By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
A few twinkling lights strung around the plastic tree competed with the neon Wendy’s sign flashing through the bare living room window. They did little to warm the chill in my heart on that Christmas Eve many years ago. I curled up on the rough fabric of our shabby, wood-framed couch, trying to find comfort.
I wallowed alone with tears and tissues in the shadows for hours that evening. A few months earlier, I had felt excited about moving with my husband to faraway New England for his first Air Force assignment. We owned nothing but a car and clothing, so I kept busy that fall finding an apartment, a job, and a few sparse hand-me-down furnishings.
Then Christmas came. The few people we had met so far took off to spend time with family, but we couldn’t go anywhere. Worse, Jeff worked long hours at the military base, so I was stuck alone in my Spartan apartment. I had used some of our meager resources to decorate and prepare for Christmas, but a few trappings could not overcome the sheer silence that screamed loneliness.
But we don’t need to be alone to feel lonely. Sometimes a crowd intensifies our sense of isolation. That’s probably one reason why so many experience dejection, and even depression, during holidays. Loneliness targets us all from time to time as a natural part of the ebb and flow of life. God allows and uses such times of trial. Sometimes He even designs lonely seasons for His greater purposes.
5 Reasons God Allows Us to Be Lonely
1. We depend more on earthly friends than on God.
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:11 NLT)
God designed us for connection with other people. In the Bible, we find many examples of human relationships. In First Samuel, God tells the story of a beautiful friendship between David and Jonathan. They sought fellowship from one another and fulfillment from God. Their sacrificial love foreshadowed Jesus’ love. Their devotion inspires us to seek similar relationships.
God has blessed many of us with loyal friends. We spend time with each other. When trouble strikes, we call for help. We rejoice and mourn together. But sometimes, we elevate our friends above our relationship with God. We rely more upon their wisdom, presence, and comfort than God’s.
Perhaps we invest more time with earthly friends than with God in Bible study. We neglect talking to God because we reason that He already knows all about us. In times of need, it seems easier and more natural to pick up the phone and call a friend rather than sit quietly and wait for God. The advice or physical presence of the friend gratifies our desire for immediate fulfillment.
God may remove the props of earthly relationships for a time so that you learn to seek and rely on Him as your only truly dependable Friend.
2. God nudges us to step away from unhealthy relationships.
Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14 NLT)
Apostle Paul tells us that we should choose to partner closely only with those who share a wholehearted devotion to God. Intimate friendship should be reserved for fellow believers. God does not tell us to form a holy huddle where we exclude nonbelievers. We should certainly reach out and be friendly to those who don’t know God because friendship forms a natural bridge for sharing the good news of Jesus.
We sometimes get entangled in a close relationship with someone who has not chosen to follow God. If the influence threatens our spiritual well-being, God may cause these relationships to break up. We may endure loneliness as a result.
3. Loneliness helps us understand and conform to Jesus’ character.
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46 NLT)
We often focus on the cross as the place where Jesus took our burden of sin upon Himself. We forget, though, that the sin covered Him and made Him unfit for a relationship with His own Father. He had never fully separated from His Father before. What agony He endured in that chasm of isolation!
Peter tells us to be happy when we encounter suffering like Jesus experienced (1 Peter 4:13). He didn’t say this because he perversely wants us to be unhappy. On the contrary, he said God rewards us with intimacy with Christ as we imitate Him.
4. God prepares us for future ministry.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)
God may permit the trial of isolation to prepare your heart to minister to another hurting person. Jesus Himself joined our suffering and sympathizes with our struggles in a personal way because of His experiences.
In the same way, your lonely times may have longer-term purposes. If you’re puzzled about why God is allowing your struggle, discover all you can in the process. This may be the classroom He’ll use to teach you how to help others later. Hold on to that hope as you wait for God’s insight.
5. Clutter obstructs our communication with God.
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. (Matthew 14:22-23 NLT)
Jesus stepped away from people to focus on His most important relationship. He drew power and wisdom from alone time with His Father.
Excess busyness, including relationships, obstructs our ability to hear from God. Sometimes God pulls us away from human relationships for a time to return our attention to Him. Loneliness has a way of quickening our dull senses and helping us tune in to God’s still, small voice.
How to Respond in Times of Loneliness
Seasons of loneliness have some similarities to fasting. The Bible tells us to deprive ourselves of food for a while as we laser focus on God in prayer, Bible study, and worship. When we experience loneliness, we suffer deprivation of another basic human need. The catalyst may not be our choice, as it is in fasting. Nevertheless, we can choose to concentrate on our relationship with God in the same way as we wait for the season of loneliness to pass.
Consider these three suggestions to make the most of lonely times.
1. Learn to experience God’s presence.
God is omnipresent, so He is everywhere at the same time. God wants to fill your emptiness. Yet we sometimes don’t feel this truth deep down. We must learn to experience God’s presence even when circumstances insist we are alone.
I do this by meditating on Bible verses that describe physical closeness to God. I pause from my routine, close my eyes, and think about what I see, hear, feel, and think as I place myself into the verse. One of my favorite verses comes from the Psalms. You can find many more that will help you to perceive the reality of God’s presence.
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. (Psalm 91:4 NLT)
2. Practice spiritual disciplines.
A lack of people in your life creates a void. Choose to fill it with additional Bible study, worship, and prayer. Journaling your observations, conclusions, and questions helps you to apply what you learn to your lonely feelings. Also, do not skip church fellowship because you feel as if you are the only one who is alone.
3. Avoid self-focus.
Problems of any kind can lead to an unbalanced focus on the self. To avoid this pitfall, consider how God may be prompting you to reach out. Help an elderly neighbor with grocery shopping. Make blankets for the homeless shelter. Encourage a family member with a phone call or note. Sign up for the church prayer team (or start one if none exists). Ask God to direct your efforts. You may find Him guiding you into a new friendship.
Your Forever Friend
On that Christmas Eve long ago, I wallowed in my lonesome feelings. I believed I was truly alone. I didn’t know any better. But God tells us a very different story throughout the Bible.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT)
God promises His people He will never abandon them. Are you one of God’s people? If not, take the first step out of loneliness by receiving God as your Savior. If you received the gift of salvation, then allow seasons of loneliness to become a doorway to a deeper relationship with your forever Friend.
Want to learn more about becoming friends with God and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior? Click here for more from Annie Yorty.
Annie Yorty writes and speaks to encourage others to perceive God’s person, presence, provision, and purpose in the unexpected twists and turns of life. Married to her high school sweetheart and living in Pennsylvania, she mothers a teen, two adult children (one with intellectual disabilities), and a furry beast labradoodle. She has written From Ignorance to Bliss: God’s Heart Revealed through Down Syndrome. Please connect with her at http://annieyorty.com/, Facebook, and Instagram.