Triggers for Loneliness
The unexpected snowfall brought the neighborhood together as we worked to clear cars and walkways before the early December sunset. “Looks like winter is here!” I called over to my friend next door. “Indeed it is!” she replied. “And the timing of all this snow is perfect. After supper we’re going to make hot chocolate and decorate the Christmas tree. The kids are really excited.”
As I stood there picturing her happy family scene, I was suddenly buried under an avalanche of overwhelming loneliness. For the first time ever, I decided against getting a Christmas tree that year. The thought of having no one with whom to unwrap each memory-laden ornament from its tissue-paper hibernation was just too depressing. A casual conversation was all it took.
A few Christmases later, determined to have for myself the sort of holiday fun my neighbor enjoyed with her family, I invited a few girlfriends to my home for a tree-trimming party. One friend was especially enthusiastic, and I asked her, “Why is coming to my place so great when you’ve got your own tree to decorate and a husband and kids to do it with you?”
“Let me tell you how that goes,” she replied. “We pick a day when we’re going to do it, and I get treats prepared and Christmas music playing, and all the ornaments are set out on the table. And when I’m ready, everyone wanders in. But five minutes into it, phone calls and texts and whatever else distract them, so they grab a cookie and disappear. I wind up decorating the tree alone every year.”
We were created for togetherness, which is why, even before the fall, God declared that man’s aloneness was not good (Gen. 2:18).
How eye-opening that was! Those pictures of others’ lives that we get in our minds or see on social media are rarely the reality. Behind the smiles and accolades and images of family fun lie all the normal stuff of everyone’s life: heartbreak, rejection, anxiety—and loneliness.
The Loneliness Epidemic
Single or married, young or old, man or woman—everyone experiences loneliness at various times and to varying degrees. No one is exempt. We were created for togetherness, which is why, even before the fall, God declared that man’s aloneness was not good (Gen. 2:18). And immediately after his declaration, he created marriage. But marriage was never intended to be the ultimate, eternal remedy for loneliness. That’s why the unmarried aren’t doomed in this regard. God created human beings with a capacity for loneliness so that we would yearn for and find our all in him:
In Genesis 2 God ordains the marriage of male and female as another aspect of his design for our aloneness. Yet he never designed marriage to fulfill the incompleteness or eradicate the aloneness. Rather, it more fully reveals our need for our ultimate destiny—to be in union with him.1
What Our Loneliness Means
In other words, loneliness is an indicator that something is missing, and that something is found only in Jesus Christ. He completes what’s missing, that thing we identify as “loneliness,” beginning from the moment we are joined to him in faith and brought to completion in glory. In other words, the primary reason we are lonely is that we aren’t home yet.
Loneliness won’t be eradicated until we are finally at home in heaven, completely free from the presence of sin—both ours and that of others—and in the presence of the Lord. God created us in such a way that we are complete only in and with him, which is why it’s not until we have been perfected in glory that will we be forever free from the feeling that something is missing—that thing we call “loneliness.”
- Christopher West, cited in Gary Barnes and Darrell L. Bock, “5 Myths and Truths in Loneliness” (August 21, 2015), accessed August 24, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-myths-and-truths-in -loneliness.
This article is adapted from Finding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback.
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