I am an only child. Growing up I loved having no siblings because there was no one else there to annoy me or steal my stuff; it was a pretty good gig. Usually when I share that I am an only child, people ask “was it lonely?” to which I reply (usually with a shrug) “no”. As a child, I was used to being alone and became fairly self-sufficient. I didn’t want for much or need a whole heck of a lot of attention, so being the only one was pretty great for me.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to learn that relationships are kind of a big deal. God created us to be relational beings, something I’ve tried to run away from for many years because people will end up hurting you eventually. In an effort to protect my pathetically fragile heart, I’ve kept myself away from others, holding everyone at a distance, thinking that doing things alone was the best way of living because it was my standard mode of operation.
I’ve been a Sunday School teacher for too many years and have many, many times depicted Jesus as being our best friend. I’ve reminded children that in times of loneliness they can call on him and he’ll be with you. Which is good and great and something I fully believe to be true, but is harder to put into practice when you’re the one needing to call upon him. When I feel lonely it’s easy for me to fall into the toxic thought spiral of “You’re the front-runner for the “Worst Christian Ever” Award”. Then I tend to begin thinking along the lines of “You go to church, you teach others, you’re a leader, you can’t feel this way, blah, blah, blah,”. In these moments of loneliness, the voice of condemnation comes at me in full-force.
But that voice is wrong.
There are plenty of people in the Bible, some we would even call “heroes of the faith” who battled loneliness. Moses, Jeremiah, and Elijah all experienced these feelings at one point or another, so why do we beat ourselves up when we struggle with these very human feelings? God even said, after he made man, “It’s not good for man to be alone,” even though God walked with Adam in the garden. He knew, though he made Adam in His own image, that Adam would need another human being to connect with. Man being alone was the first thing that God said “wasn’t good”. It’s interesting to me how we subconsciously think that we can do this life on our own, even when others before us were unable to do so.
Feeling lonely is okay, but it’s what you do in those times that makes a big difference. I am the first one to admit that when I get stuck in the loneliness mindset I struggle to get out of it. When I’m feeling depressed and lonely I like to just wallow there; I don’t like dragging myself out, but that’s exactly what’s necessary. In moments of loneliness we have a choice: to stay where we are or make a change. The change may look like praying or reading the Bible or going to church, it might look like going for a walk outside or meeting a friend for coffee, it might mean leaving that abusive relationship that makes you feel lonely or going to counseling to get healing and freedom in this area.
Loneliness sucks and it’s an emotion we all experience. But it’s also an invitation, an opportunity, to draw near to God and his people to find peace and healing and hope. And, if you’re feeling lonely right now, I pray you have the courage to take a step toward community today.