In 1987, the country was captivated by the story of Baby Jessica. Just 18 months old, Jessica fell 22 feet down an eight-inch well shaft in her aunt’s Texas backyard. For days, rescuers battled surrounding rock with inadequate equipment before they eventually freed Jessica from her trap. There is a well that many of us must battle to escape—the well of loneliness. If left unchecked, the self-pity and sorrow that accompanies loneliness can send us hurtling down our own inescapable trap. Sadness turns to despair as we grope around in the darkness, claustrophobic anxiety and hopelessness blinding our cure for loneliness as a Christian.
“If left unchecked, the self-pity and sorrow that accompanies loneliness can send us hurtling down our own inescapable trap.”
I began to fall down such a well. A move and an injury left me feeling alone and distant from family and friends. The practical advice on battling loneliness, like joining a church or a bible study, wasn’t a reality for me because of the injury. The fact is, loneliness is a spiritual battle. We must have adequate equipment to tow us out of the miry depths of emotions, threatening to drown us. Having the right vision of God, digging into scripture, and enjoying His presence, are the spiritual lifelines we need. There is also one practical secret to cure loneliness as a Christian I will share. So I would like to tell you some of my story on how I came to be so lonely. And how the Lord came to my rescue.
My experience with loneliness
My husband and I moved to a new state for him to take on a full-time pastoring job in 2017. This move took us all of, get this, 45 to 55 minutes away from my family. Of course, the state I moved into is all highway, with constant construction going on, so sometimes that drive is more like an hour and a half. It is not terribly far from family or friends, but when you consider my full-time work, parents’ age, and the active mom schedules of my sisters, it makes our once-weekly get-togethers much more infrequent.
On top of that, despite being at our new church for two years, I hadn’t made any deep personal friendships. I threw myself into our young adult ministry, making little time for friends my age. Also, it is challenging to break into those established friend groups. Birthday celebrations and holiday parties go on without an invite. Pastor wives know that there is always a wall between our congregation members and us. We are always the pastor’s wife first and then friend second. I am not trying to put down the wonderful congregation that we have been a part of; it is just the reality of life.
Injury led to loneliness
Then June of 2019 came. I woke up one Saturday morning, and my life came to a grinding halt. I rolled over to get out of bed and was struck with the most agonizing pain I have ever felt! A herniated disc! By the end of August, I was having my first ever invasive surgery. Physical setbacks and physical therapy kept me from returning to work until January.
So from June to close to the end of the year, I could barely get around. I lived on the firm living room couch. Couldn’t work. I didn’t attend church services. No one was close. The people here have jobs and their own families to attend to. My husband tried to work from home as often as possible, and our parents made the drive down several times, but I often found myself staring at the walls. Well, the ceiling, actually.
So I fell into the pity party: “Woe is me. I don’t have any friends. People aren’t visiting enough! Why is this happening to me?” You name it, and I was pouting about it. The truth is, people were visiting. Church members brought me groceries and dinners when they could. But I had allowed my feelings of loneliness to overgrow, pervading my thoughts and heart like an invasive weed blocking the sun.
After surgery, you are required to walk around to rebuild your back strength. It got to the point where I was finally able to take slow, short walks in my neighborhood. So one day, I was walking alone, crying about not having friends close by. Just dwelling on my loneliness. When suddenly, I heard the Lord say to me, “Am I not enough?” My immediate reaction was “WHOA,” and I stopped in my tracks.
I stood there frozen for a moment, trying to process what that could mean. This was when God brought Job to my mind. Job lost everything! His children, his servants, and his livelihood. And yet continued to praise the Lord. In fact, the bible says, “in all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22). That’s certainly not what I was doing. I was struck with the thought, “if I lost everything, would I be satisfied with the Lord?”
“I was struck with the thought, “if I lost everything, would I be satisfied with the Lord?”
Then that same weekend, as I watched the live stream of our church sermon, the pastor said, “If you are bored with God, you do not know who God really is.” I was floored! I couldn’t believe it. There was my problem: I had become bored with God. I had gotten so comfortable with what I “knew” about God, and with how easy life was before this point, that I had forgotten to dig deep in HIs Word. Somehow I had stopped relying on God. Unbelievably had become bored with God and I hadn’t made him my enough. What does that even mean? What does that look like? So below, I’d like to share with you the things that helped me get back to being able to enjoy the peace that comes with resting in God, even when lonely.
