I remember as a child, and even into my adult years, that I have nobody. There were many times when a feeling of utter loneliness would well up within me. It was a feeling that was all too familiar and that I carried with me at the core of my soul for many years.
Although the loneliness of my childhood may have been more severe than that experienced by many people, I know I am not alone in my experience. I have met many people through the years who have felt utterly alone, abandoned, isolated, ostracized, and thus, lonely.
Loneliness is one of the most excruciating feelings a person can ever have and one that nearly every person attempts to avoid at all costs. Even so, loneliness seems pervasive in our world today. Older people give frequent testimony to loneliness, especially after the death of a spouse. Divorced people feel lonely. Young people often think they are totally alone in their feelings, especially if they have indifferent, self-absorbed parents. Business people on the road are lonely. Mothers who stay at home all day with young children often speak of loneliness. College students and those who enter the military and are on their own for the first time are lonely. Those who have empty nests after years of raising children are lonely. Newly retired persons, accustomed to a wide circle of colleagues, are lonely. Loneliness abounds.
Are you in, struggle with or had past episodes with loneliness?
What does the Bible say to people who are lonely?
At the outset of the Bible, Genesis 1 through 3, we have a picture of the fellowship that God desires with human beings. He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). God displays an emotional capacity for companionship and a desire for it. Loneliness is not a desirable state, from God’s point of view. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God frequently. His voice in the cool of the evening was not strange to them.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:8-9 ESV
Time and again throughout the Old Testament, we find the Lord reaching out to His people, revealing Himself to them, desiring to be with them and to communicate with them. In 1 Samuel 12:22 we find this promise of God:
The Lord will not abandon His people for His great name’s sake, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. – 1 Samuel 12:22 AMP
How do you feel about the idea that God desires to have fellowship with you and that one of His foremost reasons for creating you was precisely that He might have fellowship with you?
Jesus Experienced Both Loneliness and Friendship
In the New Testament, we read how Jesus developed a very close relationship with a group of men we call apostles. He was so concerned that they continue in their relationship with one another even after His crucifixion that He spent much of His last night with them talking about their need to remain one with each other, and to be as one with the Father. We read in the Gospel of John, what Jesus had to say…
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” – John 14:1–3
“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:16–18
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” – John 15:9
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:12–13
What new insights do you have into these four passages of Scripture?
The close communion that the Lord desires and is willing to experience with us is something we can count on, even if everyone else abandons us. Jesus knew this to be true in His own life. On the night He was arrested and tried—the trial that ended in His crucifixion—He said to His disciples,
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. – John 16:32 ESV
Jesus knew what it was to be comforted even in the face of abandonment.
How do you feel about the fact that Jesus was lonely on occasion for human companionship?
The good news for every Christian is that Jesus is our Friend of friends. He is with us always and He never changes, abandons us, or withdraws from us. We can trust Him always to be present so that we never are truly alone.
I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. – Matthew 28:20 ASV
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 ESV
What do those scriptures speak to you?
Feeling Alone vs Truly Being Alone
Being alone is a blessing to some people who find that they are continually surrounded by people or people-related demands. For others, being alone brings about great feelings of loneliness. For still others, loneliness is so pervasive in their souls that they can feel lonely even in a room full of people.
Are you comfortable/happy being alone (introverted) or do you need frequent interactions with others (extroverted)?
One of the things you must continually guard your mind against is the idea that you are an isolated example or one-of-a-kind in your feelings of loneliness. The truth is that you are never alone; not only is the Holy Spirit present and available to you always, but there are many other Christian people who have experienced what you are experiencing and who would like the opportunity to be a friend to you. At times when we are lonely we simply need to reach out to others and invite their presence into our lives.
The prophet Elijah once felt very isolated and alone. He cried out to God,
the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too. – 1 Kings 19:14 NLT
Can you hear the desperation and loneliness in Elijah’s words? Not only did he feel forsaken, but he felt that all of Israel had forsaken the things that were most important to him.
