Here we are at the beginning of another year. While some of you live in warm climates all year, others of you will be living through another cold and snowy winter. It seemed a good time to take a look at loneliness.
I’m no stranger to loneliness. I think it has been a thread that has run through most of my life. You see, I don’t fit in any clear cut box. I never have. There have been a number of different seasons of loneliness in my life. Maybe you can relate to one or another of these.
We can feel lonely because of our own personality and we just don’t make friends easily. We want friends but don’t know how others seem to make them so easily. Hanging around the fringes of others’ community just doesn’t fill our need for closeness.
We can feel lonely because we are the only one we know that is in our situation. That may be a place or a season of life or the age we are and the ages of those around us. We’re the only one nursing her baby or that speaks English or that is younger than 70 and older than 15. Or merely because it is too cold to get out with a baby.
We can feel lonely because we are just too busy to make friends. Friends take time to cultivate and we are out of time and energy to make that happen.
We can feel lonely because we are in a season of God’s silence to us. He may be building our faith that He is there even when we don’t ‘feel’ Him. Or He may be drawing us to a willingness to step out of our comfort zone and learn He can guide us without our sense of awareness of His directions.
A few lessons I’ve learned
This is a big topic with far too many causes and cures. But I want to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned about loneliness.
Loneliness is rarely terminal. Usually the loneliness I’ve experienced has been just for a season. But I believe we do experience a loneliness that won’t be satisfied until we are in our Heavenly Home. That longing draws us on when nothing else seems to help us get through tough times.
But most of our loneliness, no matter what the cause, will end. Sometimes we just have to live through it. When our children are little and it is impossible to have an uninterrupted adult conversation, we are lonely. But in a few years, those babies and toddlers are off to school and then there will be an opportunity to have the deeper friendships we were craving.
When I was in nursing school, there were rotations that I found particularly distasteful. I learned a mental trick that has helped me through other seasons of discomfort. “This will end. Can I do this for (name the period of time)?” My answer was always, “Yes,” because I knew it wasn’t forever. Maybe this will help you endure through your present lonely season.
Each friend can only partially ease my loneliness. One friend doesn’t have to meet all my needs. Each person in my life may supply part of the answer to my loneliness. I have had friends who were as much as 50 years different in age from me, from radically different cultures, different races, Christian or not yet Christian, with very different personalities and so on. I tend to have one or a few close friends at a time and I don’t need a crowd of friends. But at times there didn’t seem to be anyone I could relate to. I found when I made it a matter of prayer, God would open my eyes to someone who could meet at least part of my need.
It required me to step out of my shell and make time for them. I needed to find something we had in common to build the relationship around. It was hard for me when I had to be the one to take the first step, but I was usually met more than half way when I tried.
One caution with this is to not drown the budding friendship with too much time together or too many demands. Savor the time together and wait long enough between visits so that you are really welcome.
Paying too much attention to my feelings of loneliness only made it worse.
Like homesickness, looking at it too long, just makes it feel hopeless that there will ever be an end to the loneliness. Taking note of the good things in my life and purposefully writing them down helps. Getting physically busy, cleaning a closet or rearranging some furniture can help. Telling one prayer partner I need prayer today, even if I didn’t tell them what for, helps me know I’m not really alone.
Some things that can help us in our temporary loneliness:
- Nothing will make companions magically appear, but we can lift our mood.
- Remember why you are here! What is your God-given purpose for this season of your life?
- Shower some extra special attention on your husband and/or child.
- Cook something especially tasty.
- Dance for a few minutes.
- Take a bubble bath or manicure your nails while your baby takes a nap.
- Keep a favorite magazine open to the next page you want to read the next time you have a minute of solitude.
- Keep good music with uplifting words playing as much as possible.
- Write a note to someone you know needs an encouraging word.
Why not send in your own treatments for loneliness? I’ll share them with the group.