire for connection and found solace in watching anime, reading books, and playing video games instead. In college, I met some wonderful people who helped me realize the depths of God’s love and saving grace that drew me to Him, but when I was strongly encouraged to join a community/church, I declined and went solo in my Christian journey.
I identified myself as a “lone ranger” simply because I felt like I couldn’t be a part of community. I knew the essence community had on believers, but I was too ashamed and embarrassed of my setbacks and worried about the perception of others. There were a few times I actually went, but my anxiety was so overwhelming each time I stopped going. I was still living in the past, succumbed by fear of ridicule, judgment, and rejection back in high school. Isolation felt more comfortable and familiar. However, it isn’t. Studies have indicated that loneliness and isolation attributes to depression, suicide, and a range of physical health issues. Not only that, but isolation makes us more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”The enemy is a coward. He plays dirty and usually targets those who have isolated themselves because they’re weak and defenseless without fellowship. He knows he’s not powerful enough to go after those who are united in fellowship because, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”-Ecclesiastes 4:12. That’s why it’s so important to be rooted in the Body of Christ. And the only way to do that is to surround ourselves with like-minded Christians.
When I was still solo in my Christian walk, not only did I believe I couldn’t belong to community, I also believed this ridiculous lie that I would be fine as long as I read my Bible and prayed. It’s not enough to just read the Bible and pray. They’re both essential, but that’s never an excuse to neglect meeting with our fellow brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 10:24-25) Those who do are in danger of slipping into apostasy. Isolated Christians only care for themselves and pursue their own interests. (Proverbs 18:1) As believers, we play an integral role in exercising our spiritual gifts, fostering growth and development, keeping each other accountable, praying for one another, teaching and edifying all for the sake of building up the church and glorifying God. (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 3:8-11, Ephesians 4:12, Acts 2:44-47, James 5:16, Matthew 18:19-20) For two and a half years, I stumbled blindly into the murky waters of sin which pulled me deeper into apathy, idleness, poor self-control, anger, bitterness, self-pity, a decreased appetite for God’s Word, more selfishness and loneliness that kept getting worse.. If you’re currently there, run, get out of there before it’s too late! There is nothing more terrifying than drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit with your fleshly desires.
If you’re suffering from loneliness, guess what? You’re not alone! Many people have gone through and are going through it from various contributors such as disease, death of a loved one, divorce from a spouse, a recent breakup, betrayal from a friend, relocation, neglect from childhood, etc. But the main contributor is our fallen state: Separation from God. So often, we try to fill that void by putting so much stock in our relationships with people. If only I had a lot of friends, I’d be satisfied. If I was married, I’d be complete. If I could just get this person to notice me, I would feel important. But in the end, we feel just as empty as we started out. We crave after the things that won’t bring us full satisfaction, because they were never meant to in the first place.
Society has done a great job in forming idols out of relationships. We feel we have little to no value if we’re single, have just a few friends, or don’t have any right now. We strive persistently for validation, intimacy, and affection only to be met with disappointment, hurt, bitterness, and regret. Sometimes, we feel as if God wants us to be lonely and miserable, like He’s holding out on us. On the contrary, He doesn’t. He understands completely for He said in Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And that’s before the fall! I think part of us longs for affection from people instead of God because of the shame and guilt that has passed down to us and plagued us as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We can’t fathom God’s love towards us so in a sense we distance ourselves from Him. But God’s love for us doesn’t change; never has or will ever change. “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore, I have drawn you with everlasting kindness.”-Jeremiah 31:3
Friend, if only you realized the magnitude of God’s love for you, the excruciating death He suffered on the cross, you wouldn’t need to strive or beg for validation from anyone. Your value doesn’t come from the opinions of people. Your worth is not defined by how many likes, followers, and comments you have on social media. Or whether you’re popular, single, married, have children, etc. If you truly want to know where your value comes from, look at the cross Jesus died on for you. He willingly gave Himself up as a ransom to rescue you and provide access for you to have a rich, personal, deep, satisfying, and intimate relationship with Him. How it grieves our Heavenly Father when we treat the sacrifice He made through His son as if it meant absolutely nothing to us every time we pursue idols. Yet He continues to lavish His wonderful love, mercy, and grace on us despite. Isn’t God enough for you?
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to go after things we can see and God understands this. But, we must be careful with what we long for most in our hearts. Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us that He is a jealous God, consumed with wanting to be first and foremost in our hearts, and He will not partake in or share His glory with another. He is either our all or nothing. Throughout Scripture, you’ll meet plenty of characters who knew the struggles of being human and their issues with loneliness. Some of the prominent ones are Elijah, Job, Jeremiah, David, Paul, and even Jesus Himself experienced it. But what is the one thing each of them had in common despite their difficulties and hardships? Their wholehearted devotion to God. Study these guys if you haven’t and see what you can learn from them.
Something that is really helpful in dealing with loneliness is investing your time to serve others. Serving people has great benefits. It opens doors to sharing Christ with non believers (which should be our ultimate goal), it shifts your focus off of yourself and your problems which is a fantastic remedy for self-pity and depression, it helps you identify your spiritual gifts and where you’re most useful in developing them, and it enables you to cultivate potential long lasting friendships.
Regarding friendships, if you want to make friends, you must learn what it means to be a friend. Being a friend is more than texting a Bible verse or writing an encouraging e-mail or letter when they’re down and it’s more than having and sharing common interests with each other. What if the whole purpose of having relationships with others was to live beyond yourself instead of living for yourself? “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13. Jesus is the best definition of a friend. He taught that true friendship is all about sacrificial love for one another. A true friend is someone who loves without gain, is loyal when times are extremely tough, loves you even when you’re at your worst, allows you complete freedom to be yourself and express your feelings and thoughts with them, rebukes you when necessary, and is consistently willing to put your happiness above theirs. It takes time to build friendships and effort to maintain them. Be patient and rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance.
If you feel like you’re in a perpetual season of loneliness, trust me when I tell you that it’s only temporary. Loneliness is a feeling, and like all feelings they come and go like the fleeting winds. They should never dictate what you know intellectually is true from God’s Word. I know circumstances can make it very difficult to believe, but that shouldn’t stop you from living a life of obedience and commitment to God. There was an Irish missionary named Amy Carmichael. Amy was called by the Lord to South India where she started an orphanage for underprivileged children and rescued young women and girls from prostitution. She served there for 55 years witnessing God’s love to them. Amy lived a life of celibacy and suffered from great pangs of loneliness and desperation, but she accepted that as a cost of obedience for her life. I think for some people, loneliness is a lifetime cross to bear, but to a degree it’s part of the suffering promised to all who follow Jesus on Earth. Regardless of the cost, Amy exemplified such a tremendous love for the Lord and displayed incredible humility and dedication to serve Him that all of us should strive to emulate.
In the midst of loneliness, may we realize that it’s a season filled with an opportunity to grow closer to our Lord and Savior. May we not be deceived by our human emotions and desires as well as the lies of the enemy telling us that God isn’t enough to bring us full satisfaction. May we place our trust in what God says in His Word. If we did this, just think of the many people that would come to know Jesus through our willingness and obedience, not based on how we “feel”, but what we “know.” When we fail, may we rest in the fact that God will always be with us towards the very end. (Matthew 28:20)
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-Romans 8:38-39
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”-Ephesians 3:14-19