I've felt lonely while sitting in my car at a stoplight, radio blasting and windows rolled down. I’ve felt it in a crowded room, surrounded by laughter and friends. I’ve felt it in the middle of the night, both in my dreams and when I wake up suddenly in the dark.
Loneliness. It’s a familiar feeling for all of us.
Feelings of loneliness can turn into fear of loneliness. And fear of loneliness can turn into avoidance of loneliness. And then eventually you’re sending 1,000 texts a day, drowning your feelings in alcohol or video games, or hooking up with people you don’t even know—all because you don’t want to be alone in the world for even a few minutes. Or maybe you do the opposite—shut yourself in your room and ignore the world entirely to avoid being connected to people. Once you feel lonely, it’s nearly impossible to get out of your loneliness, because you are…alone.
A proverb says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10) We are each fundamentally separated from all other humans, and although we can understand each other to a certain extent, we will still feel that separation. No one fully understands what it’s like to be you. Regardless of how you react to it, loneliness can be a big, painful problem for all of us.
What causes loneliness?
Ever wonder what we were made for? The Bible explains that God wired us for connection, for community. Often we idealize romantic relationships and even friendships, thinking that if we only found the right person, we’d never be lonely again. But loneliness can be found even in happily married men and women. Not only were we wired for connection with other humans, we were wired for connection with God. Even wealth, achievement, and honor are not enough to keep us from loneliness. Pop culture is full of examples; rampant divorce, suicide, and drug use litter the landscape of Hollywood. There are also stories in the Bible that talk both about people who had it all and still felt lonely and about people who had nothing but found what they needed by approaching God.
Solomon was a king of Israel to whom God granted immense wisdom. And he literally had it all: huge piles of gold, a giant palace, and hundreds of wives and concubines. You’d think Solomon would have been the most content man on earth! But he wrote a book about how pointless life is: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11) You can hear his loneliness and desperation in that statement!
In comparison, one day when Jesus was walking through a town, he was met by a man with leprosy. Lepers were ten times more scary then than now; people were terrified of catching it. Lepers were outcasts and rejects, often abandoned by friends and family to beg on street corners just to have something to eat. Picture this particular leper sitting in the dust and dirt, ignored by everyone who passed by. He had no one to turn to and not a penny to his name. He got up, walked up to Jesus, fell on his knees in the street, and asked to be made clean. Jesus touched the leper - a person who had likely not been touched by another human being in years - and healed him. The now socially-acceptable man was ecstatic and went around telling everyone about it, although Jesus had instructed him otherwise. His life suddenly had joy and meaning, despite the fact that he still had nothing and no one. What changed this former outcast’s world so entirely? Just one brief interaction with Jesus.
We weren’t made to be lonely
We were made to have a relationship with God.
It’s the one thing that can bring us out of our loneliness, because it’s the connection we were made to have. That one interaction with Jesus, who is God, brought meaning, comfort and joy to the life of that leper, while all the jewels, gold, and women in the world didn’t bring meaning to Solomon’s life. Having a personal relationship with God changes everything; it is the answer to our loneliness problem.
That said, does having a relationship with God protect us from feelings of loneliness for the rest of our lives? No. Simply put, the system is broken. It’s a complicated story you can learn more about here, but our world is a damaged place. We are separated from God by our sin, our desire to live apart from God. In this world, we cannot experience life the way it was meant to be, without loneliness or evil or sorrow or fear.
So now what?
Despite the fact loneliness is a reality of being human with no immediate cure, there are two things that can help in the here and now:
Community: how to deal with loneliness
Because we were created for connection, a big part of dealing with loneliness is to be in community. No friend will save you from being lonely ever again, but when you have people around you who care about you for who you are (not for your body, skills, money, or ability to hold alcohol) it can help you see you are not really alone.
In fact, science backs this up: the more friends you have and the more connected you are, the better your health. All you have to do is Google “Health Benefits of Friendship.” Brene Brown, a researcher and expert on human interaction, explains it this way: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Sharing your life with people who love you helps you to see outside your own perspective and bring meaning to your life that you can remember in lonely moments.
Someone who understands your loneliness
Sometimes it’s hard to understand how believing in a God that you can’t see could possibly help you feel less lonely on a Friday night. But the Bible says God will never abandon his children, and he is near to all who call on his name. God loves you and desires relationship with you. He wants you to come to him when you are lonely!
Not only that, he understands. When Jesus was going through the worst hours of his life and about to be crucified, his friends abandoned him and even pretended they didn’t know him. Jesus knows what it is like to be a lonely human. The Bible says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) What would it feel like to know in your deepest moment of loneliness, you are not alone? The God who made you is with you and will never leave you!
You can have that
The sin that separated us from living in a world without loneliness is what keeps us from God now. No matter how good you are or how hard you try, you cannot overcome that separation. God sent Jesus to earth in order to restore our relationship with him - the Bible says that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted. Jesus, the perfect son of God, died for your sins so that you could be clean like the leper; you are no longer an outcast or a reject but a child of God. Tim Keller, a pastor and author, said this about how God views us: “The only eyes in the universe that can see you to the bottom, love you to the skies.” God sees your worst moments and loves you all the same; he wants you to come to him.
Would you like to start a relationship with God and let him help you in your moments of loneliness? You can do that right now by believing him and accepting him into your life through prayer, which is simply talking to God. God knows you and your heart, so the words don’t matter as much as the attitude in which you say them. Here’s a suggested prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Thank you for being with me and for saying that you will never leave me. Please help me to feel your presence.
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