Loneliness My Old Friend

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?


  1. Kristi March 12, 2019

    I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of loneliness as a part of His plan. We need community. I crave community, but sometimes we need to embrace loneliness in order to embrace a deeper relationship with Him. We need solitude and fellowship. Being isolated is not good. I wrote the following with the idea of solitude in mind.

    Open yourself
    To quiet
    In long draughts
    And short sips
    Allow the aloneness
    To be a companion
    Taking you by the hand
    Leading you to a place
    Where your desires
    Are manifest and
    Your Savior
    The One your soul
    Is there waiting
    With open arms

    1. Robin March 13, 2019

      Beautiful!!! Thank you Kristi!

    2. Joy Smalley March 14, 2019

      Thank you Kristi, your poem is beautiful and I appreciate that you shared it here.

  2. Rachel March 12, 2019

    “ 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.”

    So deeply and intimately expressed. It helps to hear your voice echoing the same thoughts that I resent. The feeling that I fight while soldiering on.

    Your voice in this ugly sphere of self-talk? It’s beautiful and gracious and refreshing. Thank you.

    1. Joy Smalley March 14, 2019

      Thank you Rachel 🙂 Ugly self talk is so insidious. Praying for you as we do battle together.

  3. Robin March 13, 2019

    Joy what a wonderfully honest, raw and poignant expression of your inner life and mine! I struggled with loneliness for so many years even though i had a very loving and supportive family around me. Like you, i discovered that i had allowed the enemy’s lies to settle in like truth – the utter worthlessness and despair. I had begun to believe that i was just an accident waiting to get into yet another calamity. I thought i was worth more dead than alive because of the hurt i had caused to others. I thought that i was too expensive to maintain. Praise God that somehow along the path He led me to wise counselors who helped me find the real truth of my worth in Christ. They helped me to more fully embrace God’s love and forgiveness because of so many personal failings. They helped me to hear God’s father voice of love. And i have meditated on the armor of God fending off the fiery darts of the enemy keeping the ugly lies away. He is my shield of faith and helmet of salvation! It is truly the work of God that keeps me going, but now with joy. I pray for everyone as we deal with this topic of loneliness. May we know the great love of God in greater measure!

    1. Joy Smalley March 14, 2019

      Robin, thank you for sharing. I can relate to the feeling of being too expensive to maintain and wondering why I am alive in the first place. I also really appreciate the honesty of how our own personal failings and harm we have committed to others can become the forceful voice in our head that breaks the relationship with God. It is such a beautiful truth that God redeems the worst that we do. Blessings to you.

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