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November 25, 2019

Overcoming Loneliness

A few years ago, I packed up my little red Honda and drove 1,000 miles across America's heartland to start a new job in a new city. I found a house to share with roommates, unpacked, and embarked on life in an unfamiliar place.  

I loved the incredible view of Colorado's Rocky Mountains and the friendly people. Yet, I ached for the comfort of people who had known me for years—or decades. I missed my heart friends. When I moved west, I left behind family, deeply-rooted friendships, and a church family I loved.  

Granted, the move was my choice and I was happy about it. I was following God's call. I knew He wanted me to be in this place, at this time, for this assignment. But, at the same time, my emotions were a swirling mixture of excitement, anticipation, and isolation. My heart felt as barren as the miles of endless prairie on the Eastern Plains.  

For the first time in my life, I was incredibly lonely.   

Of course, you don't have to move across the country by yourself to feel lonely. You can be walking on a bustling city street or sitting at a crowded party and still feel disconnected from other people. Many singles feel the sting of loneliness even more during the season between Thanksgiving and New Year's because they long for a significant other or they can't get home for the holidays. Or, sadly, they are disconnected from their family.

"Longing" is a word that comes to mind when I think about the feeling of loneliness. You want something you don't have; you yearn for connection. Sometimes it's the connection of a specific person you desire; at other times you just want someone to talk to.

Either way, you feel miserable.

Sometimes I think my married friends have it better. They have a built-in "someone to talk to," right?  Not always. Married people get lonely too. There's the woman whose husband is out of town on business more than he’s at home. And then there's the couple who endures recurring military deployments and separation. Don't forget about the husband (or wife) who lacks basic communication skills and the spouse feels lonely even when the other person is in the same room.  

Single or married, we all get lonely at times.

Here's the thing: We were created for companionship and crafted for relationships. The desire within us to connect is healthy and good. We need connection and community. In fact, my pastor once said that if God can separate you from authentic community then you're easy prey for the enemy because you're isolated and alone.

Resist the temptation to think that having a boyfriend or girlfriend will fill the holes in your heart, or that marriage is the answer to feeling alone. Instead, set your course on the true and lasting satisfaction of putting God first—and letting God bring you His best as you seek to serve Him.

When I'm feeling lonely, here are some things I try to remember:

I may feel alone, but I'm not. Jesus said, "I am with you always…" (Matthew 28:20).  He promised that He would never leave me. (Hebrews 13:5). It's good to know the One who loves me most is always there.

When I remember that I am promised God's presence I find comfort and renewed hope. The God who made the universe, who knows all things, who has all power and authority wants to be with me. That is mind-blowing good news. What a gift! Ask God for more of His presence in your life. As your first connection, He is your best connection.

I need to be intentional about building community. Of course, solitude can be replenishing and we all need time to ourselves, but I strive to find balance between being alone and spending time with other people. No matter how busy or bored we are, we all need live human contact—not just virtual community and online friends. I ask myself: What is one thing, even a small thing, I can do to connect with positive, life-giving people?

I need to find and fulfill my purpose. When I feel lonely, I try to remember the larger picture in that God has a purpose for each of us. He didn't create you and me for no reason. So I try to get alone with God and ask Him what He's calling me to do in this season of my life. What has he uniquely crafted me to do and to be so I can make a difference—and be a light? There's a lot of stuff to be done out there—people to serve and a world to be transformed.

At times, feeling lonely can be a catalyst—the nudge I need—to move forward in a new direction. Here's to renewed connections and greater joy.