By Denise Pass, Crosswalk.com
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16, ESV
We all feel the Psalmist’s plea, don’t we? Loneliness is an affliction in and of itself, but suffering alone magnifies the power of loneliness.
The loneliness of the soul is not a discriminator. Everyone will have to grapple with seasons in their life where they will feel unseen. For this is at the core of loneliness—a feeling of insignificance and invisibility. We can feel like no one notices or values us.
Loneliness is a state of mind, which makes it difficult to heal. It has been said that you can be in a crowded room and still feel lonely. We see this in church, too. We can attend small groups and corporate worship weekly but still feel isolated. We can have 1,000 followers on social media but have no real connection.
Loneliness is not just being alone. It is an awareness of our being alone that simply feels suffocating. We can wonder why people are not with us but miss the fact that we could choose to be with them.
Speaking the truth about our lonely feelings helps us to shed the lonely façade. Loneliness can become a sweet place of solitude, instead. When we don’t view our worth as being tied to having a certain group of people surrounding us, we can learn to be comfortable in our own skin. And sometimes in those moments of being alone, we might taste the sweet presence of Jesus that we could have missed when we were always surrounded by others.
Still, we were made for community, and God knows that we need encouragement from others. But when God heals our loneliness with His presence, we don’t need others to fill that hole and might find ourselves in healthy relationships with others when we are no longer needy of them to fill what only God can fill. The loneliness of the soul can only be met by God.
Tip 1: Pray for Godly Friends
Unhealthy relationships create loneliness within our souls. People shun and shame others and contribute to loneliness. At such times, we might need to discover a new tribe. We have all gone through times when friends became foes and gossiped about or betrayed us, making us feel isolated.
When my children felt lonely or isolated, I asked them if they asked God for friends. The mindset of loneliness can be our fault. We can feel bummed because people don’t seek us out, but do we seek them? Sometimes we just need to pray, plan a little, rally our courage, and reach out. When a friendship does not work out, we can ask God to help us find our tribe.
As we pray for others, God has a way of using our prayers to bless us. Seeking to minister to others ends up ministering to us.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:1, ESV
Tip 2: Acceptance
We can feel isolated when we don’t accept our lot. Maybe we don’t appreciate our relationships because we compare them to other people’s relationships. Or maybe other people’s rejection of us has made it difficult for us to accept the relationships we do have.
We might have to work through dysfunction in our relationships or remove toxic relationships to ensure we have a safe inner circle. But when we accept those who we do life with, we might find ourselves accepted.
We will never be more accepted than we are in Christ. Operating from that place of acceptance helps us to rely on God rather than on others for healing from our loneliness.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7, ESV
Tip 3: Make Time for Who is Important
Life’s busyness can keep us bound in loneliness or grief. We will have to be intentional to make time for fellowship with others to keep us from giving in to the lonely mindset.
Scheduling recurring times with those who matter most to us helps us to be consistent with others and decreases the potential for isolation. Using a calendar or reminder app is one way to remind us to make important relationships a priority.
Serving as a coordinator for social outings at church or in other healthy groups can help us to be a part of gatherings when we might have sat on the sidelines otherwise.
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” Colossians 4:5, ESV
Tip 4: Positioning Ourselves
Whether we recognize it or not, we position ourselves for loneliness. The lonely ache in our souls is an alarm that we are not positioning ourselves well. We position ourselves for thriving relationships when we participate in life rather than being a spectator.
God made us for fellowship. We need to seek out godly community to build us up in Christ and to build others up.
When my children have experienced loneliness, I have challenged them to consider their position. As they positioned themselves to meet regularly with people by joining a good church or a small group study with people their age, it wasn’t long until I received a call about the new people they would meet.
We don’t have to defeat loneliness on our own. We can position ourselves to be in fellowship with others and defeat loneliness in community with others.
“Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25, Berean Study Bible
Tip 5: Embracing Solitude
Jesus modeled for us the importance of solitude. Jesus would get away with God consistently—all alone. Solitude is a sweet place of refuge that can help us to reframe our loneliness. Spending time alone with God helps us to remove the focus off ourselves.
In our society that cultivates social anxiety, we can feel a stigma if we are alone in social environments, but our worth is not found in others. We might also try one-on-one with someone rather than in a group of people.
Finding moments of solitude is super hard for young moms. As a mother of five, I know. But as paradoxical as it sounds, solitude is part of the cure to loneliness. During such times we are okay by ourselves, especially as we take time to meditate on God’s Word and talk with Jesus. In our solitude, we discover afresh who we are apart from anyone else’s definition. Being alone does not have to be lonely. It can be a refreshing reminder of who we are in Christ. With Him, we are never alone.
Don’t believe the lie that is hidden in loneliness—that there is something wrong with you. Seasons of loneliness can impact us all, but our approach to loneliness can either keep us bound in isolation or catapult us into healthier relationships. When we show ourselves to be hospitable to others and initiate care for their souls, we might find ourselves cared for.
Looking for lonely people in our midst and ministering to them kills two birds with one stone. Removing the focus from self, we are able to recognize the hurts all around us and be the hands and feet of Jesus, which fulfills us so much more than isolating ourselves.
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:1-3, ESV
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