Loneliness is one of the worst emotions that humans experience. It is suffocating, it is demoralizing, and, at its worst, can shove a person over the brink to suicide. No wonder we try to avoid it at all costs, and desire that our loved ones never encounter it!
But what if we realized it were a gift from God Himself because He desires to give us something really precious?
Before you think I’m totally nuts and stop reading, please give me a chance to explain.
I want to be clear that I don’t believe God created loneliness. In fact, I believe He never intended for us to ever experience it. He created us to experience and live in relationship that completely obliterates loneliness.
But we don’t. We live in a fallen condition in which our eyes are veiled from seeing our Heavenly Father’s face, and in a fallen world in which imperfect relationships fall short of meeting our needs for connection, love, and affirmation.
To add insult to injury, we live among people – even fellow Christians – who believe the essence of a person’s existence is based on a connection to someone else. When that doesn’t happen, especially in a romantic sense, not only is loneliness difficult to bear, others’ negative assessments and perceptions of us – even pity – add to that difficulty.
And so we paste on smiles and act as though we are completely satisfied with our lives to avoid the stigma of being lonely singles. The secret is, it’s not just singles who do this. Loneliness is not a respecter of persons, and just as many married people experience loneliness as singles. After all, they live in this fallen world with us, with imperfect spouses who aren’t equipped to fill their needs for connection, love, and affirmation.
Before we can find any relief from the harsh grip of loneliness, it’s important we realize that circumstances do not determine loneliness. The prospect of an evening at home alone may be relished by one person, for instance, and dreaded by another.
Loneliness itself is a feeling that results from something else. While it may seem to be from external circumstances, in reality the culprit is from within. Mostly it is from perspective, based on an interpretation of our circumstances, not from reality. We allow our value to be determined by our connection – or lack of it – to another person, rather than being confident in our intrinsic value given by God Himself, completely separate from anyone else.
So what is this precious gift I referred to earlier? I believe one of the reasons God allows us to experience loneliness is to give us a deeper connection with Him. It’s often in the vacuum of human relationships that we experience the reality of our Heavenly Father present with us – as real as any human in physical form would be. When we are so consumed with human relationships, all the “noise” of our social connections drowns out His voice and hides Him from us.
As a four-year-old who watched her baby sister choke to death, I learned the harsh reality that anyone could be taken from me at any time and without warning. I feared my mother’s death like no child should ever fear, and carried a form of that fear into adulthood. I couldn’t fathom a world without my mother to phone when I was far away, and to hug when I was near.
When that fear became reality, I experienced the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I now know the realness of my Heavenly Father’s constant presence. While I’d always had a relationship with Him, it has became more real. I hear His voice. I know His affirmation and feel His delight. He’s revealed His purpose for me and I feel fulfillment as I pursue it. He met me right in the vacuum of a human relationship I’d held to tightly from age four!
That is the precious gift God wants to give to each of His children – a real relationship with Him that meets our deepest needs for connection, love, and affirmation. I’m not saying one has to experience loneliness or the loss of a loved one to find that relationship. But loneliness, perhaps more than anything else, can drive us to Him.
Just before Moses died he stood before the Israelites and gave them a choice – life or death, blessing or curse. If they followed God, they would experience life and blessing. If they pursued other gods, they would find death and curse.
As we experience loneliness we have a choice. Will we keep wallowing in the curse of loneliness and allow it to take us down a slippery slope to death? Or will we use that vacuum to drive us to a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father, and experience His blessing of a purposeful and abundant life?