Category  |  Loneliness

Minister of Loneliness

Since her husband died, Betsy spends most days in her flat, watching television and boiling tea for one. She is not alone in her loneliness. More than nine million Brits (15 percent of the population) say they often or always feel lonely, and Great Britain has appointed a minister of loneliness to find out why and how to help.

Some causes of loneliness are well known: We move too often to put down roots. We can take care of ourselves, and we don’t have a reason to reach out. We are separated by technology—each of us immersed in our own flickering screens.

I feel the dark edge of loneliness, and you may too. This is one reason we need fellow believers. Hebrews concludes its deep discussion of Jesus’s sacrifice by encouraging us to meet together continually (10:25). We belong to the family of God, so love “one another as brothers and sisters” and “[show] hospitality to strangers” (13:1–2). If we each made an effort, everyone would feel cared for.

Lonely people may not return our kindness, but this is no reason to give up. Jesus has promised to never leave nor forsake us (13:5), and we may use His friendship to fuel our love for others. Are you lonely? What ways can you find to serve the family of God? The friends you make in Jesus last forever, through this life and beyond.

Seen by God

My first pair of eyeglasses opened my eyes to a bold world. I’m nearsighted, meaning objects close up are sharp and defined. Without my glasses, however, items across a room or in the distance are a blur. At age twelve, with my first pair of eyeglasses, I was shocked to see clearer words on blackboards, tiny leaves on trees and, perhaps most important, big smiles on faces.

As friends smiled back when I greeted them, I learned that to be seen was as great a gift as the blessing of seeing.

The slave Hagar realized that as she fled from her mistress Sarai’s unkindness. Hagar was a “nobody” in her culture, pregnant and alone, fleeing to a desert without help or hope. Seen by God, however, she was empowered, in return, to see Him. No longer a vague concept, God became real to her, so real that she gave God a name, El Roi. “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (v. 13).

Our seeing God sees each of us, too. Feeling unseen, alone or like a “nobody”? God sees you and also your future. In return, may we see in Him our ever present hope, encouragement, salvation and joy—both for today and for our future. Praise Him today for this gift of amazing sight, to see the one true and Living God.

Lonely Christmas

The loneliest Christmas I ever spent was in my grandfathers’ cottage near Sakogu, northern Ghana. I was just 15, and my parents and siblings were a thousand kilometers away. In previous years, when I had been with them and my village friends, Christmas was always big and memorable. But this Christmas was quiet and lonely. As I lay on my floor mat early Christmas morning, I remembered a local song: The year has ended; Christmas has come; the Son of God is born; peace and joy to everybody. Mournfully, I sang it over and over.

My grandmother came and asked, “What song is that?” My grandparents didn’t know about Christmas—or about Christ. So I shared what I knew about Christmas with them. Those moments brightened my loneliness.

Alone in the fields with only sheep and occasional predators, the shepherd boy David experienced loneliness. It would not be the only time. Later in his life he wrote, “I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16). But David did not allow loneliness to cause him to be despondent. Instead, he sang: “My hope, Lord, is in you” (v. 21).

From time to time we all face loneliness. Wherever Christmas may find you this year, in loneliness or in companionship, you can enjoy the season with Christ.

Nobody Likes Me

As a child, when I felt lonely, rejected, or sorry for myself, my mother would sometimes attempt to cheer me up by singing a popular ditty: “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. I think I’ll go eat worms.” After a smile came from my downcast face, she’d help me see the many special relationships and reasons for gratitude I truly did have.

When I read that David felt no one cared for him, that ditty rings in my ears. Yet David’s pain wasn’t at all exaggerated. Where I had feelings of loneliness typical for my age, David actually had good reason to feel abandoned. He wrote these words in the dark depths of a cave where he hid from Saul, who pursued him with murderous plans (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:3–10). David had been anointed as Israel’s future king (1 Samuel 16:13), had spent years in Saul’s service, but now he lived “on the move,” always fearing for his life. In the midst of the loneliness David felt, he cried out to God as his “refuge” and “portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5).

Like David, we can cry out to God when we feel alone, giving voice to our feelings in the safety of His love. God never minimizes our loneliness. He wants to be our companion in the dark caves of our lives. Even when we think no one cares for our life, God cares!

When God Fills Us

"What had I done?" It should have been one of the most exciting times of my life. Instead, it was one of the loneliest. I'd just gotten my first "real" job after college, in a city hundreds of miles from where I grew up. But the thrill of that big step quickly faded. I had a tiny apartment. No furniture. I didn't know the city. I didn't know anyone. The job was interesting, but the loneliness felt crushing.

