Posted on September 11th, 2014
When was the last time you felt lonely? Maybe that time was days, weeks, or months ago. Maybe that time is right now. When you think about that time, what images come to mind? Are you really alone? Are there people around? Are you talking to anyone? Does your face match your feeling inside? The feeling of loneliness can come at any time, day or night, in a crowded room, alone in your car, sitting with friends or family in church, or any number of other places. Loneliness affects all of us at some point or another, and these experiences and feelings can lead us away from pursuing connection with others. This is not God"s long-term plan for you, and there are healthy ways to approach healing from the pain of loneliness.
So how do we move begin to move beyond these feelings? Through prayer, song, scripture reading, and spiritual retreats we can encounter God on an individual basis. We can be supported by his words and encouraged by his spirit living inside of us. This you have probably heard before, and hopefully you have found some encouragement through following one or more of the above practices. However, connecting individually with God is not the only remedy for loneliness that the Bible prescribes.
While on earth Jesus found it important, even necessary, to spend time with people, a variety of people. He met with people from all walks of life during his travels. He taught, listened, forgave, healed, and worshipped. But throughout his ministry, he kept a close band of brothers at his side to support and encourage him during difficult times. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to have close connections with people, how much more do you and I?
The apostle Paul teaches (Romans 12) that we are all part of a grand design in which one part may not stand alone and survive. We need each other to be complete as individuals and, more importantly, to fulfill the will of God. We are instructed to "encourage," "contribute to the needs of others," and to "live in harmony with one another." The sheer number of times the early Christians were given a command along with the phrase "one another" should be an indicator of how much God values relationships and sees them as an essential part of a healthy, fully functioning life. While God"s love is sufficient to meet our needs, his love can be manifested in people of his choosing.
If you have avoided being with others because you don"t feel you deserve to be with other people, remember that we are all failures, have all disappointed both ourselves and God, have all let down those we care about most, and will never be perfect. If you have avoided being around people because you have been rejected, try spending time with new people who might be encouraging to you, rather than demeaning, and take a look at where there might be something in your life to work on to enhance your connections with others. The Bible does not say that everyone needs to or should like you. On the contrary, God"s servants were frequently rejected by the very people they were serving. But they often had a network of companions to fall back on.
If you believe your "network" is failing you, it might be time to move on to a new network, but this may not always be the case. Talking to someone you consider safe could be helpful. Exploring your contributions to difficult relationships can be helpful in improving current relationships as well as improving your chances of finding and successfully navigating new relationships. The person you talk to might be a relative, a friend, a pastor, a therapist, or God himself. However you choose to look inward, make sure that there is plenty of room for people in your journey. God uses people (some believers, some outside the faith) throughout scripture to accomplish his mission of reconnecting with his Church. Make sure to let them do their job, and take care to do your part as well.
Whatever has left you feeling lonely, consider the following as you journey back toward connection and harmony with friends, loved ones, and those you have yet to meet:
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing." Psalm 68:5-6
Questions and Resources:
1. Are you generally lonely?
If so, do you know why?
2. Would you rather have one or two good friends or multiple casual friends?
3. Who is the closest person to you?
4. Do you feel close and fulfilled in your relationship with God?
12 "Christian" Beliefs that can Drive you Crazy: Relief from False Assumptions By Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan.