Loneliness: An Opportunity and a Sign of Hope

When C.S. Lewis wrote (famously) of desires unmet that set our hearts toward the journey of further up and further in, it’s obvious that he was writing in the days of snail mail and expensive long-distance phone calls.  The truth is that life on planet Earth is beset with longings of every kind, but chief among them is the feeling of loneliness.  Now that humanity has access to the blessings of Skype and email and ubiquitous cell phones, it would seem that loneliness should have been eradicated from the globe — or at least all parts of it that have reliable Internet connections.  However, it seems that no one is exempt from the sadness of feeling alone.

In Finding God in My Loneliness, Lydia Brownback argues that loneliness is a bellwether, an indicator that something is missing.  Our longing to know and be known by others is an invitation to pay attention to that feeling and to find our ultimate fulfillment in the God who created us and knows us by name.  In His days here in this broken ground, Jesus offered the pathway of finding one’s life by losing it, but when I believe the lie that finding my life is all about me and getting my needs met, I become  a very small package indeed.  Cramped and restless, my self-seeking leads only to more loneliness and an endless pursuit of serial wantings.

In her analysis of ten reasons people experience loneliness, Lydia also provides Scriptural examples that bear upon each situation and reveal the truth that God is present with us even when all we sense is absence and longing:

Abraham experienced The Loneliness of Leaving when God called him into the unknown, and he found that “through the loneliness that comes from heeding this call, the Lord redefines us and gives us a whole new identity.”  (Loc 503)  In the learning process, we begin to make our home in Him.

Those who experience The Loneliness of Night find, as Jacob did in his wrestling match with God, that a humble dependence on God changes our focus.  Nighttime struggles with fear and loneliness can lead to new hope and, over time, an abiding light that does not depend upon the time of day.

Anyone who believingly follows Christ will eventually experience The Loneliness of Obedience.  In addition to feeling abandoned, Joseph could also have felt resentful during his stint in an Egyptian prison, but an aerial view of God’s redemptive plan allowed him to live and walk in forgiveness.  God is able to redeem the lonely seasons of a close-following life, not merely for my own sake, but also for the sake of “many survivors.”

Elijah was discouraged when he fled to Mt. Horeb, but what he found there was The Loneliness of Running Away.  Sitting under our own personal broom trees, if we listen carefully, we, too, will hear from God the message that there is no guarantee of a “one-to-one correspondence between effort and success.” (Loc 862)  Picking through the rubble of our disappointment, we find our true motivation, and, with this humbling truth in hand, we are ready to be sent back into our calling without the burden of a get-it-right, produce-results, and build-your-own-kingdom mentality.

When we experience sorrow over the “pain of knowing life will never be the same,” we are feeling The Loneliness of Grief.  The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as the one who can enter into our grief with us — unlike well meaning friends who spout platitudes and exude impatience.

Those who are different “in a way that offends the sensibilities of others” know the painful Loneliness of Being Different.  Lydia vividly re-tells the desperate situation of the woman Jesus healed in Mark 5.  Her gynecological malady may have been debilitating, but it was most certainly isolating, and Jesus offers spiritual cleansing to those who are desperate enough to come to Him with an open mind about what healing means.

Even in the 21st century, addiction, disease, and dysfunction usher in The Loneliness of Being Unclean.  When loved ones are swallowed up in the darkness, it feels as if they are running wild in the tombs just as the poor guy that Jesus delivered from demons in Mark 5.  Lydia offers the helpful perspective that the horror, fear, and isolation of an addiction are truly a misplaced worship and require the same kind of miraculous healing to take the victim off the road to death.

If your idol has been relationships, and your heart has led you astray, then you know The Loneliness of Misplaced Love.  Jesus walked thirsty into the hub of a Samaritan town and put His finger directly on the thirst of the town’s female outcast. Serial husbands had not freed her from the pursuit, but through her story, the thirst-quenching love of Christ is revealed as the one thing that will change the future by freeing us from being defined by the poor decision of the past.

