Loneliness always brings along a few friends. I would know. The first time I remember encountering Loneliness I was 20. I had left my home in the Dominican Republic to go to university in the US. Those first months were especially hard: I didn’t live on campus but a 20 minute drive away. I couldn’t easily stay for events as I always depended on rides to get back home.
3 years went by and another side of me grew and developed that my family and friends in the DR didn’t quite know. So I actually experienced loneliness back in the DR when I returned and my Dominican friends didn’t understand my cross-cultural experience in college.
More lonely years come to mind: my single years up until I was married at 28. Marriage came (yay!) but so did leaving my family and church in the DR when I married my American husband and relocated permanently to the US (not yay).
Then began the slow process of making new friends in the US. Once those friends were comfortable and close, it was – you guessed it- time to move again; this time to the Middle East. 10 months later, we moved again to another city. And more recently, we moved again to a whole new country.
Phew… yes, loneliness is an old friend at this point.
And I want to introduce you to a few of its friends which I have met over the years.
Meet Envy. She makes me look at other’s lives and wish I had the community they seem to enjoy. She tells me to think of my sister who’s lived in the same city her whole life and is raising her children with the children of our childhood friends. Or our military friends who also move around a lot but have found rich community to quickly plug into. Or the online friend who moved cross-country for gospel purposes and has friends who can fly in to visit her for the weekend when she is lonely.
Seconds after Envy arrives, Self-Pity comes breathlessly behind. Around her company, I start thinking that my life is harder than most of my friends. I feel forgotten.
“Everyone seems to have their own lives and not remember us over here.”
“No one sees the need to come and visit us.”
And then Critical Spirit shows up. He reminds me my husband is my only close friend in town so he needs to be all things to me: my mom, sister, kindred spirit, the friend who always just GETS it. When he isn’t all those things, or doesn’t have the great ideas that I want him to come up with, I grow dissatisfied in him. He is not enough.
Critical Spirit is there too, to hurt the few friendships I actually have. I zero in on the ways these friends are not meeting my needs, or how they are not what I want them to be in a lonely season.
Loneliness has other friends too: Laziness, Pride, Discontent. They invite me to spend a lot of time on social media, to only talk about myself when I am with people or connect with them over Skype, and to miss the actual hand of God providing for everything I need.
When loneliness’ friends come and have a chat, I offer them a shocking gift that surprises them and makes them leave: the life of Jesus in me through His Spirit. Christ lived his earthly life lonely yet without sin. When He was homesick, misunderstood, and forsaken by his closest friends, He stayed away from sin by turning to His Father (Luke 22:42-44). His Father was enough.
The Spirit of that same Jesus lives in me. His Father is My Father (John 20:17). When I live the life that Jesus lived by faith, I find my Father to be sufficient. By faith, I have Christ’s strength to rejoice always, be patient in affliction, and outdo others in showing them honor (Galatians 2:20; Romans 12:12).
If Christ is mine and truly in me, I have his ability to be lonely and not give in to sin. I have his self control to keep me from eating half a pan of brownies. His creativity is in me to know how to love others who are different than me in meaningful ways. He fills my mouth with questions to care for the person in front of me. His power is mine to lay my life down and serve sacrificially when I feel empty. His joy in the Father fills my heart with praise in seasons of lack.
And friend, if you are in Christ, this is true of you. You have Christ’s life in you to live and love supernaturally in lonely times. Take hold by faith of what is already yours. Believe your old jealous, critical, proud and discontent self truly died. The only you that exists in Christ is the new self that looks like Him (Eph. 4: 24). This is our hope.
Loneliness might be an old friend but Christ is an older, better one still. He shows us the home we have in the Father, how our Dad is always for us in Christ, and tells us that through Him we have been welcomed into the life of God (Ephesians 4:18). This means, that in our day to day, we actually get to do life with the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit not only are a community but have made us part of it!!!
Christ has shared with us absolutely everything that is His and made it ours: His holiness, His Father, His inheritance (Eph. 1). So sisters – let’s live in light of this unseen, true reality that defines everything about the seen sorrows of this present time.
After all, loneliness won’t have the last word. Glory will.
Which of loneliness’ friends have you met? How do you get them to leave?