The Dominican Republic. This was the location of my missions trip I just returned from. Every year, I journey to a country with students across Tennessee. Every year, I leave my wife and three kids behind. Every year, I am surrounded by people and a bit lonely. Every year, my wife is with our three kids and lonely. I’m sure you have been here before. It’s funny you can be all alone and feel ok, or be surrounded by people and feel all alone. Either way, it seemed appropriate to discuss this topic of loneliness this week.
Before we go any further, I would like to point out that some of the information I am using in this post, I found in Craig Groeschel's book, #Struggles.
The emotion is sadness. It can come for many different reasons and present itself in many different forms. Some people are good at hiding it, others not so much. It destroys the lives of some and brings about great change and triumph in others. Life truly is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. Often, this emotion presents itself because of loneliness.
This could be the emotion while waiting to find the right 'person' to marry and you are dealing with being single. It could be that you are struggling to make friends at your new job, new school, or in a new city. Loneliness can be from the loss of a loved one. Wherever you find yourself, there is a good chance that at some point in your life, you are going to deal with loneliness. Let's look at a few thoughts to help us navigate this feeling:
1. God made us for LOVE.
We like this. Or I might say, we 'love' this! In Genesis 2:18, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" There is a deep desire inside each of us to love and to be loved. This Is not limited to the arena of marriage either. Look at the life of David. In 1 Samuel 18, by the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David. An immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David, and from that point on, he would be David's number-one advocate and friend.
I believe there is something inside each and every one of us, longing for relationship like this. A friend that sticks closer than a brother. Someone who sees who you really are, and still cares. So what happens when we are not finding this friendship. What do we do in the years before the right person comes alongside us to be our spouse?
2. God made us for LONELINESS.
This might surprise some of you. As presented in my last blog, emotions come from God. He is a God of emotion and longs to be with His people. Look at Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." God is okay with and in fact wants us to mourn. It is what drives us to connections. We are meant to have deep, sometimes difficult feelings of loneliness to motivate us into contact with others, meeting our deeper needs of friendship. This opportunity of loneliness drives us toward real friendship, real intimacy, first with God and then with others.
Unfortunately, we live in an age of social media. And I say 'unfortunately' very lightly, as I love what social media allows us to do. It can be of great benefit if used correctly, but can be used for destruction if not. Because of 'likes,' many of us have become addicted to immediate affirmation. This affects our relationships because of something sociologists call "deferred loneliness." We are trying to meet some short-term need, but in the process, we're deferring a deeper, longer-term need.
In other words, we are living for Likes, but longing for love! Let loneliness do it's work in you, so you can come out better. Likes feel great for the moment, but leave you empty. Real connection may take longer to have, but will be worth it, helping you live a fulfilled, content life.
3. God made us for LIVING.
Jeremiah 31:13 "I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."
There is a great story in John 5, of a healing of a paralytic. This story breaks my heart for this man. He had been in this condition for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years! Jesus sees him, as He sees all of us in our need, and asks him, "Do you want to get well?" We could dig into this question quite a bit, with the thought that perhaps we like our crutches. We like the pity we receive. We like having the attention. Ultimately, we are miserable in our state though. This man's response was simply, "Sir, I have no one." No one to help. No one to be there for me. No one to give me an opportunity. He needed healing, but he really needed a friend.
This condition led him to Jesus. We cannot truly live without the hand of God resting on our lives. All of our drive, passion, vision and work comes to nothing without Him. Jesus is there to meet this man's physical need, but in his healing was able to give him what he really needed, a friend and life again.
So Jesus is saying to all of us today, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." We can not stay in our lonely state. It may be for a season, but it is not for your life. It is a means to and end. We were never meant to stay that way. He instead gives us joy, unspeakable and full of glory! Too often we stay longer than we were ever meant to stay. And so today, can I speak plainly into your life? Do not be offended as I offer spiritual help:
Get up! Take what you have. You have gifts, talents, humor, personality. You are not worthless. You don't have to stay paralyzed in fear. You are enough for someone. People will like you. You don't have to hide what God gave you. If you continue to hide yourself, you will not ever find the joy of relationship in this life. Go and do something great for the kingdom of God and for others! They are waiting for you!