September 28, 2023
If You’re Feeling Lonely … Read This
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“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)
There were many feelings I expected to have at an event I’d been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.
These were my people: They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance family with ministry, and the fact that we use all those meal delivery apps for dinner more than we’d like to admit.
Yes, I couldn’t wait to be with these people.
And I couldn’t wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.
Walking into the meeting room, I quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a name tag attached, so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn’t there, my heart sank.
I milled around the room, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. The Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table, I thought. Taking my seat, I pulled out my cell phone and waited nervously for my tablemates.
As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway, it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren’t able to come for some reason. So I’d be seated alone. Very alone.
In reality, I don’t think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all, by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressings.
In my head, I started to have a little pity conversation: Well, self, would you like a roll? Or 10, perhaps?
And that’s when a very clear sentence popped into my head: You aren’t set aside, Lysa. You are set apart. It wasn’t audible. And it wasn’t my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.
To be set aside is to be rejected.
That’s exactly what the enemy wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I’d become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.
To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.
That’s what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I’d be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.
Have you been feeling set aside recently? I understand this feeling. Not just at the dinner that night but in entire seasons of my life, even when I've had people around, I have sometimes felt quite alone in my calling.
If that’s you today, I would love to give you three thoughts that might encourage you.
1. Look for the gift of being humbled.
Proverbs 11:2 reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). In this set-apart place, God will give you much-needed, special wisdom for the assignment ahead.
2. Look for the gift of being lonely.
This will help you develop a deeper sense of compassion for others. You better believe when I walk into a room now, I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.
3. Look for the gift of silence.
Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I surely would have missed what God wanted to tell me. You see, God is in the quiet. And sometimes, silence is His invitation away from distraction. The next time you’re acutely aware of silence, whisper, God, what might You want to say to me right now? I’m listening.
I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.
But as you pray through your feelings, ask God exactly what the psalmist does in Psalm 25:16-17, our key verse: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Then see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than overlooked.
Friend, you may feel the stinging pain of loneliness, but you are not alone. The God of the universe knows you, accepts you and loves you right where you are. Remembering this may not fix the ways you feel left out, but it does remind you who you are … so very loved.
Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I’m believing today that I’m set apart, not set aside. Please use these times of quiet to speak to me clearly … I am opening my hands and my heart to receive what You want to share with me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Isn’t it true that sometimes the lonelier we are, the more disconnected from God we feel? Lysa TerKeurst understands this struggle. That’s why she’s teaming up with Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Director of Theological Research, Dr. Joel Muddamalle, and worship leader Hope Darst to bring you the You’re Going to Make It Tour! During these one-night events taking place in 11 different cities, you will be infused with hope that you’re not just going to crawl forward into this next season — you’re going to rise. You may feel lonely, but you don’t have to live lonely. You’re going to make it. Get your tickets today!
Find real-life encouragement when you connect with Lysa TerKeurst here on Instagram.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Proverbs 27:9, “Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel” (CSB).
How might you be able to ease the ache of loneliness in someone else’s life today? Here are some ideas: Reach out via text and encourage her. Pray for her without being asked. Show up with her favorite coffee drink. When we pursue togetherness, it reminds us we are all so very human and united in our laughter, tears, love and tender care for one another.
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2023 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Originally published Thursday, 28 September 2023.