No one wants to be lonely. There is so much pain involved in loneliness. There is nothing pleasant about feeling like no one in the world cares, as if you belong in a small little box tucked away in a dusty corner in the shadows. Where is the joy in that?
In my last post, we looked at how loneliness may be a result of sin, but the feeling of loneliness itself is not sin. Instead, loneliness is an indicator, a painful conscience that makes you aware that something is missing in your life. A hole that is unsatisfied. A desire left thirsty. Ultimately, loneliness reveals your separation from God.
If loneliness isn’t a sin, then that means that loneliness does not necessarily have to be viewed as a bad thing. Instead, loneliness can be a blessing. Romans 8:28–29 tells us that God can work all things for good so that we are conformed into the image of Christ. In other words, God can use your loneliness to sanctify you.
A Time to Reflect
Loneliness brings you face-to-face with your heart. It opens a window to all the emotions underneath. Ironically, the emotion of loneliness never comes alone. It brings with it a van full of other desires and feelings. Loneliness can bring out your anger, discontentment, selfishness, and fears.
But here’s the thing: those feelings have always been there, hidden underneath your heart. Loneliness provides an opportunity for you to examine your heart, to explore the hidden shadows and to shine light into places you have never explored before. Proverbs 4:23 says:
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
The way we live starts with the heart. The heart determines our actions, our words, our attitudes, and our emotions (Matthew 15:18–19). We must continue to examine our hearts in order to guard it against corruption. We have to point out our negative emotions that may tempt us to sin, and be renewed by truth (John 17:17; Ephesians 4:22–24). Loneliness provides us that space to reflect, examine, and bring these things up to the Lord.
A Time to Pray
Matthew 6:6 states:
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The context behind this passage is to warn Christians against living hypocrisy. Praying during lonely seasons is not the central point here. But there is something about prayer that is private, where the content of that conversation stays between you and God. Therefore, one way to battle loneliness is to recognize your lonely times as opportunities to pray faithfully to God.
The book of Psalms is full of examples of lonely prayers. In Psalm 31, David cried out to God in distress, seeking God’s goodness and love. In verses 11–12, David revealed how abandoned and alone he felt in his struggle. During this time, David did not sulk. He did not seek to find sympathy. He did not curse God for his situation. Instead, he turned to God and said in verse 14: But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
A Time to Meet God
What I really mean by this point is that loneliness can be used by God as a way for Him to meet you where you are at. The question is — are you listening?
Look at Elijah, for example. Elijah faced a queen who sought to take his life after he defeated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:1–2). Elijah did what most men would do: flee! Now take a moment to think about Elijah’s situation. His fellow prophets were either dead or in hiding. He alone faced 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:22). In that battle, Elijah cried out to God, asking for God’s power (1 Kings 18:36–37). No doubt, Elijah thought that God had brought victory and glory back to Israel.
But that was not what happened. Instead, Jezebel placed a bounty on Elijah’s head. Nothing had changed. The prophets of the Lord were still fugitives. Where was God? Why hadn’t He fought for His prophets? Elijah fled to the wilderness all alone, uncertain, unconfident, and scared, probably for the first time in his life.
And it was here, in the midst of his depression, hopelessness, and loneliness, where God spoke. And God met Elijah, not with a harsh rebuke or a stern warning, but with a gentle question:
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9, 13)
Do you notice how God meets you during your most troubling times with a question that digs deep into your heart? Consider the Apostle Peter, who denied Christ three times, facing Jesus Christ face-to-face after the resurrection. Imagine the shame, pity, and self-hatred in Peter’s heart and how small and alone he must have felt before Christ. He was not worthy to be a disciple of Christ. And yet, Jesus approached Peter with a question:
“Do you love me?” (John 21:15–17)
God meets us in our loneliness. He approaches us with a gentle, yet soul-cutting question. He wants us to examine our hearts. He wants us to understand our emotions, our pains, and our struggles. He wants us to realize how weak we truly are. And He wants us to turn to listen to Him.
And God does not leave us with a question. That would be cruel. Instead, God reveals His will to us. Not His entire will. But mainly, the next step we are supposed to take in faith. He commanded Elijah to go and appoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). Jesus commanded Peter to feed and tend his flock (John 21:18). In the same way, God speaks to us through Scripture how we should live our next step in the midst of our trials. In faith. In prayer. In obedience.
(Note: Want to give credit to this sermon by Paul Matthies that inspired most of this blog post)