Soul Care Notes: On Loneliness
This article addresses the subjects of depression & suicide.
(1) We don’t love people well when we reduce a concept of “loneliness” to dynamics of location, relationships, & presence. A person can be IN (location) a community of FRIENDS (relationships) & their bodies all be present (presence), and yet still feel utterly alone.
(2) Location, relationships, & presence can absolutely trigger or enhance feelings of loneliness but loneliness itself is much more a state of the heart, mind, & soul than it is about who is around or how relationally popular a person is. The most famous people are often also the most lonely.
(3) The most well known people are often the least truly KNOWN. We wonder why rates of depression & suicide are so high & I submit to you it has a lot to do with how little we understand what loneliness is, how to detect it, or what to do when some is consumed by its darkness.
(4) Loneliness is the feeling we get when we feel a profound disconnect from human connection, something we as human beings have been designed to desire. Humans can be surrounded by people & yet still feel deeply disconnected from all those who surround them, still feel lonely.
(5) We often try to reconnect that severed thread thru a multitude of means. Ex. Going to a coffee shop, bookstore, or shopping, all an effort to be surrounded by people in hopes there will be a connection; but It often simply compounds the feeling of loneliness because we then see others “connected” in a way that feels outside our grasp.
(6) Shopping is a big one b/c “surely there will be connection w/ a sales rep, they have to talk to me to sale, their job is to connect w/ people, surely i’ll feel connected to them.” More despair as we don’t but now we are also broke or in debt. I see you. I know the struggle.
(7) Then comes other attempts to rebind that thread of human connection, in order to no longer feel lonely. Dating, sex (sometimes even w/ strangers), social media, & various other activities; all as an attempt to tie back together this thread of human connection we’ve lost.
(8) Then comes other things that compound the awareness of this severed thread. Things like clinical depression, anxiety, abuse, trauma, abandonment, betrayal, etc. Listen, I don’t want to give you a generic “you always have God” answer. If you follow me you already know that.
(9) And if we are honest about what it means to be human, it is not a betrayal of contentment in God to also embrace the reality that we need human connection. So much pain has been caused by a theology that suggests that desiring human connection is somehow sin or a betrayal of contentment in God. We were made to desire human connection, to need it even, & with that comes profound pain & feelings of loss when we lack it. Jesus’ own life testifies to this as he was often lonely and he is not shy about sharing the pain he felt in light of this reality [Garden of Gethsemane, great example].
(10) The fact Christ, in the incarnation, submitted Himself to the human struggle of loneliness speaks volumes. Especially when you consider the fact that Christ, in his eternal state, was never lonely & has eternally been fully fulfilled in community within the Godhead (Trinity).
(11) It demonstrates His love for us, the depth of sacrifice found in the incarnation itself, & the extent of his empathy as our High Priest. It also means that being lonely isn’t sin or unfaithfulness. When we are lonely, We are walking the same path our Christ walked, and though we may not feel it, we are walking in the promise that we will never be truly lonely, ever. Jesus went thru the greatest expression of loneliness, being cut off from fellowship with God & humanity as he suffered on a cross in between Heaven & Earth, so that we would never have to. He was forsaken so that we would never have to taste the bitter fruit of such dark loneliness ourselves. Even when we feel disconnected from all others, even God, we are still tethered to Christ- our elder Brother.
(12) Listen, I’ve struggled w/ loneliness for over 25 years. Despite being married to my best friend & having 4 amazing kids, I still know what it is like to feel utterly lonely. I don’t have an answer to how to cure it. What I do know is this, in my loneliness I cling to Jesus.
(13) Jesus hasn’t cured me from feeling lonely, & I know Jesus is a fully human person (& of course fully God) interceding for me w/ empathy, but when I feel lonely I feel disconnected from Him too. But I’ve persevered thru loneliness by reflecting on How Jesus persevered himself, and how he carries me even when I don’t feel his presence.
(14) We do people a profound disservice when we pressure them to get over their feeling of loneliness. We overwhelm them when we insist that our presence should be a cure for them & we add guilt to them when we express disappointment when our presence isn’t the balm they need.
(15) The best thing we can do for someone who is feeling alone or lonely is to be there for them in any way they communicate they most need. As they seek to reconnect the severed thread of human connection; we can be an ever present connecting point that doesn’t shame their disconnect.
(16) You know what most commonly happens tho? When someone shares that they feel lonely, that they feel disconnected from human connection, we take it personally & then we get defensive. We center ourselves in the midst of another’s pain & loss and guilt them for the feeling.
(17) If we truly desired to walk in love, we’d extend ourselves as a connection point w/o expecting to be the savior of that severed thread. We won’t abandon people in loneliness, but we’d commit to being a place, relationship, & presence for however long it takes for them to reconnect. We also wouldn’t shame or guilt them when they feel the same kind of disconnect with God.
(18) To those who struggle with loneliness, God is not offended when his beloved people feel lonely, even in his presence. God does all for His glory, not because he is a narcissist, But because he is the source of all Truth, Beauty, & Goodness. He mourns with those who mourn, weeps with those who weep, empathizes with those that need empathy, and never stops rejoicing over those whom he has made heirs with his Eternal Son. You are never alone, but the inability to feel that at times doesn’t make you unfaithful or insincere in your faith. Hold on, be gentle with yourself, allow yourself the time it needs to mourn & recalibrate a connection. You matter, I am so sorry for how you feel, but you are not alone, I see you.