Have you ever been lonely … really lonely?

If you have ever had that deep ache in your heart, and didn’t know what to do but say, “God, I feel lonely,” I know how it feels. I fell into that pit when I was halfway around the world.

Before I tell you more about that, I want to say that this is a follow-up post to “Finding the Purpose of Life”. As I think about the profound impact that this season of loneliness had on me more than three decades ago, it helps me to help my kids learn how to really enjoy belonging to God, in our daily lives.

I Was a Foreigner

China - pixabay.com/judithscharnowskiIn 1985-86, I was teaching English in another country for a year.

At first, it’s kind of exciting to be in a different country. Everything is new, which means adventure, fun, growing, and learning.

We also had a mid-year conference to look forward to, which meant going to another new place, seeing a bunch of friends, and relaxing.

But, coming back from the conference was a different story. What had been exciting and new, was now old. Rats outside and bugs inside. Not much heat during the cold time of year. People still speaking this strange language all around me. And they didn’t even know what cheese was.

My Absolute Lowest Point

Somehow I had hit the lowest point of the year. Or it had hit me … very unexpectedly.

Having a whole new group of students didn’t help. That was not the kind of “new” I wanted. I wanted the old students that I had already built some relationships with.

Starting the second semester was like starting all over again, minus all the original excitement.

I was lonely, very lonely.

Even though I had teammates (a family of five) in another building on the same campus, and other friends teaching in various parts of that huge metropolis we were living in, the loneliness was the worst I’d ever experienced in my life.

Now keep in mind — this was 1986. I had no computer, I had never heard of email, and the inventors of Facebook probably hadn’t learned to read yet!

Phone calls were so difficult, from where I was, I needed an interpreter to even attempt it. I made two phone calls from that part of the world. Actually three, if you count waking up some stranger in the middle of the night.

I came to the conclusion that the effort it took to put a call through was not worth the stress of trying to find something important to say in a few short minutes, with the ever-mounting cost uppermost in my mind.Envelope - pixabay.com/lethutrang101

We did have snail mail. But it took about eight days in each direction. So if I said anything in a letter about being lonely and depressed, my parents would be really sad eight days later. And then if they wrote back about being sad because I was sad, I’d have another wave of sadness to deal with in sixteen days. Better not to say anything about it.

I just wanted God to take the loneliness away!

How Could I Get My Head Above Water?

I knew I should praise the Lord, but somehow all I could bring myself to do was to pick up a Keith Green tape, insert it in the cassette tape player, and press “play.” I figured I could at least listen to Keith praising the Lord, even if I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.

At about that time, a representative from the organization I was working with, traveled to visit us, to encourage us. (They probably know it’s the worst time of the year.) That helped some.

What really helped a lot, though, was when I started thinking about John chapter 11 — about Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus died.

Mary came to Jesus and “fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died'” (John 11:32, NKJV).

She didn’t understand at all. Yet in her great grief and lack of understanding, she fell down at Jesus’ feet and called Him “Lord.”

Mary was weeping. Others were weeping. And guess what Jesus did? He wept.

He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. It was all in His plan. But the amazing thing is — He wept with them!

An Unexpected Answer

Somehow God worked in my heart to show me the wrong perspective that I had.

I had been thinking of God as being “over there.” I mean I knew He was with me, but I was “here” and He was “there.” And I wanted Him to “come here” and take this loneliness away from me.

It was like we were in a big room, and I was sitting all by my lonesome self, wanting God to please come over from the other side of the room and just get rid of my problem.

Then the realization sank in that Jesus actually wanted to share the loneliness with me — He wanted to sit there in the lonesome corner with me! Amazing!

When I let Him share it with me, I didn’t really care if I was lonely. In fact, the loneliness became a very special thing that only Jesus and I shared!

But soon, the loneliness went away. I was almost disappointed to lose this special thing that only Jesus and I had been sharing together. But I learned that Jesus is literally with me always, no matter what.

He’s not just with me in some way that I know in my head. But really with me. Always.

So That’s the “How”

Back to the purpose of life being to praise and glorify God and enjoy belonging to Him, the “how to do that” has at least two parts to it.

1. We can praise Him whether we feel like it or not. This is sort of like when Mary fell down at Jesus’ feet even in the midst of her deep pain. If it’s really hard to sing praises with our own lips, we can at least listen to someone else praising God.

2. We can pour out our heart to Him and let Him know we don’t understand, while at the same time realizing that He shares our pain with us. We can treasure and even enjoy that sweet fellowship with Jesus in the midst of pain.

To enjoy belonging to Him is not limited to the good times, but is made deeper and even more meaningful in the hard times.

Funny thing is, it doesn’t take going halfway around the world to feel lonely. My heart aches for the loneliness our kids have felt even in the most unlikely places.

But this is one of the most valuable lessons that I want my kids to learn — that Jesus is always with them and shares their pain.

