Original Post Date: May 4, 2019
Every person I have ever met feels alone. I have known popular people and sidelined people — both feel the same way. Isolated. Disconnected. Why? Because we’re created for a deep, perfectly bonded relationship with our God, and that was ruined when sin entered the world. We are living a life that we weren’t meant to live, in a body that we weren’t meant to have, around a bunch of people who are stuck in the same desperate situation.
Most people spend their lives trying to find a way to fix this. Some people try to fill it with fame, power, or popularity. Some people try to fill it with fancy houses, pretty furnishings, and gadgets. Some people think that knowledge, intelligence, and advanced educations will fix their problems. Some people try to find a special someone who will help them live happily ever after. Others join clubs and sports teams so that they have a sense of belonging and connection. The newest variation on this is those who identify with a victim group in order to bond over mutual misery.
What’s the way out of this mess? Here are some Simple Steps out of loneliness:
1. Identify your loneliness as self-centeredness
When I was young, and even more of a drama queen than I am now, I would cry in despair, “If everyone on earth had to spend the rest of their lives on a desert island, and could only pick one person, no one would pick me!” Now that I’m older, that ridiculous scenario may no longer be my go-to, but I’m still melodramatic enough to find new and improved ways to have pity parties.
Before you chalk me up to “crazy,” I’d like to point out that you share this same sentiment. My desert island scenario was nothing more than a variation on a lifetime theme of self-centeredness – a lovely little original sin we all energetically nurture. The cry of our hearts from the moment of conception is to have others serve our wants and needs (Psalm 51:5). My concern at a young age about having someone think I was the best thing since sliced bread, was nothing more than that perfectly apt t-shirt slogan, “It’s all about me.”
Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). He gives us that analogy because the amount that we love ourselves is something we truly understand. We treat ourselves to special clothes and special coffee and that lovely piece of chocolate that we “earned” at the end of a hard day (or hour).
We love ourselves so much, we even keep track of whether or not others are participating appropriately in the worship of us. Echoing Janet Jackson in her 1986 hit song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” we seek to punish those who have not done their fair share of considering us the center of the universe.
2. Redefine love according to God’s standards
As sinners, when we are looking for love, we are looking to GET something. We are asking, “Who is going to pick me for the desert island, so that I feel loved?” It never occurs to us to ask who might need us on THEIR islands.
We look to feel loved from loving actions coming inbound. In stark contrast, God’s solution to “how to experience love” is nothing like ours. Being the source of all love, God GIVES something. God teaches us the formula for feeling loved; He says that it happens when loving actions head outbound. God’s version of love looks like this: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
This idea of giving, yet somehow ending up with more, makes as much sense to us as some sort of physics equation with more letters than numbers. It’s like burning all the cash in our wallets in order to have money to pay our bills. How does this seemingly backward equation work?
The answer is simple — Jesus. “For God so loved the world . . . “ (John 3:16); it always starts with God. If you don’t have Him, you’re going to feel lonely no matter what you do. He is the source of all love. The love from the Father flows through the Son, through believers, and into the world. Like electrical wires, we are “full” of God’s love and feel it mostly acutely when it is flowing through us and out to others.
Though we might not understand how this system works, God promises us that it IS the answer to our need for love. We can trust that the Creator of this crazy love equation knew what He was doing. We just have to plug in the numbers and trust Him. John 13:34 clearly states our marching orders, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
3. Take action
Feeling lonely and unloved? Single, married, divorced, or widowed, we all long for this never-ending perfect love of God. Don’t look to other people to fill the need. God tells you how to fill that hole in your heart.
Go love other people. God’s abundant love will fill you up, overflow from you, pour through you, and out to others. Care about giving and serving them more than you care about being served. Look for ways to befriend the friendless, help set up and clean up, carry things to the car for a mom who is buried in diaper bags and strollers, ask someone else how she is doing instead of wondering why no one is asking you how you are doing, and when you notice someone is gone from her usual pew, call and ask how she’s doing.
I love this little exchange in A.A. Milne’s book, House at Pooh Corner. Eeyore is complaining that nobody visits him or talks to him. Rabbit says,
“It’s your fault, Eeyore. You’ve never been to see any of us. You just stay here in this one corner of the Forest waiting for the others to come to you. Why don’t you go to them sometimes?”
Eeyore was silent for a little while, thinking.
“There may be something in what you say, Rabbit,” he said at last. “I have been neglecting you. I must move about more. I must come and go.”
So, get out of your corner of the forest! “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).
- Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
- Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh (Theologically, I think he’s off on some stuff, but overall this book has a lot of good “food for thought.”)
- The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin (Theologically, I think there are some “off” things in the book, but overall very helpful for women who struggle in this area.)