God understands loneliness
Regular columnist Ruth Tong shares her personal experiences of loneliness, and offers pointers that may help.
In my early twenties, I was running away from God and from myself; the more I tried to fill my life with what endorsed my fragile identity, the emptier I felt. I found myself in a different country, heavily pregnant, and alone.
It was around a series of unfortunate events that the fog of my deception gave way to the reality that the superficial friendships I had surrounded myself with were false. I realised that people I’d thought of as close viewed me as a fool, and as my bump grew they all quickly faded away. I was left cripplingly alone.
It’s hard to make new friends when you’re 8 months pregnant. I was so lonely I would sit and look out the window of my flat and make up stories in my head about the people who passed by. I’d watch TV, write poetry, draw or cry, but… The one thing I would never do was share the shame of loneliness.
Admitting to being lonely meant I was a failure. It meant I was a person who couldn’t get any friends because I was too weird, or needy, or both. When you don’t like yourself, but you only have yourself for company, it’s a hard place to be. Yet it was into this broken place, this place of acute pain, that hope found me.
Loneliness slips into our days unseen; it sneaks in and takes up residence, blending into our lives with such deftness that we assume that’s how it’s meant to be. It hides behind exhaustion, business or fantasy so skilfully that it’s only when we’re engulfed that we realise it’s even there. It breaks my heart that, in our social media-driven age, suicides are increasing and people, desperate to connect, do so at far too high a price.
In my work, I am privileged to be permitted, by some, to share the deep vulnerabilities of the heart. I frequently identify with them as we work together to unpack dysfunction and negotiate a way out of destructive behaviours: - behaviours born from trying to soothe the pain of loneliness and anesthetize the detachment caused by sin.
As a fellow sufferer, I know this place; it’s horribly familiar, and yet it’s where hope found me. Sadly, it’s also a place where pride, fear, and acquiescent apathy held me captive for too long. There is an epidemic of lonely people in our world.
The truth is that we are designed for connection - even us introverts! It was because He knew He couldn’t live without us that Christ gave His life for us. His longing to connect, to intimately share our lives is the reason for the cross.
We will ALL feel lonely from time to time, but here some pointers for finding Hope in the vacuum of loneliness, from one who’s been there…
• Tell God – He cares for you more than words can say, He wants to fill you with love and life and joy. Wait on Him He will answer humble prayer.
• Tell someone you trust – perhaps you give the impression you’re all good, there is tremendous power in vulnerability. Dare to be vulnerable.
• Be honest – perhaps you are a bit prickly and need to commit to a deeper practice of grace.
• Be the answer- not long after I had my daughter I got off my butt, pressed through the discomfort, made an effort, joined a church and invited people for a cuppa. If I can do it so can you!
“Loneliness is not the absence of faces, it’s the absence of intimacy”.
from Travelling Light – by Max Lucado Pg.108
Ruth Tong is the Coordinator of Women’s Ministries at Eternity Downham Market, and is the author of ‘Love Drops from Heaven’. Ruth regularly blogs at ruthtong.com/blog
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