Correct vision of God
If spending time alone in the presence of God as a cure to loneliness feels like an empty solution, perhaps our vision of God is insufficient. Do we only know God as our “loving father and friend?” That’s what he is, but there is so much more depth to him. He is majestic. Merciful. He is just. God is Holy, Holy, Holy! Consider for a moment Isaiah’s response when he stood in the presence of God in chapter 6. He didn’t say, “Hey buddy, great to see you!” Isaiah cried out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
God’s presence in our lives should evoke feelings of awe and reverence. Of joy and excitement. There is a thrill we should have at being counted as the children of God. In fact, the more you know of him and love him, the more you will want to be alone with Him. If you find God boring and uninteresting, perhaps you also have an insufficient vision of who you are.
Correct vision of yourself
I like to create a mental image of what we look like before we are saved. I think of those pictures of people who just finished a Mud Run. They are drenched in mud from head to toes. That’s what we look like with our sin before we are saved. We were drenched in it. No amount of scrubbing we do on our own could have removed that sin.
But this “mud” wasn’t just dirtying our clothes and skin, but our heart as well. In fact, Ephesians 2 tells us we were “dead in our sins,” “children of wrath,” and “conformed to” Satan himself! But God reached down, a Holy God who has nothing to do with sin, reached down and gave us a way to wash the filth of sin away. Not because we deserved it, because He is “rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:4).”
This is the truth of who we were: dirty, dead, people separated from God. But now we have been given a new life based on what someone else has done for us. If we remind ourselves daily of this new worth in Christ, then our boredom with God should start to abate.
Dig into scripture
In high school, I hated math. I swore I couldn’t figure it out. So I put no effort into studying or doing my homework. After marriage, I decided to get my associate degree, which meant taking several math classes. I went into class determined to get passing grades. It came as a great surprise to me when I had no problem learning equations. All I did was do my homework! Funny how that works. If you are determined to fix your vision and knowledge of God, you have to do your homework. You have to read your bible. I don’t mean cherry-picking verses found on Pinterest that only have to do with your situation. I mean digging in and reading scripture as a whole.
In Philippians chapter one, starting in verse eight, Paul says, “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…” Your love will abound more for God when you increase your knowledge of him. The bible is his conversation with us where he reveals his character to us. You can’t get to know your spouse without talking to him, just like you can’t get to know God without reading all that he shows us in his word. We learn all the works he has done and see the redemption story weaved throughout all of scripture. I promise the more you fall in love with God and His Word, the less it will feel like a chore.
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…”
Timothy Keller’s “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” opened my eyes to see how I was missing much in the way I handled scripture. This book has helped shape so much of my prayer life and my devotional life. I highly recommend you read this book! There is so much wisdom in it’s pages. On page 62 of the hardback copy, he says, “without immersion in God’s word, our prayers may be limited and shallow, but also untethered from reality. We may be responding not to the real God but what we wish God and life to be like. Indeed if left to themselves, our hearts will tend to create a God who doesn’t exist.”
That is so true! I don’t know how many Christians I’ve heard say “well, my God wouldn’t do that” or “my God wouldn’t say that.” In my head, I often think “it’s right there in scripture, aren’t you reading it?” If we create a version of God in our head that we want instead of basing it on scripture, we do not know the real God. This may be why we weren’t finding him the solution to our loneliness. Devout yourselves to studying God’s word for “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”
Enjoy being in God’s presence
When we are lonely, we long for someone to be with. We want that reassuring presence of someone who understands our sorrow, who will make us heard. That claustrophobic anxiety of loneliness blinding us to the fact that we have a heavenly father whose presence we stand in daily. Intentional worship of God, even when we don’t feel like it, is a way to bring hope and joy back into our hearts. The more we worship Him, the more we will stand in awe of him. He is our cure for loneliness as a Christian.
Like a lot of young marriages, ours was a little rocky in the beginning. Silly little faults about my husband would annoy me like crazy. Ignoring my own shortcomings, I would focus only on his. At work, I would gladly chime in with the other ladies complaining about their significant others. One day, as my boss was overhearing our conversations, he said to me “do you have anything nice to say about your husband?” I was taken aback. I realized I was not only demeaning and selfish towards my husband, but I wasn’t reflecting a Godly marriage to those around me. So from then on, I committed myself that when I spoke of my husband to those around me, I would only praise him.