The Lord responded to Elijah,
Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus … Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him – 1 Kings 19:15, 18.
Not only was Elijah not truly alone as a follower of the Lord God and a keeper of God’s covenant, but there were seven thousand people with whom he might associate! The same is likely to be true for you. Not only are you not alone, but there are more people who feel as you feel and believe as you believe than you presently know! Seek them out.
In what ways are you feeling challenged by the Holy Spirit to enrich or expand your circle of friends?
Action to Take when You feel Lonely
You simply cannot be alone once you have the Spirit of God dwelling in you. Even so, you can have a feeling of being alone even if you aren’t alone. What, then, should you do when you have feelings of loneliness?
Lonely people seem to turn to many things that create more loneliness, rather than to those things that can alleviate their feelings. They turn to drugs and alcohol, both of which tend to alienate and turn away the very people with whom they might enjoy companionship. They sometimes turn to television, videos, or radio programs, all of which tend to isolate a person from human-to-human communication.
The foremost antidote that God has supplied for the person who feels lonely is this: good relationships with Christian people! The Lord said about Adam when He realized that Adam was alone,
the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” – Gen. 2:18
We often think this verse applies only to marriage but in a much broader sense, it applies to godly friendships. The Lord’s desire is not only that you have a close, intimate relationship with Him but that you have satisfying and enriching personal relationships with other people.
Can you recall a period in your life when you felt lonely? What was the state of your friendships, or the availability of friends, during that time?
How can we develop the friendships that will ease our feelings of loneliness? Proverbs 18:24 gives us insight:
A man who has friends must himself be friendly. – Proverbs 18:24 NKJV
So we sit here and acknowledge that friends are necessary, and we have had our own good and bad experiences. Let’s ask ourselves today, “What kind of friend would I really like to have?”
What are some traits that you desire in a friend?
Now let’s ask an even more important question, “Am I willing to be this kind of friend?” To have a friend, you must be a friend.
Ask the Lord to reveal to you the people who may be your future friends. At the same time, ask Him to bring to your mind those friends whom you may have neglected recently; ask Him to show you ways in which you might rekindle old friendships. Is it right to ask God for friends?
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. – John 5:14-15
Friendship is a good thing! It is God’s will that you have friends. Therefore, when you ask the Lord to bring good Christian friends into your life, you are asking something that is according to God’s will. Look for God to bring people your way. Look for new opportunities to arise for you to be a friend, and in the process, to gain a friend.
In all things, remember Romans 8:28, which tells us…
“all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
The good news of this verse applies to your friendships! God is the engineer of social relationships, and He has a way of bringing the right people into your life at the right times for the right purposes. Sometimes friendships last a lifetime. Sometimes they are intended only for a season of life. Trust God to bring you the friends you need right now and, in turn, to be a friend to those who need your friendship.
In the past, how have you met the people who became your close friends?
How do you feel about the statement, “God is the engineer of social relationships”? Consider your friendships today and consider the fact that your friends are one of God’s providential gifts to you.
Do not give up on the Lord because you feel that He is distant from you. In reality, He is closer to you than your own breath.
24 Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:8-9 ESV
Do not give up on a Christian friend because you feel that your friend has disappointed you, has withdrawn from you, or is in conflict with you. Ask your friend if you have done something to damage your friendship—for example, if you have erred in a way you do not realize you have erred, if you have required too much of your friendship, or if you have failed at being a good friend. If so, apologize to your friend and seek to make amends. Value your friendships enough to do your best to maintain them and develop them over time.
Keep in mind always that our own feelings sometimes deceive us. None of us have perfect perception, and especially so when we personally are involved. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to build your life upon the truth of God’s Word and the consistent reliability of God’s presence and power. Feelings come and go. God’s love, forgiveness, and presence with us are eternal and rock solid.
What new insights do you have into God’s answer to loneliness?
In what ways are you feeling challenged in your spirit today?