Body yearning. Stomach withering. Food forgotten. Bones crying out. Voice groaning. Strength failing. Soul starving. Emptiness - all consuming. This is the feeling of loneliness. It creeps in through the sinews, and pulses to the desperate beating of the heart.
It strikes with a sudden and aching fervor. It pays no mind to the rhythm and bustle of those around. It hits when when alone and it hits with even greater force in a room full of friends and family.
There was a time when I thought these lonely feelings were due to my being single. I desperately wanted to be married thinking that would solve my pain and end my sorrow. But I was wrong. How can the embrace of a loved one satisfy the existential longing for an eternal Loved One? How can my finite friendship with my beloved wife compare to the ever-present friendship with an Omniscient King?
On the one hand, having my wife as my friend and nearly always present has helped ease my loneliness, but on the other hand there are topics of discussion we disagree on so strongly that the mere mention of them makes me feel isolated. True, I know my wife loves me even through my faults and failures which is a comfort even when we strongly disagree. And yet that comfort does not compare to the comfort offered at the hands of an all-knowing and gracious Master.
Loneliness is an indicator light on the dashboards of our souls. As if flickers painfully in the background of our lives it serves the purpose of alerting us to a great danger - that we are seeking to find our social pleasure in the absence of God. What do we do when the dashboard of our cars lights up signifying low gas levels? We find a gas station or risk being stranded where we don’t want to be.
When you begin to feel alone, know that it’s normal and it happened before sin entered the world. Adam was alone (Genesis 2:17). God said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. Isn’t that shocking? How can a good and perfect God create such wonders and call each one good, but when He creates man, He says: "It is not good?"
The answer is that God is an eternally social being. He has never been alone, is not alone, and will never be alone. In the beginning all the members of the Trinity were there. The Father directed the operations (Ephesians 3:9), the Son created (Colossians 1:16), and the Spirit hovered over the deep waters (Genesis 1:2). The triune God worked together to make all that we know, and God has always had His love and companionship throughout eternity. When God says: "it is not good," He is saying that we, created in the image of God, also need to reflect that same companionship and love. And like all aspects of who we are as created beings, we reflect God’s attributes in our lives, but dimly.
Loneliness then is an indicator that we are designed for a social relationship that is other worldly. We were designed for a deeper and more abiding relationship than we will ever find with friends, family, and even our spouses. While it’s possible to be alone (as Adam was) and without sin, quite frequently the painful loneliness we feel stands as a warning sign that we’ve believed one of two lies:
That everyone will leave us. This is exactly how Job felt after losing all his riches, servants, and children. He cries out: “Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him" (Job 23:8-9). But to God’s children He replies: "I will never leave you" (Hebrews 13:5). We we feel abandoned and isolated we must recall to mind that God is ever-faithful and he is with us through the storms.
That we have been forgotten. One of the days I am historically most likely to feel alone is on my birthday. On that day, I tend to feel forgotten as even close family and friends have been known to not say a word. God replies throughout Scripture declaring: "I will remember" (Genesis 9:15, Leviticus 26:42, & Ezekiel 16:60). In these verses, our heavenly Father promises to remember every promise He has ever made to us. Among those promises we are told that He will never fail or abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6), He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and He says: "I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15). As you feel that old familiar sting creeping back into your heart, stop and recall to mind the simple promises of an ever-powerful God that never fails to love you even amidst the rigors of Kingly duty.
While it’s true that our loneliness plagues us because of an eternal problem, it is also true that God has gifted us with many earthly duties that when properly completed help reduce the searing pain of isolation. So in your loneliness, after you’ve taken time to remind yourself of whom it is you serve - a faithful God who will not leave you nor abandon you - carry on in life confident of what it is to be His child. Carry on in life socializing the way he built you to:
Socialize within the Church. Believer, you are called to meet with the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25), gather for communion (1 Corinthians 10:14-17), worship (Colossians 3:16), serve (Galatians 5:13), and bear each others burdens (Galatians 6:2). To do these things requires effort and perseverance on your part. In so doing, you will ease others loneliness and cheer them along likely without ever noticing. And whether or not they do the same for you is of little consequence, for you will forget your concerns when you put others above yourself.
Socialize with friends. Scripture calls you, brothers and sisters, to help (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), encourage (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and admonish one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14). You’ll find in the pages of the Holy Book the instruction to lovingly suffer loss for others (John 15:13 & Philippians 2:3-8)), to be patient with and for them (Proverbs 19:11 & Romans 12:18), and to forgive (Ephesians 4:32).
Socialize with the Gospel. How can you fulfill the Great Commission, if you aren’t socializing with unbelievers and taking the good news to their doorstep (Matthew 29:18-20)?
Socialize with family. The Bible is replete with instructions for husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7, & 1 Corinthians 7), parents (Proverbs 22:6 & Ephesians 6:4), kids (Exodus 20:12 & Colossians 3:20), and all relatives (1 Timothy 5:8). Each and every one of these commands presumes in its very nature that you have built and are working to maintain a loving relationship with your family. It presumes that you are regularly interacting with each other and socializing even when you would prefer solitude.
Socialize with Society. Christian, Jesus calls you to look after the hurting and helpless (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3, & James 1:27) and to protect those that cannot protect themselves (Isaiah 10:1-2, Jeremiah 5:28, & Proverbs 31:8). We often reduce this call to just looking after orphans and widows, but the call of God is much deeper on all of us. We are called to pursue those less fortunate than ourselves, know their plight, and help them through it. This is something we cannot do unless we socialize with those who are different than ourselves.
Loneliness is painful and hard and it hits us all throughout our lives. As we’re reminded of that, we can also be thankful for it.. Listen to the words of Pastor Steve DeWitt who said "This past decade has allowed me to consider loneliness more through my long-term singleness, but now also through my years of marriage and parenting. Am I still lonely? Yes, and I’m glad that I am." How is Pastor Steve able to be glad in His loneliness? It’s because he’s able to recognize it as a flickering indicator on the dashboard of his soul that reminds him he was made for something more.
You were made for something more than your wife and kids. You were made for something more in the midst of this pandemic and election season. You were made for something more. Let the pain of loneliness serve as a motivator to find time to consider whom you were made for and to whom you belong. Let it serve as a reminder of the great and perfect God who loves you and chose you to be His.