HOW TO HANDLE LONELINESS AS A CHRISTIAN

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Can you ever imagine Jesus was ever lonely while on earth? His moments in Gethsemane and Calvary were, of course, uniquely and terribly lonely, but what about the rest of his life?

In a way, he may have been the loneliest human in history.

Loneliness is what we experience when we are isolated from others. Loneliness also has less to do with the physical absence of others and more to do with feeling alienated or disconnected. Or when we are misunderstood by them. In reality, loneliness is far more painful than mere absence, because we feel the isolation of being rejected and despised.

Loneliness is a feeling of personal isolation in a busy, crowded environment. Don’t misunderstand the subject. You might be alone and lonely, but you can also be surrounded by many people and still feel very lonely. You can be in a big crowd and unexpectedly experience a sense of overwhelming loneliness. Loneliness doesn’t mean the same thing as being alone. At times, we all have to be alone. It’s a good thing for us to be alone sometimes so that we can have a sober reflection. Loneliness is a feeling of detachment from people, whether they are near or far away.

This is exactly how Isaiah prophetically identified Jesus in Isaiah 53:3: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Knowing who Jesus was, this experience would have started decades before his public ministration even began. That suggests that Jesus can sympathize with your loneliness even more than you would have felt before (Hebrews 4:15).

UNSURPASSED HOMESICKNESS

John 14:16 says, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”

“Loneliness was the first thing that the eye of God named not good…”-John Milton.

It was the sixth day. God, the Almighty, has just finished making all the living things that move on the earth. As God had at each stage of creation, He paused and assessed what he had created. “And God saw that it was good.” There was only one more job left.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7).

This was the only creation of God that would not live its life in complete ignorance of his Creator. Rather, made in the image of God, Adam would fulfill the role that no other man could—-he would have fellowship with God and be the object of His affection. But after placing him in the Garden, God realized that something was still missing.

“And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18).

God recognized the need of Adam for contact with another human being — a need that God had built into him. More than a fellow inhabitant of Eden, Eve would become the object of Adam’s love and would love him in return. She would experience the wonders of creation and the duties of stewardship. With the creation of Eve, Adam’s personal relationship with God was complemented by companionship and communion with someone like himself.

We have an inherent need to be cherished and submit to God’s design. As children, we learn to receive and give affection and are taught the skills that will help us find acceptance. We develop our sense of individuality and find our position in life through our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. When the desire for love and fellowship goes unfulfilled, we become restless, sad, and lonely.

If you’re dealing with loneliness, you’re not alone. Everyone experiences a time of loneliness for one reason or another. Usually, we overcome loneliness by entering new social circles, meeting new friends, or taking some other action that brings us back to people.

However, different personal factors and other circumstances may sometimes short-circuit our ability to connect with others. You may have been insecure about meeting new people after the death of a loved one. Perhaps some social losses have led you to think that no one will be interested in your business. Relocating to a new area could have left you longing for old friendships and unable to initiate new ones. There are many ways long-term isolation will take over our lives.

CAUSES OF LONELINESS

Loneliness does not develop overnight. This can be the result of a lifetime of experiences that affect our personality. And it can develop after a significant transition and trauma. We are often unaware of the hidden forces that can gradually lead us to self-imposed isolation.

Some people seem to be lonely because of the circumstances of their childhood growth. For instance, growing up with an unaffectionate or excessively critical parent might make one shy away from intimacy with others. Many people never learn to connect well or to get along with their peers. Some have excessively violent or challenging attitudes that make people retreat from them. Conversely, people with low self-esteem sometimes withdraw from social environments they feel would lead to rejection. Loneliness may become a lifestyle for a person dealing with poorly established interpersonal skills. 

Many social factors contribute to loneliness. We live in the age in which new technology has made it possible to do things without others and without leaving our homes. Television is the main culprit who robs us of our interaction with relatives and neighbors. To others, particularly the elderly, the increased risk of being victims of crime prevents them from venturing out of their homes. Also, since our society is more mobile than in the past, families may move several times for career advancement or other different reasons, which tends to discourage the formation of deep friendships.

Loneliness can be the product of “situational factors,” conditions in life that increase the possibility of loneliness. Those who are unmarried, divorced, or widowed are more likely to feel lonely simply because they are more inclined to be alone. However, loneliness can occur when a marriage partnership does not yield the closeness we expect. A student who is separated from home, a leader who must stay aloof from his subordinates, an individual with a disability or illness — all face a greater risk of loneliness due to a situation in their lives.

Often the loneliness caused by developmental, social, or situational causes contributes to issues that only exacerbate loneliness. Alcoholism, substance addiction, family dissolution, and other social ills are often rooted in loneliness and typically contribute to greater alienation from meaningful human interaction. The rise of gangs, religious cults, and other deviant social groups can be primarily attributed to people’s desire to belong somewhere and their inability to find acceptance in a conventional environment.

Whatever caused your loneliness, there’s always a way out. It begins with confronting the cause of loneliness that every human being must encounter — the spiritual loneliness of being separated from God. Each of us needs to communicate with something greater than ourselves to fill the spiritual void within us. The Bible is God’s plan to establish the most significant relationship in our lives.

LONELINESS AND THE BIBLE

As the story of Adam and Eve goes, God wants us to share our lives with others. The significance of personal relationships in God’s eyes is clear in the amount of space devoted to them in the Bible. The Old and New Testaments have several things to say about marriage, parenthood, friendship, and church fellowship. But it is also evident from the Word of God that there is a preeminent relationship from God’s point of view. This is the kind of fellowship He wishes to have with us, which forms the foundation of all other relationships.

