I wrote this post a few weeks ago for a guest submission–well before COVID-19 was making the news. Due to the pandemic, the submission site closed. Instead of resubmitting later, I’m sharing my words here. Because even though I wrote it long before the pandemic moved most of us into isolation, it’s more timely than ever. I hope this encourages your heart if you’re facing loneliness in this season.
I had just turned off the lamp when my phone rattled against the wooden nightstand. I outstretched my arm and flipped it over. The glowing screen revealed a late-night text from a friend. Her message expressed frustrated feelings of loneliness in the midst of some difficult trials and she put out a desperate plea for prayer and peace. Each of her words fell into tiny crevices of my heart that had been left behind by my own experiences of walking the bewildering, wilderness roads of loneliness, and I revisited those moments again.
A few years ago, the Army issued orders for my family to move for the fifth time in seven years. You might expect to experience loneliness when your entire life is uprooted to a foreign state. Afterall, you are far from your people and you don’t yet know a soul. Before each move, I tried to prepare. I prayed for the provision of friendships and filled my mind with comforting thoughts. I’ll make new friends. God will provide me with the people I need.
And yet during that move I walked into a season where months passed by and neither of those things seemed to happen. I longed for people. I looked for them, from the fitness center I joined to the women’s ministry team I volunteered with to the other moms at preschool drop off. Despite my introverted nature, I over-extended myself in desperation for real-life connection, and yet, I still had no people in this place. I felt like a lone sojourner journeying across a desolate landscape.
Night after night, I would tuck my two little boys into their beds, sit alone on the couch in our rental house, and sob. I felt lonely, incredibly isolated, and far from home, wherever that was. I tried to wait patiently for people, but the lack and longing were fierce. It turns out that I wanted to do everything but lean into the loneliness.
And then, one night, unexpected news stole my breath, my sleep, and so much more. I wasn’t sure if my marriage, or I, would survive it. Now the loneliness felt unbearable. I hurled questions at God.
Why did you lead me away from my community, into this place of loneliness, and allow my life to fall apart?
These events had an eeriness to them as I’d experienced a similar season before. Seven years prior, after our first permanent change of station and finding myself in my first season without community, my daughter died a month after giving birth to her.
I wrestled with God, wanting to understand why trials and tragedy seemed to strike in these times of loneliness. As I leaned in, I learned a few things.
Jesus was not only with me, He is well-acquainted with loneliness, His own and mine. Jesus spent 40 days alone in the wilderness and walked the lonely path of suffering to the Cross. As I follow after Him, certainly there will be times when I must walk a lonely road too.
In times of loneliness, the enemy hisses, You’re alone, but Jesus says, I am with you.
The enemy wanted me to fear being alone and to question God’s provision and kindness. God wanted me to see how loneliness was a blessing. Here’s what I discovered.
Loneliness is an invitation to take a walk with the Lord, to rely on Him, to get to know Him better, to grow in relationship with Him.
Loneliness clears a way for us to experience a lasting intimacy with the Lord that we may not have otherwise known.
Loneliness reveals our longings and offers us an invitation to find them satisfied in the Lord.
Loneliness reveals our struggles and offers us an invitation to surrender and trust God’s presence, provision, and loving-kindness.
The night my friend’s text lit up my phone, God lit up my heart. I had spent that day sorting piles of toys and clothes and dishes into piles and bins and scheduling appointments in preparation for our next move that’s just months away, and already the enemy was trying to incite fear into my future about our next move and the potential season of loneliness that may once again come. My mind reset on what I know to be true.
Where the enemy wants to remind us of our pain, God wants to remind us of His promises.
Where the enemy wants us to live in fear, God wants us to be expectant and live in Hope.
I responded to my friend’s text with the same words I needed to hear again. When life feels lonely (and I know that it can feel lonely in a crowded room of friends too), I remember the promise that the Lord is always with me and that the paths of loneliness are a gift that pave a way for closeness with Him.
In the times of loneliness that come, let’s not fear or be forceful. Let’s be gentle and lean into the Lord. Let’s enjoy the exclusive invitation we have to spend some one-on-one time with our Father. Let’s lean into the loneliness and find the lasting intimacy we long for.
And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:20b NIV
Recommended Read: The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot
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