Limiting belief: I am alone.
Empowering Truth: God is with me.
Loneliness is a terrible feeling. We were made to be together. But every person feels alone at some point. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated our disconnectedness.
Sometimes you feel alone because you are isolated from contact with others. But sometimes you feel alone in the crowd. Other times you feel alone because it seems no one understands. Then there are those times when you have a duty to carry out that only you can perform, and it’s a lonely road you have to walk. And there is no doubt that the loss of a loved one will spark lonely feelings. Then don’t forget the pain of rejection.
There are plenty of opportunities for loneliness to make its presence known. So when the loneliness encroaches in (and it will), here are some truths to embrace:
God Is with You
Most important, know that God is with you. In Isaiah, there is the promise of Immanuel which means “God with us.”
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, ESV)
Then Jesus at the Great Commission says,
“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV)
Notice that he say he is with us always. Not just sometimes!
This is a powerful truth. But there may be times when you don’t feel this to be true. You don’t see or recognize God’s presence. Or it doesn’t seem God cares much about your predicament. Sometimes you may think that God is not real. But remember this…
When Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Matthew 27:46, ESV)
This is a prophecy from Psalm 22:1 that points us to the loneliest moment in history. It was the moment that God turned his back on his beloved son. We may feel alone, but this moment of crushing loneliness that Jesus experience was more than a feeling. It was as real as loneliness gets. He became sin for us and as he carried sin’s weight he was banished and exiled from the presence of the Father.
But Jesus faced that terrible moment of utter loneliness so that you would never be alone. He was forsaken so that you could forever know the presence of God.
An Intimate Relationship with God Is Developed Over Time
It is sometimes said that Christianity is not so much a religion as it is a relationship with God. I like that! God wants you to walk and talk with him. He desires you experience his presence.
He gives us the Word. Likewise, he gives us the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. These are ways he regularly makes his grace-filled presence known to you. The invitation to receive these gifts are there for each of us to frequently participate in. Daily devotions and weekly worship are an important part of growing intimacy with God. The promise of James 4:8 is that God will draw near to you. But the premise to that promise is that you draw near to him.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8, ESV)
The problem is that we take the gifts of Word and Sacrament for granted along with the presence of God. We set aside our daily devotions and weekly worship. We get busy with life and the priorities we have set.
Then hardship comes upon us, and we wonder why God has not shown up. But it is not that God is not present. It is more that we are not practiced in recognizing the presence of God and living in intimacy with him. A deep intimacy takes time to develop. It happens over time.
The time of crisis is not the time to develop intimacy with God (or with anyone for that matter). Intimacy is developed in times of calm and quiet. You learn to walk and talk with God through discipline and practice. And you need time and space to do that.
We are entering the season of Lent. It is a great time — as is any time — to start nurturing your relationship with God. Start where you are. You may not be able to go too deep right now. But everyday you spend with him, you will be able to go a bit deeper. It is not going to happen overnight, but it will happen over time. I recently published a Daily Bible Reading Plan and that is a great place to start. You might also consider my 40 Things to Give up for Lent Devotion Series.
Loneliness Is Often A Choice
In my years as a pastor, I have become more and more convinced that loneliness is a choice. There are plenty of opportunities to participate in community. There is always the local church. Beyond that, there is many other organizations and community groups of which you can be part. I recently found a local group of drone enthusiasts (my new hobby) on meetup.com. It’s a group of people that gather regularly to fly around different scenic locations throughout the Garden State. And there are more. In the age of the Internet is becoming easier every day to find groups of like-minded individuals. There are recovery groups like Celebrate Recovery, AA, and Grief-share. There are enthusiast groups. There are civic organizations that work to improve our communities. There is no excuse.
However, it is easy to isolate ourselves out of fear. Maybe you got burned in the past. There are plenty of bad church experiences out there. But just because you had one bad experience with one church does not mean every experience with every church is bad. Sometimes it takes time to find the right place to belong.
It also requires you to take the first step. So many people are waiting for other to come to them. Realize however, that in a lonely world, so many are waiting for you to go to them. We are waiting for others to be a blessing to us. Yet, God has called us to be a blessing to others. And it is through serving others and being a blessing that we are blessed.
Social Media Is Not the Substitute
The final word of caution is that social media tends to isolate us. Although we are more connected to people who are far from us though things like Facebook. We become more detached from people close to us as engage more in social media. Studies show that the more time you spend on social media, the worse it will make you feel. In other words, Facebook is not the cure to loneliness. It is not really the cure for much of anything. But it is becoming a default place to turn when you feel bored or lonely.
If you are feeling lonely, the last place to turn is social media. It is God to whom we turn. It is God who is the answer!
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1, ESV)