2.17.2013

Eight Questions to Address Loneliness

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” -Psalm 25:16

Do you ever feel lonely?

We all feel lonely at times. Sometimes we’re just alone without much to do. Maybe someone moved away, physically or emotionally, and we miss them. Perhaps we’ve even been separated from another by death. There’s nothing wrong with missing friends or family members who are gone, and times of loneliness can be expected in this life.

Yet sometimes loneliness can feel consuming, like a nightmare that will never end. We can turn a normal emotion into something monstrous, even obsessing over the fact that we are lonely. Time to think becomes time to think about being alone, and when you are alone, plenty of time to ponder doesn’t help.

When a normal reaction to a situation becomes the ultimate thing we fixate on, it becomes a true problem. Once we allow circumstances to seem so huge, we inevitably move our focus from the only thing that matters. We can no longer see God for who He is.

How can your focus move away from circumstances and onto the Lord? Here are eight questions to consider as you seek to understand your struggle with loneliness and find joy in the Living God.

When you feel extreme loneliness, what type of situation(s) are you facing?

Your story of loneliness, just as your whole life, is completely unique on one hand, and completely common on the other. No one else has gone through your exact experience. However, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Many people, myself (the author) included, have experienced deep loneliness on many levels and for many reasons.

Think a moment on your unique situation. What triggers your feelings of loneliness? Is it a certain setting? Someone just leaving? Seeing other people together? An inability to do something? Having too much time on your hands? Boredom is often a precursor to all types of temptations and frustrations. Pinpoint those moments when loneliness just begins to creep in and see if patterns begin to emerge.

Beyond “feeling lonely,” what is your reaction to your situation?

“I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.”
-Psalm 102:7


What do you do when that loneliness trigger occurs? Do you lose sleep? Become angry at people or God? Bury yourself in some form of distraction or entertainment?

One potential reaction can be to isolate yourself even further, and that can mean isolation from God. This is especially dangerous if you have withdrawn from a church fellowship, since Christian friends are frequently the very people God uses to teach us about Himself, and a little community might go a long way for you now.

Pay close attention to your natural reactions. What you do can show you where your mind and heart go first.

When you get lonely, what do you expect and believe about your situation?

This question isn’t always easy to answer. That’s because we usually don’t want to be honest about what’s really behind our reactions. Still, this is important to consider as it begins to shed light on what’s happening inside you.

With loneliness, you may feel you are owed something. You may even feel God owes you something. After all, He made people to be relational, so shouldn’t He give me that relationship? Maybe you begin to believe another person doesn’t deserve something. Why should they be happy when I’m so lonely? Perhaps you wish no ill will, but you’re simply jealous of other people. Maybe you turn on yourself, believing you are unloved and unlovable.

These are just some examples of bad beliefs that don’t honor God or others. Examine your heart to see what you believe and desire when loneliness strikes.

When you react and believe this way what consequences follow?

Everyone will answer differently, but the situation likely seems unbearable. You might become further isolated or even depressed, doubt the love of specific people, or seriously doubt the love of God. You may damage existing relationships by believing things that aren’t true. However you answer, this is not where you want to be. Serious battles with loneliness hurt you and, ironically, can hurt those around you.

You may wonder why we are reliving the negatives. Thinking through all this may have churned up sad emotions again. The good news is, despite how you feel, the story doesn’t have to end here. The following four questions are vital as you seek God in the grip of loneliness.

Who is God and what does He say about your situation and your loneliness?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” -Psalm 46:1

While this entire series of questions can help you think through your situation, this is the most important question you can answer.

First of all, who is God? In the big picture, He’s the Creator of the universe, of this planet, of you and me. He saw our relationships in this world broken when the very first two people decided to do their own thing instead of what God said. Instant loneliness ensued. The penalty for doing our own thing was death. Our relationships with God and each other have been messed up ever since.

But God promised someone would restore things, and that someone was Him. Jesus Christ came into our broken world, God in human form, and was broken Himself. He lived perfectly, the only Man who ever loved others God’s way. He died and returned to life again, conquering death, which would otherwise leave us truly alone, forever separated from Him. Now, if we believe in Jesus as God, trusting Him rather than trying to do life on our own, we can know God today and be with Him and His people forever when He returns to fully restore everything—the universe, the planet and our relationships. No more sadness. No more loneliness.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” -Revelation 21:3-4

This verse speaks to our loneliness. We learn here that for God’s people it’s only temporary. The Apostle Paul spoke of suffering in 2 Corinthians 4:17 as a “light momentary affliction ... preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Because of Jesus we can look forward to a perfect relationship between God and His people, together forever.

But what about today? What about right now when you feel alone? Another key verse is Matthew 28:20, where Jesus says, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus Himself is with us right now. He does not leave us. Look at Psalm 46 again. He is “very present.” We are never truly alone.

How can you turn to God for help when you feel lonely?

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” -Hebrews 4:16

What Jesus has done also allows us to approach God and ask His help, and His forgiveness.

When you feel alone, it can help to ask the Lord to make His presence real to you so you can focus on Him, remembering all He did and is doing. Remind yourself who God is every day.

At the same time, you likely need to ask God’s forgiveness, both for not loving others well and not trusting Him. In oppressive loneliness, we often make demands on God, and people, for things God hasn’t provided. If you are dwelling on something you don’t have it can feel more important than God Himself. Ask His help to believe Hebrews 13:5, “...be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” While this verse deals primarily with money, just as in Matthew 28:20 we see Jesus never leaves us regardless of the situation.

In your particular situation there will be other specific things for which to ask God’s forgiveness and trust Him. Don’t be afraid to completely turn to Him.

What should you do now in order to honor God?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Philippians 4:4-7 reminds us not to be anxious, but pray thankfully, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Look at all God has given you. He gave you life. If you believe in Jesus, He gives you Himself and eternal life with Him. In this alone there’s so much to be thankful for it’s almost amazing that in our circumstances we so often forget.

So thank Him. Thank Him for His presence and His love, for good relationships He has given and for everything He provides in your life.

You can also look for ways to actively get involved in the lives of others. Can you help someone else who may be lonely, even with a phone call? Perhaps there’s an elderly person or single parent in your church, or a volunteer organization that helps people. Remember, God uses His people in each other’s lives, so this could honor Him and another person while helping you both to feel not so alone.

What are some consequences of turning to God and believing Him?

“...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. ...I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:11, 13

Like the Apostle Paul, you can be content in any circumstance as Jesus provides His strength and presence.

You can also learn to love others well as you focus on their needs, helping them also to see God for who He is.

This may not mean God changes your situation. It means He changes your heart. He changes your focus from your situation to His reality.

It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never struggle with loneliness again. There are different seasons in life, and struggles can resurface. Yet God continues to work in us throughout our lives. I pray the Lord uses this article to help capture those lonely thoughts early so you can turn to Jesus quickly and find His inexplicable peace, knowing you are never alone.
_____________________

While this article was specifically written to address loneliness, these questions can be modified to think through anything that is plaguing you to help you understand your own emotions and how Jesus Himself addresses our fears, anxieties and wrong reactions.

Originally created for a CCEF (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation) class, I hope the Lord uses this to help you see and trust Him more fully in your own struggles and situations.

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