Finding Biblical Joy in Loneliness
By Gina Smith, Crosswalk.com
"The pain of loneliness is one way in which he wants to get our attention. We may be earnestly desiring to be obedient and holy. But we may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him - here where it seems He is not at work, where He seems obscure or frightening, where He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here and nowhere else is the appointed place. If faith does not get to work here, it will not work at all." -Elisabeth Elliot
Loneliness is something we all experience. In fact, I would guess that most of us experience loneliness on a regular (daily?) basis. I have gone through long periods where I have lacked any fellowship, and I have had times when I was in a large group of people, feeling like I didn't fit in anywhere -- again, feeling lonely.
There have been specific seasons of life when I felt lonely: When many of my friends were getting married, and I hadn't met my spouse yet, when I had an infant and wasn't able to come and go as I pleased, when life revolved around a toddler's nap schedule, when I was homeschooling my children who required me to spend most of my time at home, when my children were in college and were no longer in our home as much, and now that my children are married, there is some loneliness in my empty nest.
No matter what season of life we are in, we will face loneliness. Even when we have a strong community at church or are fortunate enough to have family close by, loneliness hovers over each of us. There is no way to escape it.
Examples of Loneliness in the Bible
Jeremiah - the weeping prophet had a lonely calling. He was forbidden to marry, so he had to answer his calling without human companionship. His message, which was a message of repentance, often put him in a position of being rejected by those he was called to preach to.
David - experienced grief and loneliness when his own son rose up against him. He was forced to leave his home and family and his home city. He was driven to the point of being so alone that his only choice was to cry out to God. (Psalm 25) Indeed, his only hope was to be found in God.
Elijah - Elijah had to run for his life when he was called to prophesy against Ahab, proclaiming that God would send a drought. He ended up in the wilderness and in exile, where, even though God met his physical needs, he was alone. He ended up staying in a widow's home but was a stranger in the town.
Jesus - the cross was where the ultimate example of loneliness was experienced. The cross is where Jesus hung and died while crowds of spectators stood back and watched, choosing to do nothing. Of course, this was all a part of God's plan of salvation, but the suffering Jesus experienced was excruciating. He experienced physical and emotional pain so that we would have the hope of eternal life with him in heaven.
Even when we are doing the will of God, we cannot be guaranteed that we will not experience loneliness. It is unavoidable in this sin-cursed world. Whatever our circumstances, we only have one guarantee – we always have the sweet, comforting fellowship of Jesus. That is the only thing that is constant, never fails, and never leaves us. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that He is "a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Matthew 28:20 tells us that He will be with us always, even until the end of this age." Even in the loneliest of times, we can take comfort that He is always near.
What Good Comes From Loneliness?
Personally, I believe that loneliness is a form of suffering. And what does the Bible say about suffering?
1 Peter 5 tells us that "the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
He is making you strong and steadfast!
Isaiah 53 tells us, "when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
He is with you. He will not allow you to be overwhelmed.
And Psalms 119 reminds us, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
It can be used as an opportunity for us to learn more about God and His Word.
This suffering, called loneliness, brings us to a point of desperation so that we have nothing left to do but turn to the only One who is always present and ready to fellowship, refresh, and restore us in a way that no human could ever do. We can find biblical joy when we experience isolation and loneliness because it puts us in a position of having nowhere else to turn but to God. And it is only when we are focused on Him that we can experience true, biblical joy.
Find Biblical Joy in Loneliness By Focusing on God
Thank Him For Who He Is:
Father, thank you for being El Roi: The God Who Sees Me. Thank you for understanding what it's like to be lonely and for not overlooking me, even when it feels like others overlook me. Thank you for Your ever-watching eye, and that I can count on You to be there whenever I need you. I am lonely. Thank you that I am not alone.
Thank Him For His Faithfulness:
Father, Thank you for how you have been faithful in the past (take time to reflect and remember how He has been faithful) and how you have sustained me and enabled me to persevere, one minute at a time, one day at a time, up until this moment. Thank you for walking me through my suffering (remember specific trials and suffering that He has walked you through) and for being present. You have provided much-needed human fellowship in the past (remember the people God has brought into your life for fellowship), and I know you will provide that again. I know you are faithful. Thank you for being a faithful God who sees me and provides for my every need.
Thank Him for His Promises:
Father, thank you for Your promises in Your Word that I can cling to in these lonely days. Thank you for Deuteronomy 31:6, which says, "You will neither fail you nor abandon me." Joshua 1:9 tells me that "you are with me wherever I go." And Psalm 94:14, which tells me, "You will not abandon me – your special possession."
Thank Him For His Provisions:
Father, thank you for how You have provided for my every need. You have provided for my physical and temporal needs. (List His provisions as they come to mind) You created the world and provide for every living thing (Philippians 4; Matthew 6), including me! You have promised that You will not allow me to go without.
Gina Smith is a writer and author. She has been married for 34 years to Brian, a college professor, and athletic trainer. For 25+ years she and her husband served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents, where Brian was a professor and dean of students. They reside right outside of Washington DC and are the parents of two grown children, one daughter-in-law, and one son-in-law. She recently authored her first traditionally published book Everyday Prayers for Joy, available everywhere books are sold. You can find Gina at the following: Website:ginalsmith.com, Instagram, , and at Million Praying Moms, where she is a writer.