Many people associate loneliness with something negative. Like depression, self-pity, or something else bad. No one wants to be lonely. Its human nature to long for contact of some type whether it’s with another human or even an animal like a pet. People want to be alone at times but never lonely. In fact, I have heard and even quoted myself from time to time the sentiment, “I am alone but not lonely.” I guess the difference is being alone is a choice. At times we get stressed out with life and all of the responsibilities that come with it that we long to be alone. To have no distractions and obligations calling our names. We long for a mental break and some quiet time to recharge. But no one willingly chooses to be lonely. Usually it is a consequence of some negative or inappropriate act that you’ve done. People don’t like your actions so they choose to leave you alone which in turn makes you lonely. Or the universe is playing a cruel trick on you that causes everyone in your sacred circle seem to be surrounded by individuals that willingly chose to be with them, and you for some reason can’t find one fish in the sea to choose you as their mate. This common phenomena is better known as “the single life”. For many people being single is synonymous with being lonely.
Other people consider loneliness as a product of being alone. Well whatever it may be being alone or lonely, it is never fun no matter how long it lasts. Whether you choose to be alone or that choice is taken from you, being without human contact or company of some sort is not enjoyable. But what if I threw this crazy idea into the mix, and being alone or lonely is not a punishment or a depressing state. But what if being alone and/or lonely was a calling from God? What if loneliness was just a season that God ordered into our lives? What if God placed us into a position and a place that consequentially or purposely causes us to be lonely? What if being alone and lonely is not a bad thing at all, but another opportunity for God to bless us?
Merriam-Webster defines lonely as being without company, cut off from others, not frequented by human beings. Now I am sure you are thinking that based on this definition (and personal experience) being lonely is not a desirable thing. In fact we all do everything in our power to avoid ever having to be lonely. We fill our lives with people and things that all may be in essence good, but are they really good for us? We fill ourselves up so we won’t have to experience all of the feelings that come with being lonely. So how is it possible that being lonely is Godly? I believe God calls all of us at some point in life to a season of loneliness. I know loneliness is not a choice we would willingly make, but we don’t always get to choose what season we enter next. So when God see’s the need He places us into a lonely season.
I believe during this first part of my journey God has placed me into a season of loneliness. I knew that at some point during this two year separation from home that I would grow weary and long to be back home. But in the first month of being away, I have found myself in a lonely place. Yes I have wonderful people here that I work with on a daily basis that I can lean on, but it is not quite the same as what I came from. I had such a huge support system of friends and family that I had to find time to be alone. I had work friends and church friends and school friends and family friends, and not to mention just immediate family. Growing up with three other siblings even if I didn’t have friends around I still had them to lean on. I guess over time I started to use them as a crutch that even when in new social settings I didn’t have to go out of my way to meet people because I already had three friends that I saw every day. Anything extra was just that…an added bonus. But I guess this season of loneliness that God has placed me in has revealed another one of my flaws. I find it hard to cope unless surrounded by people that care for and love me. Also when placed in this lonely place I tend to turn to things (and people) that may or may not have my best interest at heart to fill a void that is exposed by that lonely place.
So how can loneliness be a blessing? Well I have learned that anything…and I do mean anything and any place that God has ordained is meant for our good. It is meant to be a blessing in our lives. God isn’t out to hurt us or even destroy us. That is Satan’s motivation, but God is only trying to develop our character and make us better Christians. So even those ‘bad’ situations that God has allowed to occur in our lives are meant to be a blessing. It may not seem like it at first or even a little later on, but in the end it is all meant for our benefit. So if God has ordered our steps to be in a lonely place (He has removed certain distractions, people, and things from our lives) then we must not be discouraged. God has placed us there for a reason (and a season). So we must find out what does God intend for us to learn in this place and what must we gain from this place?
I believe that the season of loneliness is meant to teach something about ourselves. A synonym for lonely is isolation, and with isolation brings revelation. Many times we fill our lives with people and things that cause us to lose our focus and take our eyes off of God. So then God comes and closes the door on those relationships and destroys those things (not us) in order for us to be all alone. Once we are free of all of the world’s distractions and excuses, God is able to reveal to us are characteristics that we have picked up and developed that are not His will. Perhaps this is why loneliness gets a bad rap, because no one wants to see the areas they fall short in. And no one likes to see the not so good habits and behavior that we either consciously or subconsciously display thrown in our faces. That reflection isn’t always so pretty. So it is understandable why loneliness is associated with feelings of sadness and depression. Facing the ‘ugly’ truths of ourselves is not fun but it is necessary. Since no one is perfect we all have areas that need improvement and areas that just need to be disposed of.
When we are all alone and forced to face the ugliness we often times fight it and long to turn to negative habits that put us in this season in the first place. Which then perpetuates an endless cycle of God removing those things/people and placing us into loneliness until we face the truth of ourselves. But we must know that all of this is done because God loves us. I know that sounds like a slap in the face, believe me I remember being ‘disciplined’ by my parents and when they were finished ‘disciplining’ me they would always say, “I do this because I love you.” Of course in my adolescent mind I didn’t want to be in the same room as my mom and dad let alone hear that the reason they had to discipline me was because they loved me. To me that wasn’t love at all. Love wasn’t supposed to hurt, but I have learned over the years was that when discipline occurs from people who genuinely love you no matter what then it is good. During all the many times my parents had to ‘discipline’ me not once did they try to kill me or break a bone or even left a scar. But each time they disciplined me for something I did wrong, in the future believe I thought twice about doing the same thing again!
God works in the same manner. He loves us so much that He takes time to discipline us when He sees us going astray. He doesn’t do it because He wants to hurt us, but He does it because He wants to see us live a more abundant life. He wants more for us, but the only way for us to have access to more is by letting go of the things that are not in His will. So loneliness and isolation reveal those things/people. Yes it may be a hard pill to swallow, but at the end of the day God has our best interest at heart. He knows we deserve the best and He wants to give it to us, but first we must be the best and that only can happen through this process.
I think that instead of saying, “I am alone, but never lonely” we should be saying “I am lonely, but never alone.” For now we know that loneliness is a gift and a calling. God allows us to be lonely in order to reveal to us the areas that need work and improvement. He also allows us to be lonely to show us the people that don’t deserve to be in our lives anymore. So loneliness shouldn’t be a sad and depressing time, but a time of change, development, and revelation. But the best part of being lonely is in knowing we are never alone. As long as we remain in the will of God we are never alone. He walks this road with us, and assists us on our way. He helps us dig through the garbage and baggage we accumulate over the years. He helps to refine us and mature us so we can become the best versions of ourselves. God never leaves us during this time. As long as we invite Him to take part in this season, He directs our every step. He helps us do the hard work (because it is hard!) but He also shows us who we are to be. Never fear the lonely seasons, welcome them for they are just seasons to do some cleaning out and building up. I may be lonely, but I can rejoice because I am never alone!