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I am lost. I know loss. I am different. I do not belong. I am unwelcome. I will never be known. I will never be understood. I will never feel okay… .@paulcmaxwell
Brian Bormgan defines loneliness as “a state of lacking intimacy with the people around us.”
Loneliness is a complex issue. It is not simply an issue of feeling socially isolated or not having relationally close connections with people. Loneliness can happen anywhere or at anytime. It hits the extrovert and introvert alike; the wildly successful individual or the individual who’s on the struggle bus; the individual who’s prospering materially and the individual who’s simply attempting to make ends meet each month. Loneliness is no respecter of persons.
Paul Maxwell in his book, When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected, writes that loneliness happens for many reasons. He gives five. First, loneliness can happen because of our ability to remember. We remember love and community, and there are times where one or both are blatantly absent. Second, loneliness can actually happen because of sinful decisions, rendering our loneliness as something that stares back at us in the mirror with a harsh denunciation, “you’re to blame.” Third, loneliness can be attributed to spiritual warfare. The Bible tells us that the devil roams the earth looking for people to pounce on and devour (1 Peter 5:8). Fourth, loneliness can occur because of transitions in our life. And fifth, loneliness manifests itself when an individual is left to despair crying out “I can’t find a way out,” “I don’t want to die alone,” or “I don’t want to feel this way forever” (44).
So what do we do with loneliness? Where do we go with it? How do we fight against it or at least live biblically informed regarding the all-too-common issue of loneliness?
Let me highlight several responses to loneliness Maxwell gives.
Silence. We don’t like silence, but given God’s providence the eventual consummation of Jesus’ kingdom, we understand that the days of loneliness are numbered. Take solace in this, even amid the silence.
Usefulness to others. “Don’t pretend you’re happier than you are, for the sake of those suffering from loneliness like you. Naming our sadness is better than suppressing it. Suppressing sadness hermetically seals our loneliness from the work of Christ. And that work becomes beautiful to your neighbors who get the sense that you actually understand their suffering – there are few things more euphoric than being understood” (47).
Nothing. “We desire a Christian life that escalates from hard to easy – from circumstantially tumultuous to victorious. But the Christian life (and all of life itself) remains far more tumultuous than our testimony-oriented culture would have us believe” (48).
And I’ll add Friends. Life is full of high highs and low lows, the proverbial valleys and mountaintop experiences. Life is truly, bitter-sweet at times. Healthy, balanced, committed, courageous, and loving friends are indispensable in life, particularly when you’re lonely. Here’s a sermon on friendships I would highly commend to you. Go here.
Maxwell writes, “humans are lonely. You are lonely. Welcome to the human race. More than that, welcome to the sufferings of Christ himself.”
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3
Lastly, my encouragement is to purchase Maxwell’s book. Each page is filled with an endearing transparency and vulnerability, along with an honest assessment of life’s struggles, while leaving the reader with hope from God’s Word. His book is a rare gem.
You can purchase his book here.