Kelly is a 15-year-old schoolgirl. She has 823 “friends” on Facebook but feels she has nobody to talk to about how unhappy she is at home.
Marjory is 78 years old. Since her husband and sister died the only people she talks to are the supermarket checkout girls she buys produce from twice a week.
Jennifer appears to have it all. She lives in a big house with a young family. Her husband works long hours and socialises with colleagues after work. Since the family moved to Prince Edward Island, far from friends and relatives, Jennifer sits alone most evenings once the children are in bed waiting for her husband to come home. Often she waits until the early hours of the morning. She has never felt more lonely in her life.
Unfortunately, loneliness is an all too familiar problem in today’s high-tech and fast-paced world, and most of us have or will experience it in one way or another at some point in our lives. We used to live in large, close-knit groups with friends and relatives, but increasingly we live without these strong social ties as they are often not compatible with our modern lives. The internet and social media have only made it easier to avoid real social situations.
Loneliness can sneak in by many means. You may be in a job where human contact is minimal, and where you feel as though you are an insignificant part of a corporate machine. You may be living far away from friends and family.
Situations such as losing a loved one can be much harder to cope with when we are not surrounded by other people who love and care for us. And even if you are surrounded by other people, perhaps even loved ones, it can still be easy to feel lonely. Your friends or family might not understand your problems or what you are going through.
Coming to God in your loneliness
When you feel this way, turn to God—the one person who will always understand what you are going though.
God wants to be there for each and every one of us. “The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is omnipresent. He is always there. People may live too far from their loved ones for them to be helpful for each other, or be too preoccupied with work. This is not the case with God; he will always be there when we need him to be.
So how can you reach out to God in loneliness? A habit of regular daily prayer is a good place to start.
If you are going through a hard time in your life, if you are feeling alone at work or school, if you live far away from loved ones or if you have lost somebody close to you then praying regularly can help remind you that you are never completely alone, that there is always Someone there who truly cares about you. God promises to be “a father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5) and that he is “with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Although He may not make your grief or pain of loss go away, He will provide comfort, peace and healing.
When you pray, find a quiet place with no distractions. Turn off your telephone. You may like to light a candle or to close your eyes. Start to think about what you would like to say to God.
Some Christians find that running through known prayers silently brings a strong sense of inner peace. Others prefer a more modern dialogue. You might find it comforting to read passages from the Bible and contemplate silently on what you have read. Psalm 139 is a beautiful passage to start you off in the truth that you are never alone.
Remember—God is not just there for the bad times. He is the best Friend you will ever have, so even if you find yourself surrounded by loving, supportive friends and family, there is no one who will love you more, support you more, or give you better advice than your Creator, the One who loved you enough to die for you.
Reaching out to your church community
Another way to overcome your loneliness is to reach out to your church community. Regular church attendance will help you feel part of something greater and will help to guide you towards God.
The great thing about Christians is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ—your spiritual family, even when your biological family is absent. God calls us a family because we are united in Him, and no matter what age you are, what music you like, or what you like to do in your spare time, family will always be there for you, no matter what.
There is a new family waiting for you. A real family who will help support you through the bad times, but often just turning up to church won’t be enough to get you connected. Try to get involved in parish activities, including volunteering in charitable activities. Volunteering is a great way of re-engaging with your community, and helping those less fortunate than yourself will show you that you are someone who can make a difference. Don’t let thoughts about inadequacy put you off getting involved. Your presence will be genuinely appreciated.
If you have been lonely for a long time, it can be hard to start to form intimate relationships with other people again. It can be hard to figure out when it’s appropriate to share, or at what point it becomes oversharing. And if you’ve spent a long time by yourself, having only yourself to talk to, it can be so easy to forget that a relationship takes two people, and that the other person might like to do some sharing too! Just remember, these things take time, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up when you make a social faux-pas.
However, if you think you’ve put in the time and effort but aren’t seeing any results, it’s okay to ask for help. Counsellors and psychologists are trained to help people improve their social skills and overcome their fear of intimacy.
And, once again, pray. Pray to meet people with whom you can form intimate relationships. Pray that God will break down the walls you’ve built around yourself. And pray for everyone you meet. If they share something with you, pray for them—on the spot, if you can. At the end of each day, pray for everyone you came into contact with, even if you spoke to them for just a few seconds. Pray for their spiritual, physical, and emotional health. Pray that you can love them the way Jesus loves them.
Overcoming loneliness is hard, but remember this—you are never alone. The God who created you, who knit you together in your mother’s womb, is there for you. If you are a Christian, His very Spirit is living inside you, speaking to you and encouraging you. Invite Him to help you so that you may live in community as He intended.