After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
Admitting you’re lonely is hard.
When I finally vocalized it, it felt like shame-wrapped defeat that simultaneously issued a personal attack against everyone around me. As though neither their presence nor help in my life were good enough.
My soul withered, as darkness returned to parts of my heart where I knew light had previously blazed. Disappointed in myself, I was mad I allowed depression to pierce its talons into my soul again.
I grieved the absence of close friends that shared my city and season of life. I felt guilty I wasn’t finding contentment in Christ. And, I felt overwhelmed by this inexpressible hurt.
I tried to reason with myself. I knew I had no reason to struggle with. Sure, there were challenges, but I had a great life with wonderful people around me—there was no suitable explanation for loneliness. Despite my best efforts, logic did not remove the struggle.
It is hard to say how to resolve struggles with loneliness. The gospel should bring as much hope to the lonely as anyone else. The beauty of the gospel is how its truth pervades and permeates every scenario and situation, location, and need we could ever encounter. Each of us has a thousand different circumstances and pains, and the gospel meets us in each one.
But we don’t always feel that way. Our minds often choose to focus on subtle lies that loneliness tells us. Here are four lies that you might be tempted to believe in your loneliness.
Lie #1: It’s always a sin for you to feel lonely.
While it’s true we can sinfully isolate ourselves and avoid both God and his body (specifically the local church), loneliness itself is not a sin. While can sinfully respond to pangs of loneliness––allowing discontentment to reign and wallowing in self-pity––it is not always a sin to be lonely.
Paul Matthies at The Village Church explained that loneliness may not always be the result of sin or hiding or not pursuing communion with God or community with others, it may just be the byproduct of living in this broken world of pain and groaning (Romans 8:22-23). It could be a result of sin, but it also might simply be a longing for unhindered intimacy with God and others, something that only heaven can provide.
In the meantime, we have a choice in how we respond to our loneliness. We’re hurting and grieving, and our survival instincts are screaming at us to flee the pain. Will we believe this lie or will we turn to God and his word?
Lie #2: A human relationship is the solution to your loneliness.
When wrestling with loneliness, it’s tempting to fire up the “if only…” playlist in our minds. You know, the ones that sing, if only my parents were believers, if only I was dating (or married to) someone who sacrificially loved me as Christ loved the church, if only I was in a healthy church, if only I had a better friend group, if only… fill in the blank.
I want to defuse those lies with all my strength.
I have amazing parents and the best siblings. I’m dating the best man I’ve ever known and I’m a part of a church family that is growing in grace and fights for each other. And I still feel the weight of loneliness like a plague straight out of Egypt.
God has surrounded me with wonderful people but they are just that—people. Created beings are made from dust and ashes, and, last time I checked, dust and ashes only serve to make one more thirsty.
The gospel tells us Jesus is sufficient to meet our deepest needs and he does so in himself (2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:19). Therefore, the gospel is good when the wedding bells ring and they are finally yours and the gospel is good when they are not. The gospel is good in seasons of abundance and the gospel is good when you are suffering the loss of everything you hold dear.
Lie #3: Loneliness is a curse.
In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with God and said he wouldn’t let him go until he blessed him. How did God respond? He gave him a blessing––a limp.
Perhaps the limp of loneliness is an answer to your prayer for blessing. What a blessing it (and anything) is that drives us to the Lord in dependence and desperation. Loneliness then is not a curse but can be a blessing.
This is one of the biggest lessons God has taught me in this season. Loneliness is a vehicle of mercy meant to drive us to God in dependency, because we know nothing else is enough, and worship, because God is holy and worthy of every ounce of praise.
Anything that makes me lean into Christ more is a gift, it’s all mercy. It’s a mercy for that pain to be exposed because it reveals a need for healing that only Jesus can give. It’s a mercy for that person to let you down. Because it exhibits what is always true: We’re all sinners in need of a great Savior.
And, it’s a mercy for that relationship not to satisfy. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “There is no room for Christ in a full heart.”
Loneliness can be a gift in that it allows us to feel what is always true: Christ alone is sufficient to satisfy.
Lie #4: God is not worthy to be praised in our loneliness.
If God is who he says he is (and he is), if the gospel is true (and it is), and if our circumstances do not dictate our responses (and they don’t), then we are just as free and able to offer a sacrifice of praise in the middle of our deepest wounds (before healing comes) as we are in the highest height of joy.
Additionally, God is worthy to be praised because he does not waste anything, especially our suffering. Because his Son bore each of our sorrows in himself on the cross, he is deeply invested in sustaining us through them (Isaiah 53:4, 1 Peter 2:24).
Therefore, by his sufficient grace, we lean into loneliness. We lean into the hurt and the absence of fulfilled dreams and ambitions. And we see Christ in every second. We soar our eyes above our circumstances. We lean into the One who has never left us or forsaken us and who never will.
The gospel when you’re lonely is this: Christ is enough.