“As I sit here in a room filled with hundreds of other Believers, I couldn’t feel more alone. I feel invisible a sea of faces. Somehow, I feel very unseen. How did I get here? What did I do to deserve this level of loneliness? How will I ever move forward? My life isn’t going as I planned and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.”
These words were penned by a friend of mine several years ago. She had written that note to herself, while sitting a church filled with almost a thousand other people. It was during that sometimes-awkward part of the service when the pastor encourages everyone to meet and greet their neighbors. She looked around the room, and seemingly everyone else knew someone but her. Having just given birth to her second child, she found herself unexpectedly as a single mom, and the loneliness associated with that journey filled her with tears as she shared that letter with me.
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Loneliness Affects Us All
Fortunately, she was able to find a small Bible study some time after that and the friendships she made there were ones that have lasted more than a decade now. But loneliness is not a condition that only affect the single mom or even a single person. It impacts us all. Sometimes, we can be sitting in a room filled with others, just like my friend was so many years ago, and feel completely and utterly alone. But it is in this time of loneliness that God can grow us in ways that we never imagined.
If you are experiencing loneliness, consider these four ways that God is growing you though it.
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1. Our intimacy with the Lord can increase during times of loneliness.
Think about the times in your life that you have been most busy, possibly during high school or college or right before a work deadline. It is likely you were surround by groups of people. It is during our busy season, maybe when there are lots of friends (or at least warm bodies) around, that we often think we don’t have time to have devotionals.
Sadly, we can get too busy focusing on other things and forget to focus on the main thing – our relationship with the Lord. It has been during my times of loneliness that I have learned to greatly lean on the Lord for everything. I’ve learned that Jesus truly is my best friend; it’s not simply some cliche terminology that Christians like to use. Those times of intimacy were intensified during my times of loneliness. The same can be true for you.
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2. We learn more in the valleys.
There are things to be learned on both the mountaintops and in the valleys. But let’s face it. There are just certain things that we seem to learn better on our worst, valley, days. When a small child is reminded repeatedly not to touch the hot stove, it is not quite as effective as when they do actually touch the stove and suffer the consequences. There have been relationships I’ve entered into with friends who weren’t leading me down a godly path or a boyfriend that was doing likewise that I should’ve never been with in the first place. I knew that I shouldn’t, but I did it anyway. The loneliness and heartbreak that followed was unlike any other.
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"Valleys teach us perseverance, dependence on God, and endurance."
I learned some things in that valley of loneliness that have been useful to many, even years later. Of course, I’m not suggesting that your loneliness is a result of something you have done wrong, as was my case. I’m simply highlighting that the depths of loneliness can fill us with an increased appreciation for relationships, once that lonely season is over. Mountaintops can teach us humility. But valleys teach us perseverance, dependence on God, and endurance. Friends, there is something to be learned in the valley today.
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3. Loneliness can be a time to work on ourselves.
If I were to get a pen and paper out this very moment, the list of things about me that could be worked on would be pretty long. There’s the physical, such as a few more sit-ups and push-ups. There’s my role as an employer and the many failings and shortcomings I exhibit there. Then, there are my roles as wife, mom, and friend. And finally, there is my spiritual journey. The fact that I’m often too quick to anger and talk way too much – sticking my foot in my mouth more often than not. That’s my 30-second list. Trust me, there are many more!
And the same is likely true for you. Loneliness can be an honest time of self-evaluation. What are the things that you can work on in your own life right now? Could you improve your exercise routine or eating habits? This could be a good time to take a financial education class or invest in a hobby you enjoy.
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"Perhaps this time of loneliness is a time of pursuing and discovering God’s purpose for your life."
Times of loneliness can be times of self-exploration and improvement. Maybe there was a time in your life in an old dating relationship that you made an idol out of man. Perhaps you put more value on a relationship with a person than you did on your relationship with God. This season could be the perfect time to evaluate those behaviors, so that you can prevent them in the future. Or perhaps this time of loneliness is a time of pursuing and discovering God’s purpose for your life. God has given us all unique talents, skills, and gifts that can be used to improve the lives of those around us. What are yours? How can you use them for the glory of God? What are the things in your life that you could give back to others and how would that, ultimately, improve your own life?
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4. Being lonely can often promote a powerful quite time.
I admit there have certainly been times in my own life when my prayer time with the Lord has been habitual and mundane. And other times, it seemed the power of God was raining down from Heaven on me like fire. The difference is often my expectation and willingness to see it and hear from God. The times when I’ve been most desperate for Him – the times when wailing and crying and screaming for breakthrough were most prevalent – are the times when I’ve most assuredly seen Him. Your time of loneliness may be an intentional stripping away of all things by the Lord, so that you can grow in your walk with Him.
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"...even in that loneliness, he never lost sight of his purpose..."
I don’t mean to minimize the pain or heaviness that can be associated with loneliness. Not at all. I don’t mean to even insinuate that a lonely season isn’t a hard season. It surely is. I think about Jesus out in the wilderness being tested by Satan (Matthew 4: 1-11). I think about how hard that season was for him – how lonely he must have felt. Yet, even in that loneliness, he never lost sight of his purpose on the earth and what he had been called to. The same can be true for you.
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"Being alone isn’t a punishment."
Being alone isn’t a punishment. It’s sometimes necessary. As Christians, we often say, God created us for relationship. I believe that to be true. There is great power in the gathering of believers. However, the first priority relationship has to be with the Lord.
This season of loneliness you are battling right now is merely a season. It will pass. But while you are in it, choose to see the growth opportunities. Circumstances can sometimes create isolation or unavoidable loneliness, but what if we began to view our times of loneliness as opportunities for growth?
Jennifer Maggio is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about encouraging women and single parents. She is a mother to three and wife of Jeff. She is author to four books and speaker. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
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Originally published Tuesday, 11 September 2018.