Written from the perspective of a single woman, Finding God in My Loneliness looks at both sides of the relational coin, for there is a Loneliness in Marriage that may be more bitter than the Loneliness of Being Unmarried.  With demographic data showing that there are currently about as many single adults in America today as married ones, it’s important to understand that, while there is a loneliness particular to singleness, singleness need not be equated with loneliness.  Betrayal, spiritual mismatches, and dysfunctional relationship patterns exacerbate the loneliness that happens within marriage, but even the best and happiest of marriages prove the point that marriage was never meant to fill us up or define us.  In fact, the single life demonstrates with clarity what all believers need to grasp in our search for community:  individuals find fulfillment through intimacy with Christ, and we will “know our oneness with Him most fully when we do life together with other believers.” (Loc 1866)

Participation in a local church has a way of banishing us from the center of the universe while we come to grips with the truth that the loneliness we experience is a sign post, pointing our hearts toward another world.

//

This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

39 thoughts on “Loneliness: An Opportunity and a Sign of Hope”

  1. Michele,
    I’m stopping by via #CoffeeForYourHeart today. What a great book! I’ll have to get it. This line got me,
    “If your idol has been relationships, and your heart has led you astray,…”
    Sadly that has been me. God has been gently showing me where I have had “idols” in my life and this morning as I read your post that word jumped off the page. I’m thankful for the rest of the paragraph where you encourage us readers that
    “the thirst-quenching love of Christ is revealed as the one thing that will change the future by freeing us from being defined by the poor decision of the past.”
    He is redemptive and the lover of my soul.
    Praying you have a blessed day filled with His words of love in your head banishing any lonliness to where it came from.
    Much love,
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

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    1. Sherry, so glad that this review set a sympathetic string humming over there in your world. I’m reading a fair amount lately on the importance of not allowing ourselves to become defined by our lack, whether it’s infertility (lacking the children we want), singleness (lacking the husband we want), or chronic illness (lacking the health we need to function as we wish we could). I’m encouraged that Jesus heals us spiritually as we enter into that relationship, and it is our privilege to live our way into that, even though we may not see fullness of joy until we see His face.

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  2. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a many-faceted explanation of loneliness and such a remarkable use of examples from Scripture. Thanks Michele for conveying so well the scope of this book! After a bad night’s sleep interrupted by relational fears for upcoming meetings, I appreciated the ‘take’ on Jacob’s story and the hope of ‘an abiding light that does not depend upon the time of day.” Need that!

    And Elijah’s example of obedience without guarantee of feel-good success is relevant.

    The whole post bears re-reading slowly and thoughtfully as it’s so chock-full of wisdom, as always!
    Thanks Michele. I’m heading back for a third run-through ( :

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    1. Thanks for entering into this book with me. I thought that Lydia did a phenomenal job of bringing Scripture to bear upon a problem that afflicts us all, but is usually something we sweep under the rug — or, conversely, make it our identity if that’s our bent. And the fact that she comes at the topic from the perspective of a single woman is particularly powerful in my opinion.

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      1. We are perhaps too good at distracting ourselves to plumb the depths of our loneliness es and find they point to God and his intention for us to be living and active parts of His Body…

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  3. Thank you for this insightful view on loneliness in your review on a book I am sure to purchase. God always knows what we need to fully grow, bud, blossom, and ultimately beat abundant fruit. Personally and to those I counsel I encourage being thankful for the loneliness. These are the times we must seek the wisdom and truth of God’s Word. When we dedicate our lives to “feeding His sheep.” When we come to the “ends” of ourselves in order to find our beginnings. The sanctification process can be extremely painful and down right brutal…BUT, ” Be still and know that He is God.” Psalm 46:10. And ” The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14. And never forget that Jesus made it very clear that He will never ( Original Greek word was an extremely strong word for never), leave us nor forsake us! So, stop climbing that wall to get to the other side, slide down, lean your back against it, close your eyes and soak up His warmth from the beautiful sun (son), He gave us, and accept where He has you! Peace!💖

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    1. Vicky! I am just now seeing this comment (it ended up in a spam bucket somehow!), but I’m so glad to know that the review has steered you toward a helpful resource. I can certainly see how your counseling ministry gives you countless opportunities to speak truth into lives. (Actually, I saw it up close and personal around the lunch table on the day of our lovely meeting. Seeds sown, my friend.) I do think that we have the mistaken notion — because of wrong teaching and wishful thinking — that the Christian life is one of needs fulfilled and smiling faces all the day long. I find that Romans 8 is so eye opening about the groaning and the rejoicing that live side by side in this following life.
      Blessings to you!

