It’s been a long day at work. That meeting with your boss went longer than expected. Now you’re leaving after 5:00pm and still haven’t eaten since breakfast. You decide to pick something up on the way home instead of spending a few extra minutes to make something for yourself. You climb the steps up to your apartment, throw your bag on the counter, and slip off your shoes. The room is empty, quiet, and peaceful, but a sense of loneliness overwhelms you. You could call a friend but decide to switch on the TV instead. All you can think about is filling the emptiness, not sitting in it. It’s moments like these that may be your signal that it’s time to draw closer to God and find your people.
The dictionary defines loneliness as “sadness because one has no company.” As a single adult, I can totally relate to this. It’s hard to stare down at yet another plate of takeout food for one and not yearn to be the friend who’s sitting around her dining room table with her family. The questions flood in and the sadness becomes so very real!
I may be single, but I’m not naïve to the fact that you don’t have to be physically by yourself to experience loneliness. I know many people who have felt alone in their marriage or with their family members. Even in a room filled with other people, lonely feelings can settle like a thick fog. I’ve sat at a table with friends, laughing at stories being told, yet still fully aware of the dark cloud looming over my shoulder.
Experiences like that are a great example of isolation in action because we’re not allowing ourselves to be fully present with the people around us. We spend our time focusing on our feelings of loneliness, and in turn, we hold ourselves back from the necessary vulnerability to make a change. As hard as it is to sense that impending loneliness overhead, it can also be just what we need. It’s an indication of what’s going on in our hearts, one that reminds us to draw closer to God and to the people around us.
No matter what we’re struggling with in life, we can default to isolating ourselves at times. We do this out of fear. Because we feel alone in our feelings, we’ll close off our hearts from our friends for fear of their judgment or criticism. We’ll begin to hold the people we love the most at arm’s length because we worry that they’ll never truly understand. And what happens when our emotions feel like they might explode out of us like dynamite? That’s when we withdraw even more, because we want to protect our friends from the emotions that we fear may hurt them if they only knew.
But all fears aside, what’s actually true? 1 John 4:18 GW tells us this:
No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love.
Ouch! The reality here is that our fears are not based on God’s Word. As long as we’re fearful of being open and honest about our loneliness, we won’t be able to fully embrace God’s love or live it out. So, then, what can we do when the loneliness is real?
1. Draw closer to God (Psalm 145:16-19). Our lonely longings ultimately can’t be cured by any relationship aside from a relationship with our loving Father. The antidote to loneliness won’t be found surrounded by friends or sharing dinner across from a loving spouse. God sees our deepest desires and loves to satisfy them. All we have to do is call on His Name and He’ll draw near!
2. Trade in isolation for deep connection (Hebrews 10:24-25). The fears we have that cause us to isolate ourselves are formed because of lies that we believe. These lies hold us back from any true connection with the people around us, whether it’s a dinner table filled with friends or a one-on-one coffee date. No matter what season or life stage we find ourselves in, we have to remember to stay in the habit of meeting together! God has designed His children to desire relationships. We’re not meant to do life alone!
3. In the loneliest of moments, talk to someone (James 5:16). Pastor Craig Groeschel said recently in a sermon that we’re only as strong as we are honest. If we want to grow in our perseverance through the lonely seasons, we have to learn to be open and vulnerable with the people around us. Be courageous! It’s as simple as calling the first person who comes to mind and asking them out to coffee. Have the very conversation that you fear and be open to whatever the outcome may be.
When I began to draw closer to God and community in seasons of loneliness, two things happened—God showed up in my life, and people did too! The more I surrendered the brokenness in my heart to the Lord, the more He began to heal it and fill it with His love. As I confessed my loneliness to the trusted people around me, they actually stuck around! I didn’t expect people to want to walk with me even in all of the hard seasons. But that’s what people do when they love God—they love the people around them, too.