“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4 NIV
I listen to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, “The Next Right Thing.” I highly recommend it. In episode 114 from February 2020, she talked about how she felt lonelier than ever before. She’s married, has children and is successful writer and entrepreneur. From the outside, one might find it hard to imagine that she feels lonely.
Around the time that episode aired, I had also been chatting about this topic of loneliness with friends. I decided to do a poll on my Instastories and it ranged from 57-67% of people responding that they feel lonely on a regular basis. This was right before the pandemic and I’m sure the percentage is definitely higher as we’ve spent less time connecting with others over the past year.
One of my friends is in a season of great loneliness, longing for community in her daily life as she raises a toddler. In my current season of raising elementary-school aged children, my friends and I are crazy busy. It’s often so hard to plan a time we can get together because of the many activities of work and our children. So, it’s usually easier not to.
I’ve felt lonely and feel it often, if I’m honest. I won’t go into all the reasons here, but what I do want to talk about is what to do when we feel lonely.
Feeling lonely is something we all experience occasionally. As hard as it is to go through sometimes, I do think loneliness has a lot to teach us, if we’re willing to learn. Here are some helpful things we can do:
When I’m feeling lonely, I try to take inventory of my life and ask questions:
· Is my loneliness an indicator of something else?
· Have I been too busy to make time for community?
· Do I connect with people in meaningful ways, not just online?
· Have I neglected spending time with God?
I believe God uses times of loneliness to draw us closer to Him. When we’re lonely, we often have more time to be quiet and think. Sometimes we can get stuck in our heads, thinking things like No one remembers me. Why don’t I have any friends?
Or we can use the time to be still, read His word, and spend time with Him. When we do, we can be reminded:
· He is the God who sees us. - Genesis 16:13
· He is our closest friend. - John 15:13-15
· Even when others forget us, He remembers us! - Isaiah 49:15
Let’s lean in and use our times of loneliness to take inventory of our hearts and invest in our relationship with God.
If we wait for people to notice our loneliness or remember us, we may be waiting longer than we’d like. People are busy and we can’t expect them to read our minds, even if they are our friends and family. (It would be nice though, right?!)
It’s easy to retreat inside ourselves and stay stuck in our loneliness, isn’t it?
But what if our loneliness is an indicator that we need to take the opportunity to reach out to someone instead? Call someone up for coffee or be brave and walk into a new space to meet new people.
I moved around a bit growing up. I remember my mom encouraging me that I would make friends if I went out and decided to be a friend to someone else. It’s such great advice that applies whether you’re 8, 13, 38 or 63.
Adjust our Expectations:
I know I feel lonely sometimes because I have high expectations of the people in my life. When I eliminate the expectations and replace them with expectancy instead, I enjoy the time we are able to spend together, even if it’s less than I’d like.
Seasons of loneliness have purpose. While it may be hard to imagine as we go through them, I believe we can trust that God will bring something beautiful from them.