For much of my adult life, I’ve struggled with loneliness. I’m surrounded by people – good people. But often I stand in a crowded room and feel unseen, and alone. I don’t have a fool-proof cure for loneliness but I can share what God has been teaching me.
A mom leaves an event full of lovely women, laughter and fun only to stumble through the door at home in tears.
This was me several times last week.
As an introvert, large social events and groups tend to be a challenge. I’m much more comfortable with just one or two people. In many groups, I tend to sit back and listen instead of jumping into the conversation. As a result, unless someone asks me a direct question, I may not speak at all. Often, I go home feeling like I had things to say and I regret not speaking.
That regret becomes frustration. That frustration opens old wounds. I don’t feel heard. Or seen.
Did it even matter I was there at all? Familiar feelings of loneliness rise – powerful and painfully real.
Still, other times, these feelings of loneliness rise up out of nowhere, uninvited, and without cause.
These feelings aren’t based on truth. They are a result of me believing a terrible internal lie – that I wasn’t wanted or needed.
The truth is, I was invited to the event I spoke of earlier. My presence was welcomed. My words and thoughts would have been welcomed as well. No one said or did anything unkind or cold to me. Loneliness doesn’t always show up when it makes sense. Often times, the feelings are real, but they don’t make sense at all.
Why do I still feel lonely?
Usually it isn’t others who make me feel lonely.
But that doesn’t change the overwhelming way feelings of loneliness hurt. Experience has shown that left unchecked, loneliness can be paralyzing. Focusing on loneliness robs my days of joy and causes me to pull back from relationships – further perpetuating the problem.
When loneliness surfaces, it is imperative that I take purposeful steps to battle against it. As I said before, I am still struggling (even as I write this) with loneliness and perceived rejection.
These are a few ways I’m learning to address loneliness when it comes up.
Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness
A good friend is a beautiful thing. But no friendship can rid me of loneliness. When I’m lonely, what I need most is more of God. Whether I ‘feel’ His presence or not, I need to press into Him by reading His Word and praying.
When I feel lonely, the enemy’s lies seem like truth. I question my worth. I begin to suppress God’s truth about who God says I am. When this happens, I need to tell God my thoughts, even though they go against what He says.
‘God I know You made me without mistake. I know I am fully loved and fully known by You. Yet, right now I feel inadequate, unloved, unworthy and rejected. I feel so alone and unseen by others. Help me to see myself and this circumstance as you do. Will you help me believe it and walk in truth?’
Often, pouring out feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and self-loathing at God’s feet brings peace. It is hard to be in God’s presence and believe lies. Being with Him opens my eyes to truth and helps my soul rest in His comforting arms.
In the midst of loneliness, the focus is on me. I desperately need to worship God. Worship turns my focus outward and upward. He is still God, and He is good – regardless of any emotion or circumstance I may be in. When I remember God’s character – His goodness, faithfulness and kindness – and how He has revealed Himself to me, it becomes hard to feel alone.
Kari Jobe’s ‘I Am Not Alone‘ has helped me worship this week. What comfort there is in recalling that God never leaves me and always goes before me!
See A Friend
Isn’t it strange that when struggling with loneliness, I tend to isolate myself?
Isolating myself happens when I believe and accept the lie that no one cares if I’m there or not. In all honesty, even after spending time with God, I sometimes still feel lonely and disconnected. Isolation only makes things worse.
In these moments, I need a good friend. I am grateful to have several women in my life with whom I can share hard things. One friend, in particular comes to mind – she lifts me up, encourages me, and points me to Jesus. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do, it is like no time has passed between us. We do spend time catching up on daily life, but we always spend time talking about what is on our hearts.
Time spent with a good friend lifts the soul.
God gave us the gift of fellowship so we can be mutually encouraged by one another. But we need to be IN fellowship with others to experience it.
Last week, after a rough morning wrestling with emotions, I called that friend. We met at a park with the kids. Kids played. We took a walk. We talked. I shared my heart – she listened and then spoke truth and kindness into hurting places. I left feeling recharged, refreshed and so very grateful. Time spent with her is life-giving. Friends like this are a priceless gift.
As an introvert, I know I need more one-on-one time with good friends. This time has to be built into my life on a regular basis because life is BUSY. Schedule it. Show up.
BE A Friend
Sometimes we long for deeper friendships, but we haven’t made it our mission to just go out and BE a friend.
Friendship is a two-way street – if we want people to be there for us, we need to be there for them! Cultivating deep relationships takes time and purposeful effort.
Check in with that friend about ‘that thing’ they mentioned last time you talked – the appointment, interview, struggle, celebration or milestone. Notice when a friend is unusually quiet and ask how they are doing. Then be prepared to make time to listen to how they’re really doing.
Often, I feel the most lonely when I’m busy. Some seasons, like after having a baby, may just be busy. It happens to all of us. But sometimes, we allow good things to make us so busy that there is no margin for people. When this happens, we need to make some adjustments to maintain valuable friendships. Examine your schedule and priorities to be sure you’ve left room for people.
Let people know you care. Be available to others. Being connected to others in daily life opens the door to have conversations about what is on your heart.
Start with one person. Who will it be?
This post was shared at the Salt & Light Linkup #23, head on over to see tons of encouraging posts!