If you have ever felt the sting of loneliness for any period of time, you understand this truth: loneliness does not mean being alone.
Loneliness may impact us most deeply when we are in a crowd of people.
That’s because loneliness is a heart issue.
God created us to know Him and be fully known by Him on an intimate basis. Crowds are superficial, not intimate. Even those who know us best still do not know or understand the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart.
Although Jesus was God in the flesh, He experienced acute loneliness. In the hour of His greatest need as He hung on the cross of our making, the disciples abandoned Him. Even God the Father turned His back on His only Son so that God’s full wrath could be poured out on Jesus to be judged once and for all.
Jesus even taught His disciples about loneliness by talking about events that had not yet occurred:
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:32–33
Jesus is the friend who lays down His life for His friends (John 15:13–15), sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us but to be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Every believer has the presence of God in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He lives in us and is our interpreter with God. In Christ, even though we may feel lonely, we are never alone.
Loneliness Is Not Depression
When people asked me how I felt during my time of divorce seven years ago, I found it difficult to discern between loneliness and depression. After looking up definitions and reading a few helpful articles, they were easier to identify.
Loneliness doesn’t feel good, but we are still able to function and carry on the tasks of everyday life. On the other hand, depression inhibits our ability to function.
Loneliness says, “I don’t want to get up and go to work.” Depressions says, “I can’t get up and go to work.”
Loneliness is more of a state of mind, whereas depression translates physically. My lack of appetite for a period of time was due to mild depression, not loneliness.
Loneliness can certainly lead to depression if it continues unchecked over long periods of time. That’s why those friends who stop by and insist on getting you out of the house even when you don’t feel like it are truly life savers.
Two Dangers of Loneliness
Two common phrases come to mind when we feel the effects of loneliness: (1) “I need to keep busy to keep my mind off of it,” and (2) “I need to find someone so I don’t feel so lonely.” The first is common, the second can be dangerous, and neither are the long-term solutions.
Most of us battle loneliness with busyness. But at some point, the busyness subsides, and then what? Although non-stop activity can ease your stress and temporarily distract you from feeling overwhelmed, eventually you need to slow down and let the Lord heal your heart.
Allow God to work in the silence what you have covered up by noise. Otherwise, you will careen into the nearest wall at 200 mph in full-blown burnout.
2. Replacement Love
It’s normal to find yourself longing for someone to assuage feelings of loneliness. However, it’s dangerous when you look for that someone in all the wrong places — especially if you are married and that someone is not your spouse.
Instead of giving in and letting neediness make us vulnerable, ask God to shift your focus. Pursue interests that perhaps you have put aside.
I rekindled my interest for travel and photography with enthusiasm and have since have traveled to many states and countries.
I also spent significant time investing in my relationship with the Lord through increased personal Bible study, worship, attending conferences, retreats, and listening to sermon/Bible study podcasts. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this investment.
Once you center your life in Christ and gain confidence without relying on horizontal relationships, you will be in a much better place spiritually and emotionally to embrace a new, healthy relationship when the Lord opens that door.
Declare War on Loneliness
You don’t have to live with loneliness. Period. Although it will inevitably happen, you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling like that until the Lord calls you home. We find the antidote in Scripture:
The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14 (NKJV)
The “secret of the Lord” is what God calls His people. They are those Jesus-loving special friends that every Christian needs. The word “secret” doesn’t mean a hush-hush utterance—it references our close, intimate friends who fear the Lord and with whom we share our joys, sadness, weaknesses, and strengths.
They are the friends you let into your messy home while you’re wearing sweats and no makeup. They are the precious few where we can confide real issues in real time.
We need those secrets of the Lord in our life to declare war on loneliness. Their love may look like chatting over a cup of coffee, but in the spiritual realm it’s like an impenetrable shield of love surrounding you in faith against the enemy’s darts of loneliness.
Loneliness can erect significant barriers that prevent God access to heal our heart and living life to the full.
The answer is short and simple: instead of giving into loneliness, lay claim to the nearness of God.
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Thank you, Lord.
*This post is a revised excerpt from my book, Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce.