4 Things To Do When You're Lonely (Practice)
When I recently did a survey of people in ministry, I learned that loneliness is a profound struggle among them. I’ve been posting about loneliness for the past few weeks for this reason. I wrote about God’s presence in loneliness and a prayer for when you feel lonely.
But, what do we do when we’re lonely?
Here are four things the Spirit has shown me a that we can do to foster God’s growth in our souls while we experience loneliness.
1. Make the most of solitude.
Jesus often retreated into solitude out of necessity-and he always made the most of it. Even if our solitude is brought on by loneliness instead of necessity, we can still make the most of the solitude we have been gifted.
Usually as humans, we want to try to fix things. Our instinct is to escape the loneliness-either by seeking out community (which isn’t necessarily bad-more on that later) or numbing ourselves with entertainment. We may even seek to fill the loneliness in sinful ways.
Some things are not to meant to be fixed-at least not by us. Sometimes there is a purpose for the state in which we find ourselves. Instead of trying to rush our way out of this season, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to let the season be and let God work His way in our souls. This doesn’t mean we just sit passively by, but instead do things which can cultivate God’s work in our souls, rather than trying to fix our circumstances.
When we find ourselves surrounded by loneliness, we can spend the time doing things that deepen our intimacy with the Lord. We can try new practices that heal our soul or new hobbies that make us come alive. Loneliness can be a blessing that removes distractions from our midst so we can be free to seek the Lord more intimately.
2. Be honest before the Lord.
Trying to ignore or numb loneliness may make us feel better for a very short period, but ultimately it leaves us feeling worse. Ignoring the problem makes us more vulnerable to the temptation to “fix” it by sinful means, apart from God.
God, instead, calls us to be honest before him. This is why I love the Psalms so much. They are such an honest and raw expression of being human before a Holy and Wondrous God.
Psalm 142 is a great example (and prayer) for being honest before the Lord. David wrote Psalm 142 while he was hiding from Saul in a cave (what better picture for loneliness is there than a cave?!) David pours his loneliness out to the Lord:
“With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.
God is big enough to handle our pain and honesty and he invites us to lay it before him, raw, at his feet.
3. Pray for and seek God’s provision more than seeking out community.
Seeking out community proactively is not a bad thing at all, but it can also become a means of coping with loneliness apart from God, or trying to fix the issue ourselves.
As Henri Nouwen said, “Community isn’t created-it’s a gift.” Maybe our community often falls short because we’re trying to create it in our own power? What would happen if we instead looked for God’s provision and gift of community rather than trying to create it ourselves?
4. Remember when God provided in the past.
Remembering how God provided for us in the past can comfort us and give us hope in our loneliness.
Numerous times in the Old Testament, we see God’s people creating altars and ebenezers to remind them of God’s past divine provision. Jesus left us with the symbol of the cross and the Lord’s Supper to remind us of His provision of salvation.
There are several ways we can remember God’s past provision: looking back through old journals, taking time to remember and write a list that we can also refer to later, creating art as a commemoration, listening to songs that remind us, and reading scripture are some examples.
As you walk through loneliness, may you be reminded of God’s presence. May you see it not as a waste, but an opportunity to grow in intimacy with the Lord, however painful it may feel.
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