How to Handle Loneliness

Another tragedy saturates the pages of our news feed causing us to gasp, mourn, wonder and question, “What’s this world coming to?”  Many people share their answers to this question with gun control leading the polls in the solution to the depravity of the human heart.  While school massacres might not have taken place in ancient days the root of the problem remains, we need Jesus.  We desperately need Jesus to give us new hearts.

One article sub-titled, “How one school teacher took time to look out for the lonely,” caught my attention as I was working on this blog addressing the topic of loneliness.  Weekly, a 5th grade teacher took requests from her students for seating in her classroom for the upcoming week.  By secret vote, she also asked for nominations of the most exceptional classroom citizen. She wasn’t trying to create a new seating chart or highlight the student of the week, but rather to discover the lonely children in her class.  The article shared how the slips of paper with information submitted by the students uncovered patterns that would highlight the lonely children and those struggling to connect with others.  “Who is going unnoticed in the social life of the class? Who is being bullied and by whom? Who is not getting requested by anyone else? Who can’t think of anyone to 
request? Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated? Who had a million friends last week and none this week?” Apparently, this teacher experienced the heartbreak of Columbine and determined that “all violence begins with disconnection. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness.”  https://www.rd.com/advice/parenting/stop-bullying-strategy/

God created us to need community or companionship.  In fact, His response after creating Adam was that it was not good for him to be alone, so He created a helpmate suitable. We were made for relationships. There are times in life where we are alone, yet we don’t feel lonely, and then there are other times where we may experience loneliness even in a crowded environment.  What makes the difference?  The emotional response to our circumstances.

Rick Warren shares four causes of loneliness:

  1. Transitions – when change brings about a loss which brings on a twinge of loneliness: 1st day of school, graduation, a new job, fired or laid off from a job. Life is a series of transitions.
  2. Separations – when we are isolated from those we love.  During travel, illness, or death.
  3. Oppositions – when under attack by others you fall prey to loneliness.
  4. Rejection – when you feel that you have been betrayed or forsaken.

As widows we are now alone in many ways:  physically, socially, emotionally. There is no longer a warm body by our side or a cheerleader in the stands.   Over time, our community changes or disappears causing even the most independent person to experience feeling alone as never before.  You may be alone in raising children, alone as the breadwinner, alone in making decisions, and living alone, but you are not completely alone.  God promises in Hebrews 13:5:

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

Danger comes when the normal, uncomfortable emotion of loneliness becomes negative or bitter as it attaches itself to our situation causing on-going pain in being alone.  It is common to feel lonely and sad without the companionship of your husband. However, Elisabeth Elliot who experienced widowhood twice offers this challenge,

“When you find yourself alone, there is potential to be lonely unless you have an awareness of being a part of something grander and greater than yourself.”  She goes on to confirm that being in God’s arms does not exclude suffering.  “We must trust that even our suffering is under God’s control.  In fact, love revealed on the cross does not exclude but must include suffering.”

Loneliness is real, and it hurts. Suffering is a wilderness experience–that’s the purpose. In your walk through this valley there are practical lessons to be learned one of which might be to consider how to handle loneliness.  We cannot do anything about our suffering in the season of loneliness, but there is something we can do with it…

How to Handle Loneliness

  1. Accept it as a gift from the Lord – this time of solitude may only be for a season.  We don’t know the purpose for the pain but give purpose in this season. Get to know the Lord in ways you never could or thought possible. “Peace comes not through the removal of the pain, but in the acceptance of it.” (Elisabeth Elliot)
  2. Embrace it as a gift to yourself – There are things you can do alone that you cannot do with others.  In marriage, you were created to be a helpmate suitable to your husband.  When this responsibility is removed, enjoy a season of spending time doing what you could not do easily when your husband was by your side:  read, write, sleep, spend time with others, or spend time getting to know the Lord in a way you have never experienced before.
  3. Give it away as a gift to others – reframe your lonely days and re-direct your focus.  Don’t spend time thinking of your aloneness.  Look for ways to give your time away.  If you are a busy widowed-mom, invest in your children.  Enjoy being the one to make decisions with your children and lead them well.  Encourage another single mom or the elderly. The widow with the last coin gave her all away. The widow with the last oil surrendered in obedience to the Lord.  Yes, her only son died in the process, but she witnessed his resurrection from the dead in the end. (1 Kings 17)

“Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.” 1 Timothy 5:5

“A Father of the fatherless, a defender of the widows. God makes a home for the lonely . . . only the stubborn and rebellious dwell in a parched land.” Psalm 68:6

Perspective makes a difference in your loneliness: Alone = physical status vs lonely = our mindset.  God’s word teaches that He makes a home—a shelter—for the lonely, and only the stubborn and rebellious live in a parched land.  You don’t have to be alone in your loneliness.  Choose today to come into His shelter for the lonely.