I am not sure why we feel lonely. Lonely is the feeling that you might actually be alone.Or that you feel impoverished relationally. And so when we are lonely, we internally are aware that something is absent. Something is missing. If something wasn’t missing, we wouldn’t feel this way.
Sometimes, I feel lonely. Sometimes, I’m in a crowd of people and feel lonely. Sometimes, I’m with people I know and love, people who know me and love me, and I still feel lonely. Lonely has this way of showing up on at just the wrong time.
How many decisions do we wish we could take back that we made when we were lonely? How many marriages end because the spouse feels lonely? How many great legacies were destroyed because someone acted out while lonely?
The question arises then, “Is lonely a bad thing?” And the answer generally comes back, “Yes, lonely is a really bad thing.” So what should I do about it? “I will change my life so I won’t be lonely.”
But what happens when you make life changes, and still the aches of loneliness set in. What do you do then? Keep as many plates spinning as possible so you won’t have to deal with the pangs of loneliness? Text as many people as possible to get a reply back? Mindlessly zone out on the internet as you surf the surface level of culture for hours on end?
All this is done in the name of ending loneliness. I would guess that we are betting that something can either satisfy the pangs of loneliness, or at least numb them. What if the satisfaction is temporary? And numb, is that really working? What does that cost you in the rest of your life?
So this loneliness, what do we do about it? I believe that loneliness is actually potential. Sometimes, the feeling of being alone though is so dark, that you miss the potential of loneliness. After all, potential means it is sitting on the shelf. And if you don’t utilize the potential of loneliness, then loneliness will consume you. Here is where the potential of loneliness truly comes in.
1. Loneliness is an opportunity for you to grow closer to God. If you read the Psalms, the writers were actually very lonely. Take the psalmist, David, as an example. It seems like much of David’s life, he had hitman chasing him down, or he was king. There was even part of David’s life when he was king and being chased. How lonely does that feel? But David took advantage of the loneliness of his life from a young age when he played his harp. Yes, David spent many nights under the stars with sheep around him. Because David learned that loneliness was an opportunity to share with God, and to know him more fully, we possess the prayer book “Psalms” today. We wouldn’t otherwise.
2. Loneliness is an opportunity for friendship. One of the keys of friendship is vulnerability. Any relationship needs vulnerability. Without vulnerability, there is no foundation of real trust, or real relationship. Sharing with a friend exactly how you feel is key, because your sense of loneliness lets the other person into your life. Also, as you do, you may find out that you are not as alone as you thought you were.
3. Loneliness gives you a story to share. Someone you know is lonely right now. I guarantee it. Someone you are going to meet within the next five years will likely be in one of the loneliest places of their life. If you can share out of your story of loneliness, what would that do for that person? Wouldn’t that be incredible of your sense of loneliness when shared developed a friendship, helped them place their hope in God, and set them in a direction in life they never believed possible?
4. Loneliness reminds us we were created for more. As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy, I can only conclude that I was not made for here.” Loneliness reminds me that my soul aches for more than this world. That I am created for more than this. And nothing in this world can fully satisfy me, because I was created for God. Loneliness reminds me that the whole creation is groaning with hope to be liberated, redeemed, and restored by the Creator. I am welcome to join with the creation in groaning with hope for the day of emancipation when I will know God, even as I am fully known.
Yes, we will be lonely. But lonely doesn’t have to end in a bad place. Loneliness is an opportunity for your life to grow in love, trust, faith, and all this in hope.
The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. Proverbs 20:5