Loneliness and I are old friends. The kind of friends that, no matter the time spent apart, when we meet again it’s as if no time has passed.
I grew up in areas of Mongolia that were very isolated. There were years I spent in cities without other expat children and friendships were hard for me to build among the nationals. You know you are different, and they know you are different and, while you love each other deeply, you are keenly aware that you don’t fit, that this isn’t your home.
For many years my best friends wouldn’t acknowledge me in public. We would play together in our yards, or translate books in our homes, but when we left the confines of our street, I’d walk a distance behind them. I knew that they were teased by classmates for knowing me, for being my neighbor and I was happy to alleviate their discomfort. Yet, that sense of loneliness didn’t ease inside my soul, but continued to relay messages to my child self.
You are embarrassing.
No one wants to be your friend.
You are worthless.
This loneliness, the one that says you are rejected, is an insidious one, as it tells you that you are not worth being known. These messages solidify as new interactions seem to confirm them as truth, making them a part of your worldview, sending you into hiding, shielding yourself from future rejection.
Loneliness can also be found in the dark times of the soul, when suffering strikes. There is nothing quite like personal pain to drive us inward, to build walls that work to defend ourselves. No longer do we feel safe and so we hide. Sure, we will still soldier on, doing what needs to be done, but the loneliness will speak to us.
You are alone.
No one can understand your pain.
No one can help you.
Loneliness feeds off these lies and it whispers into the soul, “This will never end,” leading us down a path towards despair.
But we suck it up, we keep our heads down and push through one more day because this is what God has called us to. This is our act of sacrifice. This is our purpose. We push the loneliness aside until we lie alone in the dark and it washes over our bodies in waves.
Loneliness and I are old friends. Loneliness reminds me of where I’ve been and who I’ve been, it stirs up old insecurities and brings them to the surface. Loneliness can be quite devious if I’m not careful. As these insecurities come to the surface, loneliness will confirm them as truth, whispering lies of worthlessness and insignificance. This leaves me with one of two choices: either embrace the words of loneliness, finding solace in the familiar self-pity, or I can fight back. I can aggressively fight against the words that loneliness speaks of who I am.
I truly believe that community is God’s design to fight loneliness’ lies. That in its perfect form, it communicates belonging and acceptance and it provides encouragement and space to be heard, known and understood. Yet, there are times when God removes us from those communities and places us in countries and cities and states where loneliness is inevitable. Places where we can’t be known because we can’t communicate. Countries where we won’t be understood because we aren’t from there. Lands where we are secluded and deprived from access to the people we long to see.
This is where God speaks to me. When my soul is lonely and stirred to self-condemnation. When I am weary from fighting.
You are made with purpose, he says, and you are valuable. I have plans for you and while these plans are painful, they will not destroy you. I was with you, on the dusty streets that you walked alone, longing for friendship. I was with you those hot nights when you grieved in bed alone. I’m there in the homesickness, the disillusionment and insecurities. But this is something we must walk through together, because within this emptiness you will find a strength and an empathy and a depth that will transform your soul.
Loneliness and I are old friends and I face her often. Toe to toe we do battle, fending off the words of despair and inadequacy because I know, deep within the soul, that God is battling beside me and while I may be struck down, I will never be destroyed.
What lies does loneliness speak to you? What truths of God do you use to battle those lies?