The Shadow of Loneliness
Loneliness. It often raises images of isolation, abandonment, lack of companionship, relationship or connection. It can feel like a heaviness, a shadow hovering over us. No one seeks to be lonely. Unfortunately, in this fallen world, it’s a common experience to all of mankind.
I’m well-acquainted with loneliness. Growing up as an only child and later, experiencing divorce, loneliness has been a frequent ‘companion’. Even now as a mature woman, I often feel the emptiness of having no one earthly person to share my daily life with. During these times I can easily fall into melancholia and self-pity. Ironically, it is then that I withdraw from others and God, making me even lonelier. Have you ever experienced this downward spiral?
The truth is, neither man nor woman was created to be alone or lonely. In Genesis 2:18, after creating Adam, God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Humans were meant to live in community.
God, Himself lives in community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). God is, in a sense, in all-sufficient community with Himself. He doesn’t need mankind, but created us out of love to live in relationship with Him and others.
As we know, Adam and Eve chose to go their own way which severed that perfect relational union with God and opened the door for mankind to experience broken relationships with God and each other - hence came loneliness.
We see the cry of loneliness even in many of the saints of the Bible, for example:
David frequently expressed the anguish of being abandoned by friends and family during his lifetime. When he was ill, he lamented, “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, and my relatives stand far off” (Psalm 38:11-12).
We know that Paul suffered many incarcerations and also disappointment in friendship: “…Demas, because he loved the world has deserted me…only Luke is with me…Alexander the metal worker did me a great deal of harm…At my first defense, no-one came my support, but everyone deserted me” (2 Tim 4:10-16).
But the One who knew loneliness to the greatest extent was our God, King Jesus. Not only did his best friends fall asleep when he needed them most, but they ran away, even denied knowing Him. Much greater than that, He suffered the ultimate abandonment from His own Father, while hanging on a cross for mankind’s sins: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:33,34). The amazing thing is that He chose to do this – for me, for you, so that we could live in community with Him and with others. At His death, the barrier, the curtain that separated us from God and healthy relationships with others was torn (Mark 15: 37,38). Because of Jesus’s love for us and obedience to God’s calling, we are able to be freed from the debilitating effects of loneliness.
So, what does this look like in our daily lives? How do we deal with with feelings of loneliness when they crop up? Where do we find help?
First, we must recognize that loneliness is not of God. He did not design us to experience loneliness and He is our Rescuer from it.
Second, at anytime, anywhere, we can connect and commune with our God. His arms are always open. He’s just waiting for us to come to Him.
Third, God gives us a Helper, His Spirit, who lives in believers eternally (see John 14:16). Having the Holy Spirit permanently indwelling us means that even when we feel we are cut off from others, we can always be connected with God. The Spirit will often bring us to repentance of our own self-focus and to forgiveness of others who have disappointed us. His work frees us!
Fourth, God gives our lives purpose. When we focus on the love of God and the needs of others, there is little room for loneliness.
Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, when I now feel the shadow of loneliness beginning to hover over me, I’m more frequently able to recognize what it is. I then call out to the Lord asking Him to help me combat these feelings as I meditate especially on Scriptures that remind me I have His Spirit within me … always. He often shows me I need to repent of my self-pity and/or forgive others who have hurt or abandoned me. I’m then able to follow Him as He redirects my thoughts and actions to others - their needs and the ways He wants me to reach out to them. I soon notice that the “shadow” has been replaced with contentment, knowing I’m no longer derailed or enslaved by feelings of loneliness. I’m back on the path and plan the Lord has for me, living in community, connected with Him and others.
Yes, feelings of loneliness will seep into our lives at times, but we need not be overshadowed by them.