There is no denying that many roads of suffering are incredibly lonely ones. Yes, it is true that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and often there are more people who can relate to our suffering than we realize. Nevertheless, these roads are often still lonely.
I remember when one of my children was younger and we began realizing that he struggled in ways that other children seemed not to. When the struggles turned into life-altering challenges, I left play-dates, stores, and church feeling increasingly lonely. I was on a scary journey that it seemed no one else could relate to.
As the struggle intensified, I found myself pulling away from those I cared about, staying home, and pushing down the stress and emotional turmoil building within me. In the confusion, fear, and uncertain future, I felt utterly alone. Yes, there were those who tried to ask questions, offer their suggestions or ways they could relate, but it always fell short of any real solace. No one could truly enter into the pain, heartache, and loneliness growing in my home and within my heart.
But do you know what I have unexpectedly found over these lonely years? A thankfulness for the lonely road I been given to travel. For with it has come a greater understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to know him not only as my Savior, but my comfort, sustainer, hope, and strength. I believe it’s not until our worldly comforts are stripped away that we can begin to experience the true depth, length, and height of his love for us.
While I am thankful for what God is doing in me through this trial, the enemy has been hard at work to take advantage of my loneliness at every chance he gets. However, despite his attacks and lies, Christ has been using what the enemy intends for harm and is instead showing me how this path of loneliness is not outside of his perfect will and plan for me.
Let’s draw out some of the lies we are tempted to believe during times of loneliness.
I Am Alone…
The Lie: “Loneliness means I am alone.”
The Truth: “Loneliness strips away the external comfort of those around me, driving me to find comfort in Christ alone.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction… (2 Corinthians 1:3)
Yes, there are times when God allows us to feel alone in terms of the world around us. However, despite our extreme dislike of loneliness, God’s grace allows it for a season to drive us deeper into his Word and prayer in search of a hope-filled and life-giving oneness with him. Christ knows we cannot find true and lasting comfort in anyone but himself, since he is the only one who is the God of all comfort.
By removing the earthly comfort of those around us, the Lord moves us in one of two directions: towards a deeper intimacy with our Savior, or towards the unveiling of an unrepentant heart, one which ultimately desires comfort more than Christ.
Brother or sister in Christ, if you feel alone in your suffering, thank God that he loves you enough to allow this time in your life to draw you nearer to him. He does not do this out of harshness, but out of desire to increase your faith and provide for you what only he can give.
No One Understands…
The Lie: “I am the only one who has suffered like this, and no one will ever be able to understand my pain.”
The Truth: “Christ will not ask me to suffer anything he himself has not already suffered, and many who have gone before me have endured similar or harder roads than I have in order to bring me the comfort they received in Christ.”
One reason temptation arises is because we often don’t know many people, if any, in our immediate circle of friends, family, or even acquaintances who have been called to endure the specific burden that we’ve been given to carry. Even if we do happen to know another person who can relate to our pain, different temperaments and levels of maturity in our faith provide for unique experiences and responses within the same general trial. So, although the reality is that others may have lived through a similar form of suffering, in our eyes, no one can completely understand our own.
If the enemy can make us believe that there is truly no one who can understand, it will tempt us to shut others out, even those whom God has provided for us as support and encouragement. The danger of this isolation is that it will lead us away from people surrounding us with truth when we need it most, sending us towards bitterness, depression, hardness, regret, and, ultimately, uselessness in the kingdom of God.
Therefore, we must remind ourselves of this truth:
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:5-6)
Jesus Christ is the only one who can enter into our pain, fully and completely. He alone knows our hearts, temperaments, insecurities, fears, emotions, and desires. So we fight the temptation to withdraw by first realizing that Christ alone can fill the deep holes left by the heartaches of life. When we realize that only Christ can bring us true and eternal comfort, we free people from having to meet our expectations. And when we free people from meeting our expectations, our eyes are opened to the gift of the body of Christ and his provision of comfort given through his people.
Our Savior does not comfort us by cheering us on from a distance. Instead, he comforts us with the assurance of our salvation, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the body of Christ, providing us with strength, courage, and boldness.
God Must Not Be Loving…
The Lie: “A loving God wouldn’t make me take such a lonely road. If he really loves me, he will always provide support, encouragement, and understanding from those around me.”
The Truth: “A loving God sent his own Son down the loneliest road ever known to man so that I would never have to walk any road alone.”
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:3)
Apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, none of our suffering in this life would have any purpose, value, or hope. But because of the gospel, it does! So, rather than seeing these seasons of loneliness as our enemy and something to avoid at all cost, we can see it as a privilege and calling to walk the lonely road of Calvary with our Savior. He allows us to experience glimpses of the path he walked so that we can also experience the great comfort and reward that will be ours for eternity in him.
I Don’t Have Enough Faith…
The Lie: “If I feel alone, I must not have enough faith.”
The Truth: “Holding fast to Jesus despite loneliness proclaims to the those around me that he is worth the lonely path I walk. It is a beautiful, Christ-glorifying picture of faith in my Savior, who walked the painful and lonely road to Calvary for my salvation, hope, and comfort. It is an honor and a privilege to be called to walk in his footsteps because it assures me that I am a child of God.”
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33)
Even the loneliness we experience on these painful roads is ordained by the loving hand of God. Although we feel alone, we never truly are abandoned. He allows these seasons to produce in his children endurance, strength, unwavering faith, and exclusivity for the gospel. Loneliness reminds us that this world is not our home, that we have been commissioned for the spread of the gospel in the place and time marked out for us.
Loneliness is not hopelessness and does not defeat us but instead empowers us to know Christ more and make him known to those around us.
Believer, I am well aware that there are some incredibly painful, lonely roads that some of us are asked to walk. I have experienced this in a very real and raw way in my own life, so I do not say these things to simply “teach” the correct way to handle the loneliness many of us feel. My hope is that you will be encouraged, strengthened, and determined not to give way to the lies of the loneliness of pain, allowing it instead to magnify the gospel in your life.