I've had the great pleasure of getting to know Elle not only through her blog but also through Skype over the last year. She's such an amazing, godly woman, and she has a deep love for good books and traveling... lot's of traveling. I feel like every time she shares about a recent trip that in some small way I got to go with her. She is incredibly gracious and thoughtful, as well as one of the most adventurous persons I know. Be sure you go read her blog and follow her along at beautiful hope (click here)!
“Our hearts are lonely till they rest in Him who made us for Himself” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Loneliness is the guest that no one wants to welcome in, yet all have hosted her at some point. Singleness, losing a loved one, and relocating to a new city are but a few times Loneliness has knocked on my door unwelcomingly. While I wanted to duck under the window, turn off the lights, and hope she’d walk over to the neighbor’s door, I have learned a lot from this unwanted visitor.
Loneliness can feel like a desert with no refreshing stream in sight. For others, it is a stinging reminder every day as they walk back into an empty apartment. In different seasons of loneliness in my life, I remember tear-soaked pillows and raw, honest prayers questioning what in the world God was doing. I remember the self-pity as well as the jealousy of other’s seemingly brighter circumstances. I remember feeling isolated and forgotten. But what I remember most, is that I was not really alone because I was under the watchful care of the God of the Lonely.
Here are three lessons that God has taught me in the seasons of loneliness that helped me see meaning behind the pain of being alone.
1. God sets the lonely in families (Psalms 68:6).
1. God sets the lonely in families (Psalms 68:6).
I have story after story of the way God has placed trusted community in my path at exactly the right moment. He surely has set me, the “lonely” of Psalms 68, within a family of Jesus-followers in so many seasons of life. His presence never left me, even when my eyes shifted from looking to Him to looking towards all that I did not yet have.
During grad school, I was anxious about the future and felt like I did not have anyone to confide in as I was also dealing with pain from the past. I was living alone in a studio and would wonder if anyone cared or noticed me. I had many friends and family three hours south in my hometown, but on those lonely nights, they felt hundreds of hours away.
God opened doors for me during that season, replacing despair with hope. I started attending a community group through the church I attended, moved in with five awesome Christian gals, and went through Biblical counseling in a group setting. These beloved people all helped me through some really difficult days and were witnesses to the amazing, redeeming work God did in my life.
Upon graduating grad school and moving closer to my hometown, I moved into an apartment about thirty miles north of my family and friends. I was anxious and lonely as I dealt with the new rigors of being a pediatric nurse practitioner in a rural, low-income community. Unbeknownst to me, I moved in next door to a girl who would become a great friend. We swap recipes, occasionally surprise each other with flowers or groceries, stay up and talk through difficult topics, pray for one another, and share clothes. I think God surely has a sense of humor, because we’re both nurses, our personalities are extremely similar, and we even look alike! Our landlord has trouble telling us apart and we are constantly asked if we’re sisters when we hang out in public. God knew the prayer of my heart to have someone nearby as I moved to that apartment and provided the perfect friend!
- Think about it: Who can you reach out to in their season of loneliness? How can you help carry the burdens of those around you who struggle with loneliness?
2. Loneliness is a way God can get our attention.
C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” How true is this for the pain of loneliness? In your time of feeling alone, do you typically spend more time in prayer and Bible study? I for one spend less time. My heart seems to build a brick wall that attempts to keep out any Truth from entering in. But when I use the time of loneliness to draw nearer to God, His presence is felt. Not that He ever left us (He promises “I will never leave you nor forsake you”), but loneliness can get our attention focused on Him if we fight the urge to look at other distractions.
I am often tempted to look to other things, such as becoming a social butterfly, watching hours of TV, aimlessly perusing blogs or Facebook, and spending money on things I do not need. He is what we need in times of joy, but especially in times of loneliness. He is what will fill the aching hole of loneliness.
- Think about it: What is God trying to teach you in your season of loneliness? Is it about His all-sufficient providence? Is it about His unfailing love? Fill your mind with Bible verses and passages that remind you that God is near and will not leave you (Is. 41:10; 1 Peter 5:7; Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:1-25, Phil. 4:6-7). Pray through these verses. Journal them. Talk with other girls and older women about what you’re experiencing and ask for prayer. Ask for accountability if you spend too much time on aimless activities or distractions.
3. Jesus was lonely too.
It is often easy to focus on Jesus’ divinity and skim over His humanity, but Jesus experienced the same hardships and pain we do. Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus encountered loneliness. He was deserted by followers because His teachings were too difficult (John 6:66), His disciples fearfully ran away when He was arrested in the garden (Matt. 26:56), and His own siblings made fun of Him (John 7:3-10). But, He felt the ultimate abandonment when He carried the weight of the sins of the world on His shoulders and died for what we deserved. He became sin and for a brief moment, was separated from His Father, crying “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34)
What did Jesus do when He was lonely? He prayed and He obeyed the Father. He did not fall into a cycle of self-pity (and if anyone had a right to feel a little sorry for Himself, it would be Jesus! He was blameless, yet tortured for our sins!) but rather, praised His Father by word and deed.
Jesus endured loneliness, so He knows the pain of abandonment. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We can cry out to Him and know that He will understand and love us during our seasons of loneliness.
- Think about it: Why is it important for us to believe that Jesus was lonely too? How can this affect your prayers during your loneliness?
Allow me to end with a prayer by Elisabeth Elliot, who wrote a book on loneliness that has helped me a lot (The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God). As a young woman, Elisabeth Elliot penned this prayer in her journal, not knowing that many years ahead would be marked by loneliness. May it be a battle cry in the midst of your present or future seasons when Loneliness comes knocking on your door. I am not saying it’ll be a breeze and you’ll want her to stay an extra few weeks. But I will say that even if Loneliness seems to linger on your doorstep, you are not truly alone. Battle that lie with God’s Truth. As Christians, we serve a God of the Lonely who knows what we are going through and will walk us through it, step by step.
Perhaps some future day, Lord, Thy strong hand
Will lead me to the place where I must stand
Alone, O Gracious Lover, but for Thee;
I shall be satisfied if I can see
I do not know Thy plan for years to come,
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home,
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now,
Lead on, no matter where, no matter how –
I trust in thee