We are fasting and praying again tomorrow for God-honoring marriages, redeemed men, and rescue from our own sin and brokenness. Over 700 people from around the world are doing this today, a far cry from the band of six that started this five years ago….
Two of the times I felt the loneliest as a single woman were going to parties, and being photographed for the church directory. I dreaded seeing the picture of me, all by myself, sandwiched between happy couples with cute, smiling children. When I was in my early twenties, my roommates and I avoided this by getting our photo taken together; but that started to feel a bit weird when directory time came around again in my later twenties — my roommates weren’t my family, after all. So I dodged the whole deal until my mid-thirties, when I decided to bite the bullet and just have that solo picture taken. Still, I felt sad and alone (and sometimes a bit embarrassed) to have my singleness “immortalized” in such a stand-out way.
And then there were the parties. I never liked walking into parties by myself, especially if I didn’t know whether I’d know many people. It’s always uncomfortable feeling like you don’t have a place to land when you run out of people to talk with. More often than not it turned out fine, but I never looked forward to the awkwardness, and sometimes I’d prolong conversations well past the interesting stage just because I didn’t see anyone else on the horizon I could easily make a move towards. Once I skipped a good friend’s anniversary party because I was in a bit of an emotional pit and couldn’t face going there alone. I just didn’t have the energy to start up conversations with strangers, or to navigate the awkwardness if I found myself alone.
So what do we do with the loneliness? Prior to getting married, my honest (if un-admitted) answer would have been “pray to get married!” But I’ve since learned that isn’t a fix. I married a good man, and yet I still get waves of loneliness. Last night I talked to a long-time friend from the town where I used to live, and I was reminded once again how much I miss my friends. That familiar pit in the stomach returned.
So what’s our strategy for dealing with loneliness? I think it can be particularly acute for those who are single, but I’ve discovered it’s really a human ache, and all of us feel it. How do we cope?
1) Pray. Cry out to God, surrendering it to him a thousand times a day if you have to. God is near, and present. He is Immanuel, God with us. I had to do this again this morning, when I woke up to realize I hadn’t shaken my wave of loneliness.
2) Practice thankfulness. Ask God to show you ways you aren’t alone, and give thanks. I dare to say that few people will claim to have all of their relational “life buckets” filled to satisfaction at the same time. But all of us do have people in our lives — roommates, siblings, friends, co-workers, church communities. Ask God to show you who is with you, and choose gratitude.
3) Put others first. I was wrong to skip my friend’s anniversary party. Sometimes it’s ok to give yourself a break and stay home; this time it wasn’t. I hurt my friend, and I regret my decision. I wish I had chosen to love my friend by being present at her important celebration rather than selfishly sinking into my own pit of sadness. Life and healing come when we choose to love, even in the midst of our own struggle.
The truth is, of all people in the world, we as believers are most fortunate because we are never alone. God is present with us, in us. We have intimacy with him always at our fingertips. May God give us grace to press into his nearness.