A few weeks ago a friend from university wrote a blog post opening up about struggling with depression.
I was very grateful that she had chosen to share her experience so honestly, because in doing so she gave others permission to do the same. I felt grateful, too, because I’ve been there a couple of times during my university years and it was comforting to have someone else articulate it so well.
It got me thinking about all of the other inward things that we fragile beings experience; big and small.
The news is always on mute in our top floor office. The other week, some people were discussing loneliness, and though I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I was glad it was being talked about.
I am very familiar with loneliness, hard as it is to admit publicly.
I would never use my own experience to downplay the terrible loneliness of the elderly, for example. But I also don’t want to downplay my own experience, out of a misplaced sense of guilt that others have it worse than me.
I have some very good friends. I’m thankful to have met many amazing people over the years. I’m blessed to have lovely colleagues. On the surface, it doesn’t seem as though I should have cause to feel this way.
But after a season that has felt particularly lonely, I think it’s time to talk about it, because no doubt there are others who can relate. In this age of social media and busy schedules, I think the problem is worse than ever.
Nobody tells you that loneliness might be a big part of post-university life. I moved back to my hometown with my parents, left my church and my friends (again). Community gives you a support network; it’s harder to flourish without one.
Commuting long hours has done more than completely drained my energy; it has affected my happiness, as there is no time for socialising.
So the closeness, fellowship and intimacy with others, that God designed us for as a reflection of the closeness He desires to have with us, has been somewhat lacking in my life for several months. It would be stupid to think this isn’t affecting me at all.
Last week I had a drink after work with one of my dearest friends, with whom I had not properly spent time for many months. In the middle of a crowded bar we sat and talked for a long time, as best friends always do.
I think it was after that that I fully realised the impact of what my lifestyle has been doing to me.
You’re probably thinking at this point, well why don’t you just move?! To answer your question, I have been looking to move since December, but it’s been a long process, as following God’s leading can sometimes be. I had personal reasons for not wishing to move prior to that. Thankfully, I believe the search may finally be over and this period of time will be put behind me, with some lessons learned.
But loneliness is not always purely circumstantial.
Side note: For me it may partly stem from my own personality. According to the famous Myers Briggs personality test (the accuracy of which I doubted until I actually took it), my personality is pretty rare, so who knows, maybe that has been a factor. I tend to err on the introspective side and crave depth in my relationships, so small talk doesn’t do much for me. But, you know, I have myself to blame sometimes, when I have not made enough effort to open up to people.
Carl Jung (who incidentally influenced the theory behind the Myers Briggs system), once said this:
“Loneliness not does come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”
Quoting Jung doesn’t mean I’m endorsing some of his other theories (though hopefully you already knew that). But I think he hit the nail on the end when he said this.
You can have a lot of people around you, even people you like a lot and consider to be your friends, but unless you can be real with them, you can still feel isolated.
By admitting all of this, I hope I can give you some insight into what lonely people feel like, and if you have felt the same way, know that I can relate.
I do not want pity, because seasons come and go. This too will pass. I will move, and settle into a new church again. I will see old friends and make new ones.
I can testify that God has been close and a source of great comfort. His Word reminds me again and again that He is with me, surrounds me, sustains me, upholds me.
His Spirit speaks to me with such gentleness and sweetness, illuminating His word as he speaks promises over me. But He goes further than that, taking the keenest interest in all my concerns. I am amazed that He would take time to speak to me, answer my queries, steer my life decisions. On occasion, He even encourages me to ask Him about specific situations. To know that the Creator of the universe desires friendship with me is baffling but incredible. There is no greater friend.
It is always in those times of lack, when the things I hold dear are withheld, that God in His mercy draws me closer. He has used loneliness to show me that He is all I truly need. To seek His kingdom first, to desire Him alone, is easier when there are fewer distractions.
I wasn’t going to share this part, but it seems appropriate –
The first verse I read this year (it was the verse for the day in my Bible app) was this:
“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
It spoke straight to my soul, and He then told me (better than I can explain here), about how I would see a new season bringing freshness like a springtime garden, as He fulfills this promise and ends this desert-like time.
God cares about loneliness. It’s not a small thing to Him.
He turns the bitter into sweet. He makes all things new.