One night, I sat at home with my back against the wall. I opened my Bible and stumbled into Psalm 16, where verse 11 promises God will fill us. "Lord," I prayed, "I thought this job was the right thing, but I feel so alone. Please fill me with a sense of Your nearness." I offered variants of that plaintive plea for weeks. Some nights, my sense of loneliness eased, and I had a deep experience of God's presence. Other nights, I still felt achingly isolated.

But as I returned to that verse, anchoring my heart in it night by night, God gradually deepened my faith. I experienced His faithfulness in a way I never had before. And I learned that my job was simply to pour out my heart to Him . . .  and humbly await His faithful response, trusting His promise to fill us with His Spirit.

Carried Through

I recently stumbled across some of my journals from college and couldn’t resist taking time to reread them. Reading the entries, I realized I didn’t feel about myself then the same as I do today. My struggles with loneliness and doubts about my faith felt overwhelming at the time, but looking back now I can clearly see how God has carried me to a better place. Seeing how God gently brought me through those days reminded me that what feels overwhelming today will one day be part of a greater story of His healing love.

Psalm 30 is a celebration psalm that similarly looks back with amazement and gratitude on God’s powerful restoration: from sickness to healing, from threat of death to life, from feeling God’s judgment to enjoying His favor, from mourning to joy (vv. 2–3,11).

The psalm is attributed to David, to whom we also owe some of the most pain-filled laments in Scripture. But David also experienced restoration so incredible he was able to confess, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (v. 5). Despite all the pain he had endured, David discovered something even greater—God’s powerful hand of healing.

If you are hurting today and need encouragement, recall those times in your past when God carried you through to a place of healing. Pray for trust that He will do so again. 

Never Forsaken

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” With that in mind, I read an online article describing “The Top 8 Deadliest Prisons in the World.” In one of these prisons every prisoner is held in solitary confinement.

We are intended to live and relate in relationships and community, not in isolation. This is what makes solitary confinement such a harsh punishment.

Isolation is the agony Christ suffered when His eternal relationship with the Father was broken on the cross. We hear this in His cry captured in Matthew 27:46: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).” As He suffered and died under the burden of our sins, Christ was suddenly alone, forsaken, isolated, cut off from His relationship with the Father. Yet His suffering in isolation secured for us the promise of the Father: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

Christ endured the agony and abandonment of the cross for us so that we would never be alone or abandoned by our God. Ever.

Deeply Loved

Years ago I had an office in Boston that looked out on the Granary Burying Ground where many prominent American heroes are buried. There one can find the gravestones for John Hancock and Samuel Adams, two signers of the Declaration of Independence, and just a few feet beyond that is Paul Revere’s marker.

But no one really knows where in this burial ground each body is buried because the stones have been moved many times—sometimes to make the grounds more picturesque and other times so lawn mowers could fit between them. And while the Granary features approximately 2,300 markers, closer to 5,000 people are buried there! Even in death, it seems, some people are not fully known.

There may be times when we feel as if we are like those unmarked residents of the Granary, unknown and unseen. Loneliness can make us feel unseen by others—and maybe even by God. But we must remind ourselves that even though we may feel forgotten by our Creator God, we are not. God not only made us in His image (Gen. 1:26-27), but He also values each of us individually and sent His Son to save us (John 3:16).

Even in our darkest hours, we can rest in the knowledge we are never alone, for our loving God is with us.

The Lonely Season

Amid the pile of post-Christmas mail I discovered a treasure—a handmade Christmas card painted on repurposed cardstock. Simple watercolor strokes evoked a scene of wintry hills livened with evergreens. Centered at the bottom, framed by red-berried holly, was this hand-printed message:

Peace be with you!

The artist was a prisoner and a friend of mine. As I admired his handiwork, I realized I hadn’t written to him in 2 years!

Long ago, another prisoner was neglected as he waited in prison. “Only Luke is with me,” wrote the apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:11). “No one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (v. 16). Yet Paul found encouragement even in prison, and he wrote, “The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (v. 17). But surely Paul felt the lonely ache of abandonment.

On the back of that wonderful Christmas card my friend wrote, “May the peace and joy and hope and love brought about through the birth of Jesus be with you and yours.” He signed it, “Your brother in Christ.” I put the card on my wall as a reminder to pray for him. Then I wrote to him.

Throughout this coming year let’s reach out to the loneliest of our brothers and sisters.

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