Have you ever heard the phrase “lonely in a crowd”? Such a startling truth in such few words. Have you ever experienced that feeling? As if you’re interacting with the world but there’s still something missing? A sense of being disconnected overwhelms your heart and there might be nothing wrong technically, but everything feels off?
I’ve felt this way after a long period of not interacting with friends or when I’ve felt neglected by a friend. Perhaps you’ve experienced it after a break-up or maybe you’ve recently moved and have yet to establish yourself in any sort of community. Or maybe you feel everyone else is moving forward and you’re standing still struggling to be okay with the changes taking place around you.
Whatever the reason, the feeling of isolation is awful. There’s no other way to put it! It can be absolutely paralyzing; you may feel completely incapable of doing anything because you are so caught up in your loneliness. I did what I could – I asked a few friends to pray for me and then I poured out my heart to God via my journal. Result? No relief! I’m still feeling this angst and ache. Perhaps I’m missing the point?
In my search for answers (and peace), I felt I was being told to go in different directions. One article (Living with Loneliness) made me think I should just accept this state because it is a reality of life; until we can experience the complete fulfillment of finally being united with our Father. In Doing life or doing lunch?, Reagan Perkins doesn’t talk about being content in your loneliness at all. Instead, she takes a practical approach to dealing with being in different life stages from those that are part of your circle with the recommendation that the community learn to accommodate the life changes of its members. For those of us with a growing number of soon-to-be-married friends, that might mean reworking our expectations of how involved our friends will be in our lives.
Finally, I found Fabienne Hartford’s Lonely but not Rejected article confusing. While I agree that ideally we should only measure our worth in Christ, I don’t know how to apply what she’s talking about practically. According to Hartford, receiving affirmation through God alone allows us to serve others and love those who are hurting. I agree that we should seek to be satisfied in God and I agree that he can fill us up so that we can fill others up. But isn’t it possible that God provides affirmation through those around us? How do you peel yourself away from needing the validation of those around you? What does it actually look like to receive affirmation from God?
Maybe the spiritual side of loneliness is different in all three of those articles because it can mean something different for everyone. Perhaps it has a different purpose in each person’s life – something specific that God is asking you to pay attention to.
I know it’s not wrong to focus our energy on the relationships we have with family and friends. It’s not wrong to stay busy making plans with everyone. However, at the same time, it’s important to remember that the emptiness you feel inside is meant to be filled by God. Perhaps I’ve been allowing my time with friends to be one of my “idols”. Maybe I’m not devoting enough of myself to my relationship with God? Have I given too much time and importance to specific friends? Or is this just a part of life that I need to accept? For now, these questions are all the answers I have. I’ll just keep bringing it back to God and in the meantime, ask him to give me strength and peace.
New International Version (NIV)
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
Update – March 24, 2013:
I wanted to update you all about how God convicted me during church service today. Yesterday, I wasted almost half the day reading romance stories (a particular weakness of mine). The reason I say “wasted” is because I know I have a lot of things I should have been doing with that time. I plan to write about my procrastination skills in a future post but getting back to the point I was trying to make – I felt guilty about how I’d spent my time yesterday. So, I talked to God about it this morning during service and he spoke to my heart with this realization: In an effort to escape from the awful feeling I talked about in this post, I was once again trying to fill a void with something other than him. My “loneliness” story in this case was in fact about placing idols before God.
I said in this post that perhaps God was asking me to devote more of myself to him but instead of working on actually doing that, I actively sought to veg out via fiction. I think a lot of us can identify with the temptation to escape into a fictional world whether it be through TV, gaming, or reading. We want to avoid what’s stressing us rather than deal with reality. Sometimes, that’s ok. Sometimes we just need an hour to let it all go and give our brains a rest. However, when that turns into hours of time spent in front of something that takes us away from life, we should take a step back and ask whether that behavior is healthy. In my case, I realize I was replacing one idol with another. So now I’m asking God to help me fight against this tendency I have to escape and instead focus my energy on being productive for his purpose and also building my relationship with him.
Related post: Idolatry TODAY