We are meant to know others and be known by others. God's beautiful design is what brings us together in supportive communities and fulfilling relationships. While this is what we strive for in our daily life, sometimes our broken world can get in the way and loneliness enters the picture.
In my experience, I have found loneliness and isolation to be just as debilitating as a physical injury. There have been times where I’ve been in the middle of a crowded room surrounded by people, yet on the verge of tears, feeling utterly alone. There have been other seasons where it’s been difficult to find community, leaving me with a painful longing for deeper friendships. And sometimes, there are days where I am lonely for what seems to be no reason, even though I logically know there are wonderful friends right around the corner. No matter which way you slice it, I’ve been there!
In this year of COVID-19, I bet there are many of us feeling the same way. Our virtual world is a double edged sword that leaves us connected but more lonely than ever. Wherever you might be, know that there is hope! In addition, there are practical ways we can engage with God and others to heal from loneliness and isolation.
ADMIT YOUR PAIN TO GOD
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.” -Psalm 142:1
While this may seem counter productive, admitting your loneliness to God is the first step. In our churches and communities, we often try to skip over these difficult moments and pretend that everything is fine. While we should not stay immobile in our pain, it’s important to acknowledge it.
In the Psalms, we see that almost every chapter contains some sort of lament or real emotion given over to the Lord. No emotion is too big for God-so don’t hold back!
PRACTICE GRATITUDE & PRAISE
“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.” -Psalm 145:1-2
While many of the Psalms bring pain to God, each chapter usually starts or ends in praise too! Cool right? Even in the midst of loneliness, God is still good-and we can acknowledge that too.
To practice this, write down 10 things you are thankful for each day. Then try writing down people you are thankful for. If you can think of more, then keep writing! Whether it's a new job, a small hello from someone on campus, or a morning cup of coffee, recognize it as a gift. Identify the ways God shows up for you in the midst of loneliness or isolation, and you may find that there is both joy and friendship to be found in each day!
WALK & TALK
Loneliness and isolation often coincide with two unhealthy habits: lack of movement and lack of engagement with others. I like to think of a Walk & Talk as double dipping...you get active AND you get to talk to a friend/family member. Endorphins + Friendship. Whether it’s in person or on the phone, walking outside with a friend is a great reminder that there are people in your life that care for you.
YES, YOU SHOULD GO
Do you ever sit on your couch, asking yourself if you should go to church, to Bible Study, or even go out to dinner for the evening? If you’re ever asking these questions in a season of loneliness, the answer is YES, you should go. Whether it’s an online event in this COVID season, or an in-person gathering at a later date, the answer should be yes! If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, it’s important to practice healthy social habits and push yourself to be around others.
After a while, you can also start to look for people who may be feeling the same way as you. Instead of trying to break into cliques, ask: who is on the margins? Who is left out? Reach out to others who may be in the same boat, and bring community to an isolated world.
PRAYER, PATIENCE, AND PRACTICE
“Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.” -Psalm 143:1
While there is no quick fix for loneliness, putting prayer into your practice is key. Pray wholeheartedly for community, for energy, and for God to bring people into your life when you take steps into social spaces. Whatever you need, ask God to join you in your journey.
Then, have patience and practice these things weekly. While each act may feel trivial in the moment, know these small steps today are forming who we will be tomorrow. With time, it’s my prayer that loneliness will step out of the picture. May you be a part of God’s beautiful design to know others and be known by others, bringing vibrant community to people in the process.