Has Loneliness Crept Into Your Life?
Written by Gregg Pennington
Do you ever experience feelings of loneliness and isolation? Is it wrong to feel lonely? How can we deal with these feelings and bring good out of loneliness?
I consider myself a happy person overall. But no matter what stage of life I have been in, no matter where I was, no matter if I was single or married, at times I’ve felt lonely.
I will assume that every person reading this has experienced the same thing. Some have lost their spouse. Some have never been married. Others experience loneliness because they don’t have a close relationship with their family or feel like they lack close, quality friendships.
Loneliness hits new heights
A recent survey by the University of Phoenix asked more than 1,000 people to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them. It reported that 44 percent of people said that their loneliness was the highest it has ever been.
With the isolation we’ve had to experience due to the closures and stay-at-home orders, it’s not hard to figure out why.
What is the definition of loneliness?
First of all, loneliness does not mean just being alone. Many people need alone time to recharge. At times we are alone to pray. If we are a busy parent, some alone time can be very refreshing.
Loneliness is a feeling of being cut off, unwanted or isolated. It is unwanted aloneness. It doesn’t only occur when we are alone at home, but can even occur when we’re in a large group. You may even go to a large Feast site or church activity and feel lonely—especially if you don’t know many people there. Have you ever experienced loneliness when you’re surrounded by people?
Loneliness in the Bible
The Bible has much to say about the experience of loneliness. In fact, God addressed the issue very early in the human experience. Before the creation of Eve, Adam was alone on earth—with only the animals to keep him company.
But God made this statement about Adam’s situation: “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (Genesis 2:18).
When you read through Genesis 1 and 2, you find that God declared everything about His creation good until this point. Loneliness was the first thing He said was “not good.” God knew that Adam needed relationships and connections with other beings like him. God designed Adam, and all of us, that way.
Several of God’s servants in the Bible experienced loneliness.
Jeremiah was not permitted to marry and spent most of his life alone and disliked because he preached God’s message (Jeremiah 16). Elijah felt despair because his life was in danger and he felt totally alone as a true prophet of God (1 Kings 19:10). In 2 Timothy 4:16 Paul wrote, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.” Paul felt lonely because no one stood with him. Part of Job’s misery was due to his children being taken from him (Job 1:13-21).
All of these men were great servants of God, but all were also human. Is it wrong to feel loneliness?
Is loneliness a sin?
Consider the only perfect human who ever walked the earth. Was Jesus Christ ever lonely? He had a perfect relationship with the Father and was able to use the Holy Spirit perfectly.
Consider the words Jesus spoke close to His death: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Imagine how alone He must have felt at that moment. Not only did He feel the pain of the execution, the betrayal of His disciples, the mocking of the crowds, and the cruelty of the soldiers—He also had to experience a temporary period of isolation from His Father.
(To learn more about why Christ was temporarily forsaken before His death, read “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?”)
Since He felt it and never sinned, we know that loneliness is not sinful. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus Christ can sympathize with our weaknesses. He understands loneliness because He experienced it.
Just as anger can be used for good or bad, loneliness can also be used positively or negatively.
How can it hurt us? If we focus on loneliness and allow ourselves to continue in it, it can lead us into sadness and depression. This can cause us to focus on ourselves and retreat inward. This thinking can lead us into a spiritual, physical and emotional downward spiral.
How can we use loneliness to grow?
Loneliness hurts, and no one likes to hurt. But we can use that hurt to grow, rather than let it cause us to stumble and self-destruct. No matter where we are in our lives—no matter how great our spouse is, our kids are, our family is, our friends are—we are all going to feel lonely at times.
Consider these three ways we can use loneliness to grow:
1. Loneliness reminds us of a joyful future.
Loneliness can help us focus on the truth that this life isn’t everything. Even the best this life has to offer is nothing compared to the future God has called us to. As wonderful as blessings in this life can be, we should long more for God’s Kingdom.
Loneliness will be gone, and we will indeed be at one with God and together with His family. Consider the great joy we will have in the future. Loneliness should help us look forward to that beautiful time.
2. Loneliness reminds us to draw closer to God.
We mentioned above that Paul experienced a time when no one stood by his side. In the next verse he wrote: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Psalm 40:1-2 describes David’s reliance on God in hard times: “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock and established my steps.”
David went through horrible times in his life, yet God was his Rock. Some of the psalms show the loneliness and despair David felt and how his faith in God helped and strengthened him. Psalm 142 is one example of how David felt alone and cried out to God when Saul was chasing him.
When you feel lonely, it is helpful to read through the Psalms and see how David relied on God during his lowest times.
3. Loneliness reminds us to help others.
We need others. But we should also remember that others need us. We should look out for those who need help and those who experience loneliness.
When we are together at church services, we can seek out those who may be lonely and fellowship with them. We can practice hospitality and invite people over to our homes for a meal and fellowship. We can especially do this at the Feast for those who may be there by themselves.
Peter tells us to “above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
Knowing good can come out of loneliness doesn’t always take away the pain. It can still be hard. But try to use loneliness to help you grow—to desire God’s Kingdom more, to draw closer to God, and to care more for other people.