The Reality of Loneliness
Loneliness is, as Merriam-Webster defines it, “the quality or state of being without company.”
Wikipedia defines it as “a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, and spiritual factors.”
You or I might define it as “the feeling of isolation and emptiness when faced with a task or situation.”
Believe me, I know that feeling — and so do you. I am sure, for example, that you have felt loneliness when, for some reason, a parishioner rejected your love and decided to walk away. As pastors, most of us have stood beside the bed of a terminally ill child or young adult and felt the burden of their mortality. We wanted to do something — anything — to change the outcome. But we could only stand by helplessly, watching and praying.
Then there are the times when loneliness occurs because of personal failure. We say the wrong thing. We do not fully count the cost of our decisions or actions. We attempt to mend a wound, but find out too late we can’t.
And, of course, we often experience loneliness as we make our own spiritual pilgrimages, frequently feeling estranged from the God we love so much. Our prayers seem hollow, the Word does not radiate, and our message to those around us is tepid at best.
There will be times of loneliness and isolation in your life, guaranteed. But God is always ready to fill the empty spaces in your heart. As the psalmist has written, “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish” (Psalm 25:15-17).
So what do you do when you’re lonely? Here are some questions to contemplate:
- Have you considered all aspects of your circumstances, your motives, and your attitudes? Is there any selfishness on your part?
- Is this something you can share with a spiritual mentor or friend? There are times when we find solace in our own pain. We take an odd comfort in believing things are more difficult than we can handle. Often, by sharing our need with a trusted friend, a whole new perspective emerges.
- Do you need to get away? Perhaps you need to put everything aside and take a walk, hit a golf ball, or go for a ride — anything that will take your mind off yourself and the issue at hand.
- Do you need some downtime? We all know fatigue can cause us to see life through windows that are cloudy and frightening. Are you getting enough rest? What if you could just sleep for one whole day? I know it’s not very easy, but an occasional sick day works wonders.
- Are you seeking the Lord’s comfort? Use devotional readings or inspirational music to facilitate His soothing ministry to your soul. In some of my darkest times, a song or a beautiful chorus has proven to be just the tonic I needed to keep on keeping on.
- Have you neglected your time alone with the Lord? One of the great fears I have as a pastor to pastors is that I or one of my colleagues will walk into spiritual warfare without the necessary protection to stand firm against the enemy.
“In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears” (2 Samuel 22:7).