I feel lonely. How many of us have made that statement before? I remember one time I was meeting with a young man from our youth ministry at church. He said that his mom had a great job working for the United Nations. She made lots of money from the UN but was always travelling. His father had a great business importing cars from Dubai into Nairobi to sell, but he too was always travelling. They lived in a massive house in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Nairobi, and they had nice cars. Money was not a problem.
This young man said that his dad would give him 500,000KES a month to pay all of the bills, pay drivers, pay house workers, and whatever money was leftover he could use for his things. After paying all bills and employees, the young man was left with way more money than the earning of an average person in Nairobi. He said that even though he had money and could do whatever he wanted, he felt lonely. His parents were always gone, and the only adult he would typically see was the house help and the gardener. He said that he didn’t enjoy alcohol or going to clubs, but he would go to be around other people, but ultimately it didn’t satisfy his desires.
This story is just one example of the loneliness that many of us have felt at some point or maybe are already feeling. We have been in crowded rooms but felt lonely. We have had money, but didn’t feel together with people. We have had positions of authority and power, but didn’t feel like we had a true friend. We have gone to church and talked with people, but still, there are times that we felt lonely. Loneliness is something that is a struggle for a lot of us. Why do we feel lonely? What are ways that we can overcome this?
Lonely Verses Alone
The word “alone” appears about 118 times in the scripture, but rarely does it mean the same thing as “lonely.” The word “loneliness” did not acquire its definition until the 1900s, which can hint to us that loneliness is a more recent challenge to the human race. People rarely said that they were feeling lonely in a crowd of people, but nowadays, it is more common than we realize. Loneliness is one thing, but aloneness is much different. Being alone can actually be a great doorway to God. Consider what Jesus said to distinguish feeling lonely and being alone. He said, “…You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32).
Jesus was alone but didn’t feel lonely because God the Father was with him. He was physically alone, and according to the context of John 16:32, he was to be abandoned by his disciples, but he did not feel lonely. So what is loneliness if it does not mean to be physically alone? Loneliness is the state of sadness that comes from feeling isolated or cut off from others. Loneliness can be experienced whenever you’re in a crowd, but don’t feel a connection with others. Have you ever felt the emotions of loneliness before? Even the greatest of saints in the Bible have felt lonely. David, for example, said “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16).
Loneliness is an emotion that many of us have felt from time to time. Some of us might feel it often. In contrast, being alone, yet not feeling lonely is something that Jesus experienced (John 16:32). Jesus often sought solitude. He purposefully departed himself from others to be with the Father (Matthew 14:23). So if loneliness is an emotion and being alone is the physical separation for others, then why do we feel lonely?
Why Do We Feel Loneliness?
David felt lonely because of rejection (Psalm 142:4). Job felt lonely because of unfaithful friends (Job 6:14-15). Elijah felt lonely because he was afraid of Jezebel’s anger (1 Kings 19:3-4). There are other reasons you could feel lonely; it could be because of the death of a friend or family member. Other reasons you could feel lonely are personal illness, singleness, joblessness, major moves that are life change, separation from friends and family, being handicapped, or experiencing failure. There are lots of reasons why you might feel lonely. Examine yourself and ask God to examine you so that you pinpoint why you feel lonely. Being alone with God is an asset in bringing you great hope, but loneliness will hinder that (Psalm 62:5). So how can our souls find rest from that which makes us feel lonely to get the most out of being alone with God?
To feel lonely after experiencing some of the reasons listed above is natural, but you must be careful because it is tempting to let what is natural become harmful to you and your relationship with God. You can naturally feel lonely because of joblessness, singleness, or rejection, but be careful that you don’t entertain thoughts of self-pity or anger towards God, which leads to estrangement from him. The effects of self-pity and estrangement from God prevent you from experiencing the loving comfort of God, which is the blessing of being alone with him. Turn to God whenever you’re feeling lonely, and he can bless you with loving comfort (Psalm 25:16).
Dulling the Pain of Loneliness
A temptation that you will go through whenever you feel lonely is to dull the pain by finding substitutes for God’s loving comfort. Temptations such as drinking, drugs, going to clubs, paying for all expenses for friends, texting an old boyfriend or girlfriend, posting selfies for attention, sending inappropriate pictures to others are amongst some of the things that can tempt you to dull the pain. But these things don’t fill your natural desires for relationship with others and with God, because they only give you temporal joy or distraction.
Instead of dulling the pain, which usually is based in self-pity, refocus on your relationship with the Lord. The writer of Psalm 62 did this whenever he felt lonely. He would fight loneliness by preaching to himself the hope that is found in the Lord (Psalm 62:5). To have significant relationships with others, you must cultivate real intimacy with the Lord which will help you realize that you’re never truly alone (Psalm 139:7-10). Only after doing that can you move forward with love towards others regardless of how genuine their love is toward you. Jesus is an example of this. Remeber that he could be alone in John 16:32 and not feel lonely because he cultivated real intimacy with the Father.
If you struggle with loneliness as a Christian due to many factors fight the temptations of self-pity and anger, which lead to separation from God with preaching to yourself the hope found in God (Psalm 62:5). Memorize scripture that reminds you that you’re never truly alone and quote it to yourself often (Psalm 139:7-8). Remind yourself of the incredible blessings you have in the Lord and seek him with all that you have (Psalm 63:18).
Find rest from loneliness in God (Psalm 62:5-6) and do not seek freedom in things that will ultimately enslave you (2 Peter 2:19). Expect that certain times of year or holidays will bring up grief which can lead to loneliness (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Whenever that happens, do your best to find a friend to be near (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Then lastly remind yourself that loneliness is only something that you will struggle through in this world. God will wipe away every tear one day, and you will find total peace and contentment when his loving comfort becomes site (Revelation 21:4).