This is extremely important for me to write.
Before last November, I can remember being lonely on only two previous occasions in my 29 years on this planet. And, as someone not prone to loneliness, it made the deep hurt even more painful.
A couple weeks ago, Unlocking the Bible posted my article about loneliness, but, like Paul Harvey, I’m here to bring you the rest of story. (Okay, maybe not like Paul Harvey, and maybe not the rest of the story, but here’s a little more for you.)
It all started in late October, early November. Those days were full of wrestling with a gnawing, gut-level grief over the absence of close friends sharing my city and season of life. I was completely ashamed of this hurt and explosion of emotions. Adding to the shame was the fact that it was hard for me to articulate the pain which often dripped down my face in salt waves. Many times I would call my boyfriend crying and feeling so incredibly selfish for struggling with something that, in my performance-driven mind, I had no reason to struggle with. Despite my best efforts, as mentioned in the article, logic did not remove the struggle.
Why is this so important for me to write?
Because I have a boyfriend.
And I struggle with loneliness.
I feel like there is this unspoken and maybe subconscious idea—especially among females—that, “Oh, I wouldn’t feel this way (whatever that might mean) if I were in a relationship.” “I wouldn’t feel lonely, or left out, or overlooked, or less-than, or alone if I were in a relationship because, after all, I wouldn’t be alone.”
I’m here to report that I’ve never felt the overwhelming waves of loneliness more than when I’ve had a boyfriend.
To be clear, as stated in the article (which I suggest reading before continuing), he’s the greatest man I’ve ever known. He’s captivated by holiness and driven to honor and obedience. He is full of integrity, generosity, and a resolute steadfastness that exemplifies Christ in a myriad of ways.
But there’s the kicker. He exemplifies Christ. He is not Christ.
As magnificent as he is, my man is just that. A man. Wonderful and fallible, the biggest scattered beam I’ve ever known, and absolutely unable to meet my deepest needs. Because, while we might bear God’s image, a created being cannot do for another created being what only the Creator can.
Loneliness lies to us and sometimes we believe it.
Contrary to movie scripts, my boyfriend does not complete me. He can’t. He wasn’t designed to, nor do I need him to because Jesus has already made me whole by reconciling my once alienated and hostile self to Himself through His death on the cross (Colossians 1:21-22).
He is the One that “completes” us.
The subtle lies of loneliness and the sometimes subtle, sometimes raging “if onlys,”—“If only I had a boyfriend,” “If only I had believing parents,” “If only my children would call once and a while,” “If only my church was more of this or less of that, then I wouldn’t feel this way…” etc.– cause our hearts to seek comfort, security, and fulfillment somewhere. But sinners aren’t sufficient to satisfy our deepest cravings and a relationship (especially a romantic one) is not a solves-all that magically removes every trace of loneliness or hurt.
While it is tempting to let scenarios play through the movie screens of our imaginations, our thirst cannot be met in other humans or different circumstances. A change of scenery may help but Christ alone is our hope.
The beauty of the Gospel is how its truth pervades and permeates every scenario and situation, location and need we could ever encounter. Each of us have a thousand different circumstances and pains, and the Gospel meets us in each one.
The Gospel tells us Jesus is sufficient to meet our deepest needs and He does so in Himself (2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:19). Therefore, the Gospel is good when the wedding bells ring and they are finally yours and the Gospel is good when they are not. The Gospel is good in seasons of abundance and the Gospel is good when you are suffering the loss of everything you hold dear. The Gospel is good when you have tight-knit friendships and the Gospel is good when you experience the excruciating lack of them.
The absence of suffering is not when comfort comes.
The God of all comfort comes into our suffering in order to end it.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10, emphasis mine)
So, when we see our circumstances and our gaze then flickers to more pleasing ones, it may feel like loneliness will be our final enemy. It feels heavy, like a wave of death, not at all the way we would gift-wrap something precious. But God knows what He is doing when gifting us the limp of loneliness.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10, emphasis mine)
Loneliness can be a gift in that it allows us to feel what is always true––Christ alone is sufficient to satisfy.
The undercurrent of all our longings is for all God offers us in Jesus. Loneliness awakens us to that truth. A boyfriend isn’t enough, a great family that loves you isn’t enough, a healthy church isn’t enough. Those are all good things and they are all broken cisterns. Only one cistern both contains and calls Himself the Living Water (John 4:10-14, Jeremiah 17:13). Jesus is the only One who can fill our lonely hearts.
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’’” (John 7:37-38)
And out of that flood of living water, we worship.
In a sermon from his four-part series at The Village Church called Only the Lonely, Paul Matthies reminds us God is worthy of our worship because of who He is not because of what He does.
“Do we realize, church, that if God never did another good thing for us, He would still be worthy of worship?” (Paul Matthies)
This means that our joy-filled task in the middle of loneliness (or whatever situation in which we find ourselves) is the same as when we’re on the highest mountain: awe-drenched wonder at this Savior who would stoop to rescue us.
In light of that glorious truth, I’m going to wrap this up like the original article:
If God is who He says He is (and He is), if the Gospel is true (and it is), and if our circumstances do not dictate our responses (and they don’t), then we are just as free and able to offer a sacrifice of praise in the middle of our deepest wounds (before healing comes) as we are in the highest height of joy.
Additionally, God is worthy to be praised because He does not waste anything, especially our suffering. Because His Son bore each of our sorrows in Himself on the cross, He is deeply invested in sustaining us through them (Isaiah 53:4, 1 Peter 2:24).
He is committed to walking through this with us, identifying with our hurts and griefs at every point, and filling our toolboxes with resources to help others (Hebrews 4:14-15, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Therefore, by His sufficient grace, we lean into loneliness. We lean into the hurt and the absence of fulfilled dreams and ambitions. And we see Christ in every second. We soar our eyes above our circumstances. We lean into the One who has never left us or forsaken us and who never will.
The Gospel when you’re lonely is this: Christ is enough.