Something interesting began to happen. I started to see less of his weaknesses and more of his strengths. When I removed my unrealistic expectations and instead appreciated and praised him for all of the ways he tried to love me well, my love grew deeper for him. That one little question from my boss made a huge impact on my relationship with my husband. Our relationship with God is the same. Growing our love for the Lord is why we are told in Psalm 29: 2 to “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” When we regularly worship Him, we begin to enjoy being with him and see him for who he really is.
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”
When I talk about worship, I don’t mean jamming in your car to the popular Christian rock music while you are distracted by driving. I mean intentional worship during your devotional life. Let me tell you that I am not one who can sing, and singing together as a family is not something I did growing up. Because of this, I had never made it a part of my devotions. I left singing to Sundays. However, when the Lord started talking to me as I was stuck on the couch, I started yearning to sing to the Lord. I would look for songs on youtube with lyrics shown or use an old hymnal we have at the house, and I would intentionally worship the Lord by singing.
But worship is also more than just singing. It’s also just praising His name and works in your prayers. If you have trouble knowing where to start, I suggest you start by using scripture to praise him. Dare I suggest…Google “scriptures that praise” and make these verses your own. So even when you are battling loneliness, you will be able to bring your heart the ability to say “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26).
When we are lonely, our minds dwell on ourselves. Thoughts of -“why doesn’t anyone care? why doesn’t anyone call? why don’t I have friends?” -circle around in our brain in torment. It’s hard to break that type of thinking. Getting to know God and Enjoying his presence is an excellent start to escaping that trap. I’d like to offer one piece of practical advice to help you come out of your loneliness: make an effort to serve other people. Stop focusing only on yourself and shift your focus to others in need.
There are plenty of people in your church or your community in need of help. Find out who they are. Your church office can help. Or, look for websites like “Nextdoor” that connects neighbors. Don’t think that you don’t have anything to offer as an excuse not to serve. It doesn’t have to be life-changing work. Maybe someone just needs weeds pulled, or leaves raked up. Offer to get groceries. Offer to visit someone else who is lonely with coffee. IF you cannot do physical service, I bet you can still talk on the phone. I know I know! I hate talking on the phone too. But this is important enough to step outside of our comfort zones! Call people and ask how you can pray for them. Prayer is a way of serving others. And praying for others will take the focus off of ourselves!
“Stop focusing only on yourself and shift your focus to others in need.”
There is a wonderful woman I like to read named Nancy Guthrie. Her ministry is all about grieving a loss and helping those in grief. She started ministering to parents who have lost children after she lost two of her own. If you look up her video “Grieving a Loss” on YouTube, you will hear incredible insights from her. I wish I could transcribe the entire video for you here! If you are lonely, make no mistake about it, you are grieving the loss of close friendships.
In her video, Nancy tells the story about how she was in such pain from her loss and all she wanted to do was find the “one way” to get over the pain. She was reading a book from a Pastor who was about to tell her what that one way is, and she says “You would have thought I was in the desert and they were telling me where to find water” because of how desperate she felt. But when the Pastor said the answer was “serve others” her immediate reaction was “I don’t think so.” She wanted to waive him off initially as “just a pastor using his motivational tools.” But he was a man who had lost three children and she knew that he wouldn’t be lying about this. So she decided to follow his advice.
Nancy went to a women’s house who was a recent widow. Her yard was completely overgrown. Together with her husband, Nancy pulled weeds and trimmed shrubs. All the while they wept. But something transforming began to happen. As Nancy was there serving this woman, she began to think about this widow’s experience and how scary and sad it must be for the widow right now. Nancy says “I began to enter into her sorrow, and it lightened mine. And this was a wonderful discovery for me to make.” She continues later “let your pain drive you towards other hurting people. And in the process learn that God is actually using that to heal you.”
“Let your pain drive you towards other hurting people.”
I know from experience that being lonely is a terrible place to be. I have felt the pain and sorrow of feeling alone. But I also know from experience that God can pull us out of that well of despair. Use this time to grow in your understanding of who God is by reading his word. Worship Him daily and fill that void in your heart with the joy of Him. Reach out and serve others to shift your mind from dwelling on your own pain and bring healing to yourself. This I believe is the cure for loneliness you need.
Can you think of ways you can serve others who may be hurting like you?
If you’d like to read up on forgiveness, click here.