Loneliness is something every person experiences at some level. It is a strange experience. It can come on in the middle of a crowded room, a home with people who you know love you, a bed with your spouse, or at work while you’re surrounded by a sea of people. Loneliness is not simply the act of being a lone and wishing people were with you. It is a deep emotion and experience that comes from a lack of connection in a desired or needed fashion.
Most of the time when people drum up a mental picture of loneliness it is a picture of a person sitting alone, petting their cat and wishing they had someone to hold on to. It has such a stigma to it that people are terribly afraid of loneliness. Fearful to the extent that they seek to entertain themselves when the feeling comes along or hide in a pint of ice cream and movie or keep them self so busy that they never take a moment to feel.
Although I do not have a cat, nor will I. (EVER) I have experienced loneliness. I’ve hidden from loneliness. I’ve tried to entertain myself out of loneliness. And for some reason I’m always surprised when I feel a hint of loneliness. I am extremely blessed, as I have some of the most amazing people in my life. I know I am loved. I know I am valued and I know that I could call a number of people up at any given moment and they’d hear my voice and we’d connect. Loneliness still comes for me.
Most of my experiences with loneliness have involved a desire to be pursued by people instead of being the pursuer only. Being remembered for me is one of the ways that my loneliness is curbed.
Loneliness also comes in a powerful way when I feel I’m alone in the way I think, the passion I feel about something, the way I look at the world and the depth I love people. This loneliness is, I believe the loneliness Jesus may have felt before he was arrested. He was in the garden with his best friends and he was overwhelmed with what was ahead of him. Although he was with people, he was alone. He had to wake up his friends. He had to ask them over and over to be with him. He was facing his darkest hour and the reality of that was on him, and totally lost on those with him. It is lonely to feel so deeply and passionately about something and not have anyone feel as deeply as you.
There is a third kind of loneliness. It is a deep loneliness that is felt so powerfully within that it feels as though the depth of your soul can barely breathe. It is found in the loneliness of rejection. The loneliness that comes from standing before someone and letting them know how much you love them and they say, “I’m sorry, I just can’t accept it.” The pain of rejection is met with a deep and tragic loneliness that I know Jesus felt as he was rejected so many times. I think he continues to taste that loneliness when he is standing before people today and they say, “I’m sorry, I just don’t want what you have to offer. I don’t want you.”
The truth is, we each feel and experience loneliness on various levels. And it is my experience that we will continue to feel it in various forms until we are reunited with God at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
But there is a flip side to loneliness. It can be the very thing that drives one to deeper more intimate connection with God and others. I’ve noticed that when I feel the most lonely my first instinct is to hide. To stay in my apartment, watch movies and sit in the emotion. My second instinct, unfortunately not my first, is to ask God why am I feeling lonely. Where are the feelings coming from? And, what am I to learn or experience in this season. Often, the response is for me to spend time with God, or to open my eyes to those around me.
There is no cure for loneliness as it is not a disease, nor is it inherently bad. Loneliness is more of a litmus test for connection. When I feel lonely I know I’m disconnected in some way and need to find out where so I can reconnect, it may also be a way to learn I need someone new in my life. Loneliness is a call to act, to pursue and to re-engage. It can be the very thing that drives me to form a new relationship that could change my life. If we didn’t feel lonely, we as people, who are inherently selfish, would more than likely stay inside and take care of good old number one! Loneliness gives a feeling so uncomfortable that it makes us need one another.
We were not made to be or experience life alone. It is meant to be shared. And there are times where we need some prodding. Loneliness is the prodding stick that shoves us into relationship with God and others.
So next time you feel lonely. Instead of eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and isolating yourself. Ask God, where am I needing to get reconnected? Ask Him, where do you want me to build relationships? and sit with God for just a bit in the midst of the discomfort. Listen to him and respond to His prodding.
What is your experience with loneliness? Is it something you run from in fear? or is it something you embrace and utilize as a guide to relationship? I’d love to know your thoughts.