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  4. Interesting types listed here, and the Bible stories that she drew from. Ultimately I think that loneliness is when I make it more about me than about God or others. It’s not like there’s a shortage on Him or people in need. 🙂 Stopping by from the Recharge Wednesday Linkup.

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  5. Dear Michele,
    Thank you for sharing such a good review and full list of different kinds of loneliness and Scripture stories that complement those definitions. Whew. We all have suffered from most of these, at one time or another, if we have lived for very long. But your final statement says it all so well: “the loneliness we experience is a sign post, pointing our hearts toward another world.” I am so thankful that Jesus meets us wherever we fall within that scope of loneliness. Blessings to you!

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  6. Hello Michele, thanks for sharing the highlights of Lydia’s book. I never thought of loneliness as having multiple faces; reflecting on my own life I can see how truth that is. Over the years I have learned that the gaping hole of loneliness can only be filled by the outpouring of our Father’s love. Thank you you for sharing yours and Lydia’s insights.

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    1. I had never had that thought either, but I see now how helpful it is to pinpoint the source of the feeling so that we can be pro-active in either embracing it or addressing it.

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  7. this sounds like an interesting book.
    We all experience loneliness, the difference in each of us is how we respond to it. I am so grateful to know that Christ is my companion even in my times of ‘loneliness.’ Thank you for this review with us at this week’s Encouraging Hearts & Home blog hop!

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  8. Michelle, Just in reading your review of this book, I was convicted. I am experiencing a season of loneliness, longing for fellowship with other female Believers or female friends in general, and although there isn’t anything wrong with longing to have friends because indeed God created us for community, I see where there is a self-centered component to my longing where my focus should be finding my all in all in Christ Jesus who promises that when I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, He will add all these things to me.

    I also never thought about all the “types” of loneliness. Very insightful and very interesting.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Oh Michele … this, from the “loneliness of being different”: “Her gynecological malady may have been debilitating, but it was most certainly isolating, and Jesus offers spiritual cleansing to those who are desperate enough to come to Him with an open mind about what healing means.” I’ve experienced several of the other forms of loneliness, but this one jumps out the most right now. It’s true … our maladies may be physical, but the isolation they often bring sometimes hurts worse. Which makes the spiritual cleansing only Jesus can provide even more precious …

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    1. Wow, that’s an amazing insight, Lois. Thank you for adding your thoughts to the discussion here. And I’m sorry that this is your story right now. Trusting for good health for your good husband — soon!

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  10. Thank you for the book review and this thought-provoking post about loneliness. We have so many examples in the Bible to help up understand our own modern-day life journeys. Thanks for pointing out some of them.

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  11. This sounds like a really interesting book. I had never thought before about how there are so many different types of loneliness but that makes a lot of sense and I love how she identifies Bible examples for each one.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love how this books describes all these types of loneliness and pairs them with examples from the Bible! And I definitely agree with the loneliness in marriage being especially difficult and one many people don’t think of. I’m so glad you shared this with us at #FridayFrivolity this week!

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  13. Michele – this book is very interesting – I am not sure that I would have ever used the word loneliness to describe many of these individuals, but yet when I read what you shared, it totally fit. Ok, one more book I have to add to my book….

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  14. Thanks for sharing this at Literacy Musing Mondays. I can definitely relate to the loneliness of obedience. My husband and I tell our kids that they need to be prepared to feel lonely at times in this world and to be okay with it. And I’m sure everyone has felt lonely in marriage at one time or another. It’s hard to always be on great terms!
    Have a great week!

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