I have been trying to think of a time when I felt lonely. But I can’t think of just one. Multiple ones come to mind in less than 10 seconds. I think of the first time I left my home in the Dominican Republic to study in the US. I didn’t live on campus and didn’t have strong community at first. Eventually I enjoyed sweet friendship and community there. Surprisingly, I actually experienced loneliness back in the DR when I returned home and my Dominican friends didn’t understand my cross-cultural experience in college.
More lonely years come to mind: my single years up until I was married at 28. And then the loneliness that comes with a long-distance dating relationship. Marriage came (yay!) but so did leaving my family and church in the DR when I married my American husband and relocated permanently to the US (not yay).
Then began the slow process of making new friends in the US. Once those friends were comfortable and close, it was – you guessed it- time to move again; this time to the Middle East. 10 months later, we moved again to another city. And more recently, we moved again to a whole new country.
And so here I am: helloooo loneliness! I imagined it would be this way at the beginning. Not because God isn’t faithful to provide, but because this time I am making an effort to cross the bridge to live life in another culture and language. As a mom and as a language learner (while also spending heaps of time cooking to care for our family’s special health needs), I don’t have a lot of time to invest in deep friendships the way I am used to. The time I do have, I am prioritizing friends that speak the language I want to learn. Those times don’t go as deep as I love to go because of significant language barriers. I have an English-speaking friend but our paths don’t cross organically… and even with intentionality to meet up, we see each other every 4-6 weeks.
Our family is learning how to do this life and what life in community will look like for us. In the meantime, while we figure it out, I feel lonely.
Is it just me or does your loneliness always come along with many friends? I want to introduce you to a few of the ones I have met over the years.
Meet Envy. She makes me look at other’s lives and wish I had the community they seem to enjoy. She tells me to think of my sister who’s lived in the same city her whole life and is raising her children with the children of our childhood friends. Or our military friends who also move around a lot but have found rich community to quickly plug into. Or the online friend who moved cross-country for gospel purposes and has friends who can fly in to visit her for the weekend when she is lonely.
Seconds after Envy arrives, Self-Pity comes breathlessly behind. Around her company, I start thinking that my life is harder than most of my friends. I feel forgotten.
“Everyone seems to have their own lives and not remember us over here.”
“No one sees the need to come and visit us.”
And then Critical Spirit shows up. He reminds me my husband is my only close friend in town so he needs to be all things to me: my mom, sister, kindred spirit, the friend who always just GETS it. When he isn’t all those things, or doesn’t have the great ideas that I want him to come up with, I grow dissatisfied in him. He is not enough.
Critical Spirit is there too, to hurt the few friendships I actually have. I zero in on the ways these friends are not meeting my needs, or how they are not what I want them to be in a lonely season.
Loneliness has other friends too: Laziness, Pride, Discontent. They invite me to spend a lot of time on social media, to only talk about myself when I am with people or connect with them over Skype, and to miss the actual hand of God providing for everything I need.
When loneliness’ friends come and have a chat, I have a shocking gift of grace that surprises them and makes them leave: the life of Jesus in me through His Spirit. Christ lived his earthly life lonely yet without sin. When He was homesick, misunderstood, forsaken by his closest friends, He stayed away from sin by turning to His Father (Luke 22:42-44). His Father was enough.
The Spirit of that same Jesus lives in me. His Father is My Father (John 20:17). When I live the life that Jesus lived by faith, I find my Father to be sufficient. By faith, I have Christ’s strength to rejoice always, be patient in affliction, and outdo others in showing them honor (Galatians 2:20; Romans 12:12).
Loneliness might be an old friend but Christ is a better one still. He shows me the home I have in my Father, how my Dad is always for me in Christ, and tells me that through Him I have been welcomed into the life of God (Ephesians 4:18). He has shared with me absolutely everything that is His and made it mine: His holiness, His Father, His inheritance (Eph. 1).
And because His life is my life, loneliness won’t have the last word. Glory will.
Which of loneliness’ friends have you met? How do you get them to leave?