The looks of relief, satisfaction and appreciation for being thought of beamed through smiling eyes and wrinkly faces my first time Christmas caroling at a convalescent hospital. These life survivors had stiff bodies and smell unlike anything I’d experienced in my five years of life. Though young, I understood they had lived life, had jobs, raised families and were now old, alone, sometimes forgotten sometimes dejected. I didn’t want anyone to be forgotten, a thought which even then broke my heart. Now it’s my turn to get older, and while I’m far from being a wise sage, I’ve come to realize loneliness comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Lonely is the person who works odd hours making it difficult to build friendships.
Lonely is the nursing mother or empty nester.
Lonely is the college student studying insanely while working multiple jobs.
Lonely is the recently retired husband.
Lonely is the spouse emotionally abandoned.
Lonely is the teen swimming upstream.
Lonely is the person who is new to a community and knows nobody.
Are you’re reading this, aching during the series of holidays wishing for so much more? You’ve extended yourself, faced rejection and can’t imagine doing that again. Precious reader, I’m sorry that has happened. I’m sorry you have been misunderstood. I know small steps for some have felt like the impossible to me, maybe you too? Will you pause and pour your heart to your Creator, share your heartache and disappointments with the One who loves you more deeply than you can imagine and wants to comfort you.
Loneliness isn’t a death sentence; it’s an opportunity to connect deeply and significantly with God. I’ve experienced many of these forms of loneliness to find each time my heart, aching to connect with others, is drawn to a more intimate place with God. No matter how insignificant I feel, I am ultimately reassured of a powerful love God has specifically for me.
With only so much time to connect intimately, periods of loneliness can bring a willing heart back to the source of life and joy providing rest and renewal. It’s a luxurious break, a sabbatical of sorts, from the pressures and pulls relationships can bring. It may even be what prepares you for what is next to come.
Breaking free of the pain of loneliness varies with personalities, but a common thread is looking beyond oneself and filling the thank tank of your heart. Here are some ideas to get you started!
If you don’t know anyone to pray for, pray for your neighbors, pastors, community, leaders at every level, integrity for Christians to live out what they speak, courage for persecuted believers….the list of people who need our prayers is endless!
Let a car pull out in front of you. Say hello to your postal carrier.
Write an appreciative note to a pastor, worship leader, teacher, volunteer anyone who comes to mind at your church. Keep a journal of things you’re thankful for. Do a scavenger hunt in your bible for thankful people or verses.
Call your church and ask if there is a prayer group you can join. Sometimes these are phone chains. My grandma was part of one of these and even when she was less active, she was deeply connected. There are often groups who meet before or after church services.
Let the guy with flowers and a card or the mother with a gaggle of kids go in front of you while in line at the grocery store. Waiting in line anywhere and see a pregnant woman or sick person? Gladly let them have your spot.
Greet people with a smile and friendly “hello”. You don’t have to trust everybody but kindness can always be offered. Share some fresh fruit, cookies to neighbors.
By far, there’s no better way in my opinion to overcome loneliness than by volunteering. You’re able to provide much needed help, especially in a time when three people do the job of twenty. Extra hands are a treasure! Even when I’ve tried to be a behind the scenes “closet helper” I’ve found it impossible to not meet new people and feel a growing level of unity.
Living lonely is a temporary state when we set our eyes upward. I can’t wait to hear what God does in your life!