When we accept God’s gift of everlasting life through Jesus Christ, we enter into fellowship with the Creator of the universe. God the Almighty is our Heavenly Father, and He puts His Holy Spirit within us. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as our “Counselor,” whose guidance will direct us to reality (John 16:13). The Apostles Paul and John said that the Spirit of God would fill believers with the assurance that we will be members of God’s family (Romans 8:16; I John 4:13). Day after day, through prayer and reading the Bible, we will experience the beautiful communion that God desires with His children. God can never be too busy to listen to we His Children.

Dynamic walking with Christ is a strong basis for establishing relationships with others. As children of God, we are part of an extremely large extended family that spans the globe. Our brothers and sisters live in every nation on the globe. Spiritually speaking, our “immediate family” is a group of believers with whom we attend church with. They are an essential support network that works just like our natural family does. Christians who do not go to church or partake in religious activities cut themselves from a rich source of companionship.

If you’re a Christian who suffers from loneliness, ask yourself whether you have taken full possession of the abundant life that God wants you to have. Do you spend daily quality time with your Heavenly Father? Are you involved in church activities in your locality? Pray to God to guide you to a deeper relationship with Him and greater engagement with fellow believers.

If you’ve never invited Jesus Christ to be your Savior, it is perfect now to do so. Having Jesus as the Lord of your life will set you on a course that leads to communion with God, new connections with fellow Christians in this world, and an everlasting place in God’s presence afterwards.

STEPS FOR OVERCOMING LONELINESS

You may have heard these suggestions from well-meaning friends: “Why not join a club?” or “You should do some traveling.” They’re not bad ideas, but they’re not solutions to the issue of loneliness either. The steps below will help you overcome the feelings, emotions, and habits that could be the source of your loneliness. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you to identify the steps that you will take to conquer loneliness.

ADMIT THE PROBLEM-Only after you accept that you are lonely can you take the requisite measures to escape from your loneliness.

CONSIDER THE CAUSES-Assess your life honestly in the light of the factors listed above. Do you have any of them apply to you?

ACCEPT WHAT CANNOT BE CHANGED- The loss of a parent, a step away from old friends, and other unalterable situations must be faced squarely. God can use changes in our lives to open doors to new experiences, but we must be able to let go of the past and move forward.

ALTER WHAT CAN BE CHANGED- Several of the causes of loneliness discussed above can be reversed. Are you afraid of rejection because you feel inadequate? Do you stay in your home watching TV when you could be in a social role? Has your best friend just moved away from you? Irrespective of the reason for your loneliness, you owe it to yourself to deal head-on with the issue.

• Work to improve self-esteem by avoiding negative self-talk, such as telling yourself that you are unlikeable. There are many good books on topics like misbelief therapy and rational thinking that can help you.

• Practice looking at yourself from the perspective of God. Read the Bible and meditate on verses that reflect God’s vision to His children.

• Make it a goal to get out of the house at least once a week. Engage in church activities, participate in community functions, take a class, etc.

• Be involved in a good cause. There are a lot of groups searching for dedicated volunteers who want to make a difference. For example, working for an organization or charity is also a perfect way to get to know people.

DEVELOP NEW HABITS THAT BUILD YOUR INNER SELF – As you become a happier, more self-assured person, it will get easier for you to make new friends and encounter new situations. Consider some of these self-improvement strategies:

• Meditate on God’s Word to calm and relieve the effects of stress on your life.

• Establish a schedule for a day, a weekend, or a week. Loneliness also seems more severe when we have nothing to do. Organize your time and ensure to include some outdoor activities.

• Start exercising regularly. Take a walk around your neighborhood, a local park, or a shopping mall. You’re going to feel better, physically, and emotionally.

Make the most of your time on your own. Aloneness (in contrast to loneliness) can be a positive experience. Aloneness, or solitude, lets us focus on our lives, meditate on God’s will, and find healing for the wounds caused by the world. Many experts feel that we spend very little time alone and that we would all be better off by planning a regular period of solitude.

MAKE AN EFFORT TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS -Often, all required to avoid loneliness is a desire to find a new friend. Overcoming shyness and fear of rejection are usually the greatest barriers to the initiation of friendship. Keep in mind when you try to create new relationships:

• Search for someone with whom you share a mutual interest.

• Take the initiative and send a call to the person. Chances are, that person may also be looking for friendship.

• Slowly build a bond. Do not overwhelm a new acquaintance with your opinions and problems. The openness to sharing feelings will grow with time. Be thoughtful and give compliments. Refrain from offering any unsolicited advice. Be a good listener too.

CONSIDER HAVING A PET – Pets can be a perfect source of companionship. Don’t overlook the possibilities. Pets deliver uncomplicated companionship and unquestionable love. That may also be a catalyst for interactions with other pet owners.

Loneliness can be conquered. But it is up to you to take the necessary action to get out of its grip. Pray to the Lord for the strength and courage to reach out to others and try new things. Trust Him to give you what He desires for you to have — a rich life that includes intimate and faithful friends.

END OF ALL LONELINESS

But God can understand your loneliness, and he does. He can sympathize more than you know with this weakness (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus doesn’t merely understand your loneliness, but He can deliver you from its hold. Because he took upon Himself the sin that estranged and separated you from God and suffered on your behalf, you are no longer merely a stranger or an alien, but you are a co-citizen with the saints and a member of the family of God (Ephesians 2:19).

Loneliness, like any form of misery, passes away for those who love God. Ahead of you is the entire family of God and all his redeemed saints forever. The day is coming when you know him as you have been completely known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help” (Hebrews 4:16) with every lonely need. And be a saint who assists others to witness the foretaste of heaven by extending to them the loneliness-destroying love of Jesus.

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