Loneliness has many clinical definitions but it is not a state of being as much as it is a state of the heart. Being alone doesn’t make you lonely. In my personal experience, and talking with others, loneliness comes when:
- We feel we do not have someone or others to share life with.
- We feel like all of the activities we do day in and day out don’t add up to anything of real meaning or purpose.
- We feel misunderstood or unheard in a group or with someone we care about.
- We feel like we are the only one who cares about an issue, a purpose, or a situation.
- We feel disconnected from God or our spiritual disciplines that keep us connected to Him.
Looking Through the Lens of the Lonely
I know that many people experience loneliness during the holidays, but regardless of what day it is, the loneliness can be unbearable for an aging person who has lost their spouse of many decades and are not sure what their purpose or path is any longer.
Loneliness is deafening to the person who is unexpectedly unemployed and they feel like they are sitting alone day after day while everyone else has important things to do. Yet all they have in store for them is to fight through the shame and lethargy and send out one more job application for the day.
You may be lonely looking toward the new year and feeling like it is an empty canvas, rather than a blank canvas ready for color and adventure.
And trust me, if you are not particularly lonely yourself, there are people in your path who are. You interact with them regularly and work with them daily.
If you haven’t noticed, it may be because you are not looking because I promise you they are there.
God created us with a need for community, and purpose, and most importantly, Him.
Combating Loneliness is Everyone’s Fight
I feel like loneliness needs both the lonely and the not lonely to help fight it.
If you are feeling isolated and lonely, here are a few ideas to help make this year one of connection and comfort:
- Reach out to people in your circles for companionship. Real companionship, not just a social media interaction. I know this is hard because when we are lonely we lose confidence. But make a plan to get together with a couple of people you would like to be closer with on a regular basis. It could be a coffee date a couple of times a month, invite them to do a bible study or attend a bible study with you, or maybe go walking or play tennis. To me it is better to pick one or two people to cultivate deep relationships with rather than different people to hang out with superficially. We are created for deep connection.
- Volunteer at your church, school or other organization. Feeling needed and being needed helps us to not feel isolated and alone. At the same time it may serve to give you a sense of purpose and meaning. Again, I recommend getting involved with some thing that is ongoing for a period of time. This usually will have you interacting with the same people regularly which will provide a sense of community and meaning in doing something together regularly.
- Work on your relationship with God. If you have never felt it before, when you are really focused on a true relationship with God, it is real. You feel like you are with Him. You hear from Him. You have someone to talk to who always cares. He promises that He is all we need. We have to be present with Him to receive His promise. It doesn’t take much from us. God is so faithful. It may be to reach out by reading scripture, praying, listening to worship music or attending church. I believe He will meet us more than halfway if we just try to connect.
If you are struggling with loneliness please don’t write off these actions as more evidence that you truly don’t matter to anyone. The world is crazy and everyone is combatting their own issues. Yes, we all have issues. If they don’t notice your need, it is more likely to do with their efforts to get through their own life. Not an excuse, but is probably the reason.
A 2018 Resolution: Lookout For The Lonely
If you are not feeling particularly lonely right now (probably because you have a child under the age of 5) then make this the year that you are on the lookout for lonely. Loneliness can be easily cured and you can help. Even if you are not part of the problem, you still need to commit to being part of the solution.
The solution is so varied that we all can make a difference. The first step is to look for signs.
Is someone you know …
Not around much?
Always eating alone?
Never talking about being involved in things?
In a situation that could create isolation – living in an assisted living facility; unemployed; sick?
If so, reach out. Reaching out can be as simple as:
- Inviting them to dinner with your family on a regular basis.
- Asking them to come to church or a bible study.
- Picking them up to go to the health club with you.
- Having a deep conversation with them even if it is a little uncomfortable.
- Encouraging them with a regular text or note.
- Visiting them regularly.
- Asking them for help.
- Listening to them even if you feel helpless to help; your listening is a huge help.
- Calling them up on the phone; ask when they have time to talk.
We were meant for relationship… all of us. We have also been commanded to love others. If we have lonely people in our lives we are called to help.
Loneliness is a state of our hearts when we do not feel connected to people we love, feel purpose in life, and/or are distant from our creator (my unofficial definition).
I want to challenge all of us…the lonely and the not lonely…to combat loneliness this year. It is something that God cares deeply about and we should too.