 

 

 

 

God, I Feel Lonely

14 thoughts on “God, I Feel Lonely

  • December 18, 2018 at 9:41 pm
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    I definitely think we all get lonely and sometimes what’s really missing is internal. Perhaps you lacked faith for one reason or another or even just didn’t realize you were missing something in your life.

    While I’m not religious, I admire your strong faith is something greater than yourself and I’m so happy you’ve found happiness so you’re not feeling so lonely and down on your luck.

    Things will get better for you, just keep moving forward and living your life to the fullest!

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    • December 20, 2018 at 3:20 pm
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      Thank you, Aria. I really appreciate you taking time to read this and to comment. I think the main thing about my faith that helps me in those lonely times is that it isn’t just a thing I try to hold onto, or a feeling that helps me get through hard times. It’s in a real person — Jesus. I believe He is the Son of God, became a man, took our punishment by dying for us, then rose again to defeat death, and He is alive and real, and I can really know Him. Merry Christmas!

      Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 9:44 pm
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    Hi Danette! I’m so glad you found a way out of your loneliness. A lot of people struggle with this. And not just for a short time. I think some people might feel lonely even when they are surrounded by people who love them. Prayer and gratitude may be the answer. Thank you for sharing.

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  • December 18, 2018 at 9:55 pm
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    Hi, Danette. There were lonely times when we do not know what to do. However, due to technology these days, we could be so caught up in them that we forgot to spend lonely time with God. It is good that you have suggested listening to praise and worship songs even though we don’t feel like singing. It brings peace at heart and soothes us. I have forgotten it at times that it’s good to have a reminder like your article. Thanks for sharing!

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    • December 19, 2018 at 5:28 am
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      Yes, worshiping God no matter how we feel does bring a deep peace to our hearts. God bless you as you worship Him!

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  • December 18, 2018 at 10:00 pm
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    This is an incredible post. I know very well the taste of loneliness and I do believe in God. Sometimes its very important to talk to him and share with him our hearts, no matter in what mental condition we are. When it comes to a hard time in life we are ready to talk to God and pray, but somehow when everything is right we don’t have time for him… I am talking about myself … I think the more we share our thought with God the easiest it is to escape the emptiness and loneliness. 

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    • December 19, 2018 at 5:45 am
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      That is so true! God wants so much for us to talk to Him, and He loves us more than we could ever imagine!

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  • December 18, 2018 at 10:01 pm
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    I do believe that the loneliness you felt back in the 1986 is still extremely common and widespread. The fact that we have all these types of social media and ways to communicate (e-mail, text) doesn’t really solve the problem. Supposedly people are communicating but to feel a real connection, the prerequisites of it haven’t really changed during the years – you have to be in the same room. In that sense social media couldn’t be more impersonal and even harmful (which is a whole another story).

    I believe loneliness in of itself is perfectly natural as all of as are longing for connection and relationships. 

    Above all, I do find the revelation really both beautiful and powerful. One can never be alone. I would even go a step further than that saying that, one does not have to have people around him to experience one’s own bliss. Certainly, it’s important to develop deep and meaningful connections with people around you. But it isn’t everything. 🙂

    Cheers and thank you for the beautiful message. Have a Great One!

    Matiss

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    • December 19, 2018 at 6:56 am
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      I think you bring out a great point — that social media, email, and text don’t really solve the problem. In some ways, it might even make the root problem of loneliness harder to face or deal with, because it can mask the reality of what’s wrong in our hearts. Thanks for your insight, Matiss.

      Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 10:12 pm
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    I’m loving the message. And I can only concur. I also do believe than no one can ever be alone. We have God always by our side.

    As for humanly connection, the social media I do think helps. But only to a certain degree. Meaning you can only feel a connection to a limited capacity. For true bonding, there is no better way that actually being in the same room and communicating in real life. For some people this is the only remedy.

    In that sense I absolutely love the impact that Judah Smith is trying to have – to have a lot less lonely people in our world, to battle it on a grand scale. He actually believes that through social media in time we can do great things in this regard. Streaming service online would just be the beginning. 🙂

    And I think we can totally make it happen.

    Thank you for spreading this awesome message about loneliness.

    Have a Wonderful Day!

    Rasa

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    • December 20, 2018 at 3:56 am
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      Thank you, Rasa, for letting me know about Judah Smith. I had never heard of him before, although I am familiar with other churches that stream their services online. Although, as you said, social media can only help to a certain degree, it is something that we can and should use to help as many people as possible. God bless!

      Reply
  • November 22, 2019 at 6:13 am
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    Thank you for sharing this. I ran across your article while googling “how to deal with loneliness in church.” I’ve been a part of the same church community for five years (through college and after) and it’s been the most incredibly painful five years due to feeling lonely. Lots of tissue paper and crying while reading Psalms. Because this season of my life has been so long, I truly have forgotten/fallen into unbelief that God truly is with me through the loneliness, and that he ultimately has a purpose and plan for it. Thank you for reminding me. I look forward to casting my cares onto my savior as I spend time with him today.

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    • November 22, 2019 at 8:42 pm
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      I am so thankful that God used this to encourage you! He loves you SO much!

      Reply

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