“So many of my friends are in relationships now. I’m content being single. It’s just lonely sometimes.”
“All of our married friends have children now. We don’t. This is a lonely season for us.”
“I’m stepping out in faith to go where God has called me. I am confident in this calling, and I’m happy to go where He leads, but it’s lonely out here.”
“I worship with hundreds of other people each week, and I feel lonely in the midst of everyone.”
“I’m surrounded by people – friends, family, great community – but I feel lonely all of the time.”
“I believe God has promised He will never leave me or forsake me. I know the Holy Spirit is always with me. I don’t want to sound like I don’t believe Him, or even that I’m doubting Him a little, but I’m so lonely.”
Loneliness seems to be a very common feeling among almost everyone I’ve ever known. I get it. I’ve felt this way during several different seasons of my life.
I was lonely when my parents divorced, and it seemed like no one around me really understood. Sure, there were people who had been through similar situations, but none exactly like mine.
I was lonely when I stepped out in faith and transferred colleges the day before classes started my Sophomore year.
I was lonely my first morning in Canada, serving as a summer missionary and having no clue what that was going to be like.
I was lonely for a large portion of my time as a college and grad student, never feeling like I fit in anywhere.
I was lonely in my twenties, wondering why God didn’t read the plan for my life that said I would be engaged when I graduated college.
Or grad school. (Not that I actually graduated from grad school.)
Or at least by the time I was 25.
I was lonely when I lost a job I didn’t even really like anymore. It turns out working in a cubicle is at least a little better than being a professional Pinner and number one fan of that fancy automatically playing the next episode feature of Netflix.
I was lonely when I went back to school in my thirties and, once again, felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.
I was lonely when both of my grandmothers passed away. I never wanted to go through life without them.
I’m lonely now. When I look at the lives of people my age, even people younger than me, I feel like I’ve been lapped. Several times. When I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and see all the cute kiddos or read another fun pregnancy announcement or we only have two trick-or-treaters, one of whom was my husband, I’m reminded that I’m not a mommy yet, and that feels lonely.
I know God doesn’t have a set of cookie cutters that He uses to determine each of our lives. “You’re a flower. You’re a dinosaur. You’re a pumpkin. You’re the letter H.” (I’m assuming He has the same box of cookie cutters I do.) That’s an oversimplification of God, a reduction that has taken away His very Godness. He is complex, and He has a more complex plan for me than what could ever fit into a butterfly-shaped cookie cutter.
As I’ve been contemplating the idea of loneliness over the last couple of weeks, one image has come to mind over and over again: Jesus praying the night before His crucifixion.
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying,“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
I don’t know what exactly Jesus was feeling in the garden that night, and I don’t want to read too much into the text. I know for certain He felt “sorrowful, even to death” and “troubled” (verses 38 and 37). Do you think He felt lonely in those moments? He was willing to be obedient to His Father, and we know He followed through and was obedient. We know that He, in fact, experienced joy through His death and resurrection, reconciling all who would believe. But do you think He experienced loneliness in the midst of the obedience? In the midst of the joy?
I do. As He was on the cross, He asked His Father why He had forsaken Him (Matthew 27:46). He didn’t ask that question in sin. He didn’t ask that question out of regret for being obedient. He didn’t ask because He forgot about all of the joy that was before Him. He didn’t ask because He forgot about thousands of years’ worth of sinners in need of salvation. He didn’t ask because He stopped being Jesus for a second.
In that moment, the worst moment He had ever known, the moment all of our sin was placed on Him, He wasn’t in perfect community with the Father and the Holy Spirit like He had been for all of eternity, and that had to be the loneliest moment the world has ever known.
Thankfully, it wasn’t over in that moment! Thankfully, God’s story didn’t end there! Thankfully, yes, Jesus did die, but He rose again!
HE ROSE AGAIN!
He accomplished the work that was set before Him. He died so we might be reconciled to Him. He died so we wouldn’t be lonely anymore, so we wouldn’t be separated from Him any longer. He brought us near. He made us part of His family, part of the household of God. Please read Ephesians 2! Powerful, powerful words from the Lord.
As I type all of this, I feel encouraged, but I still feel lonely. Well, a little less lonely that I did before I started typing. So, what next? I have some thoughts.
1) I need to stop thinking about myself so much. Honestly, I think that’s a big part of my problem with loneliness. When my thoughts are filled with me and only me, there’s no one else in them. (Duh.) When there’s no one else in my thoughts, chances are I’m not living out my faith. I’m probably not being encouraging. Likely, I’m not being very hospitable. Chances are, simply put, I’m not loving others well. Jesus didn’t die so I would sit around thinking about myself all the time.
2) I need to preach truth to myself daily – sometimes many, many times a day. If you didn’t do this already, read Ephesians 2. If you’re struggling with loneliness, read it out loud to yourself. Write it on your mirror. Tape it to your dashboard (to read while you’re stopped in traffic or parked somewhere). Write it in a card and mail it to a friend who may be feeling lonely, which leads me to …
3) I need to reach out to other people. This one is linked closely to the first thought, but it takes my thinking a step further into action. I need to be intentional about serving and encouraging others.
4) I need to care for orphans. They are some of the loveliest, loneliest people in our world, and they need people to care for them. God adopted me. Jesus experienced the loneliest moment the world has ever known so that I could be a part of His family. Now it’s my turn to reach out, to extend that love and grace to little people who likely are far lonelier than I’ve ever been.
Now, what are you going to do?
|Not alone. Adopted!|