– In the book of Genesis, there’s a verse where God said that it was not good for man to be alone so He will make a helper for him. I think this extends even beyond marriage to say that we were made to have close relationships in our lives. What’s confusing is how this applies when we feel lonely? It’s not all about us & what we want but, how do we cope with loneliness when we were made to have those close friendships to walk through life together but also know that God is all we truly need?
– Hi, I have struggled with loneliness for a very long time. God has been healing me but I still have problems with it. During my lonely times, I would listen to sermons, sing praise songs, or just do activities I enjoy but sometimes, I just get wrecked and end up sinning. I belong to a church and try to catch up with friends but because relationships are like revolving doors- they come and go, it doesn’t really help. How can I trust God when I am an emotional wreck.
Hey there dear friends: thank you for trusting me with such a huge important issue. I think it’s very rare that we get to hear about a theology on loneliness and companionship, and while I know I can’t possibly remedy all your concerns today, we can chip away a few layers of this together.
Please first know that loneliness is part of who we are and is not wrong or bad or sinful. In other words, being lonely actually shows you’re human, and not anything else.
To quote Timothy Keller, he says:
Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect. Adam was lonely because he was perfect. Adam was lonely because he was like God, and therefore, since he was like God, he had to have someone to love, someone to work with, someone to talk to, someone to share with.
All of our other problems—our anger, our anxiety, our fear, our cowardice—arise out of sin and our imperfections. Loneliness is the one problem you have because you’re made in the image of God.
But of course, it’s not just as simple as walking into a party or a college campus or a church and suddenly finding all you’re looking for. While I’m not sure I can hit everything you’re thinking, here are a few things to consider.
1) Having a lot of people in your life doesn’t guarantee you’ll be any happier. You can constantly be where the action is but never actually make a connection.
2) Intimacy requires an intentional effort. You probably saw this coming: but it’s totally okay to put yourself out there and find people with a common ground and likes and interests. It might feel embarrassing to “look for friends,” but it’s absolutely okay to pray about finding some and then putting yourself in environments to meet them.
3) Intimacy doesn’t work with everyone. We’re not obligated to be friends with every person we meet. Friendship is a gift— not right—of trust and permission and healthy boundaries and shared joy.
4) Some friends are for a season, and then they go. As painful as it is, friends can inevitably drift in distance or direction, and occasionally those friendships need to be let go. Some of your friends will be lifelong, but many others will have less of a place in your life as life goes on.
5) We’re not meant to walk this spiritual life alone, as if being alone is some kind of “qualifier” for how much you’re relying on God.There are some of us who are convinced that being in solitude all the time is so righteous and godly and pure, but this is crazy and unbiblical. The love of God becomes so much more real when you’re amidst other God-loving people who love you. It’s why 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Of course codependency and people-pleasing and caving into unfair demands are all harmful. But it’s also a bad idea to assume that our godliness is measured by how much we “de-idolize” people in our lives. To idolize anti-idolatry is still idolatry, and it’s not healthy. God made us for face-to-face, eye-to-eye, chair-to-chair encounters with people, as much as we can.
6) Try to know your own rhythms and whether you lean towards introversion or extroversion. I know that being an “introvert” or “extrovert” is not exactly a dichotomous clear-cut science, but it especially helps to know if you’re an introvert who needs to recharge from people, or you’re an extrovert who needs to make connections everyday. Extroverts will become more lonely more quickly, and will need to find the line where they’re becoming too needy. Introverts will tend to push people away, so they’ll need to find the line where being a snuggie-wearing hermit is getting a little weird.
7) God has specifically put people in your life to love you, lead you, help you, and root for you. Many of us have our eyes closed to this, because we’re looking for a cool attractive person to fall into our lap who meets our invisible standards. But it’s also possible that God wants you to have real time with the 80 year old grandma in your church or the quirky professor or the older married couple or that one kid no one will talk to. Sometimes we’re not really lonely, but our standards for companionship are too high and awfully shallow. We’d be surprised to encounter some very awesome people when we step out of our own safety.
8) Friendship is not about fighting loneliness, but finding life. Friends can’t be about “filling a void.” That’s like eating cardboard when you’re hungry. Friends are about sharing life and laughter and love together, and if you can correctly estimate both their limits and their needs, you’ll be much healthier in how you interact with them and spend your alone-time as well.
9) Intimacy with God is the priority.
There might be long stretches of time when you won’t have a real connection with anyone, and it’ll be painful. There might be seasons when people reject you or you’re ridiculed or the rumors make you a pariah in your own town. You’ll be misunderstood or ethnically in the “wrong” place or there will just be a secret dividing line between you and the inner-circle, for all kinds of unfair reasons. I’ve been there. It’s almost unbearable. And it’s these times I had to dig my heels in the ground and preach to myself that my dignity and identity cannot be wrapped up in other people. Because they’re just people. It’s crazy that I would even let human opinion dictate my own value. It’s not that I dismissed them or got prideful or stuck up my nose: but I recognized that they’re not my glory, that they do not have qualitative weight over my worth, and they cannot control how I feel about me. I was able to love them more but need them less. I was able to connect without being clingy. I was able to let go of friendship and validation as a pseudo-savior, and instead trust that God was my one unchanging constant. We cannot expect our friends to die for our loneliness. They cannot be everything we need them to be all the time. But Jesus loved us enough to die, that he might be with us always, that he might meet all our needs. When you begin there, you’ll have the strength to stand with friends and to stand alone: and you will find, you are never truly alone.