Finding the Cure for Loneliness
So this past Valentine’s day, I was alone.
Was I lonely?
Well…yes and no.
I am not one to be dishonest, so I am not about to give you some fake story about how “all I need is me” or how I’m a “self sufficient” woman. I’m not even going to tell you that Jesus took all of my loneliness away in the blink of an eye. I am not saying these are bad statements. In fact for some people, these statements are true. No judgment here. I actually applaud those people.
But as for me, I am kind of a mixed bag. Sometimes I am content in my singleness, and other times I think I could settle for marrying a boulder. There are days when I really appreciate my freedom, and other days I think it would be nice to have the support of a significant other.
But then I look around and realize that, it isn’t just single people who are lonely. There is a whole world out there full of married, dating, and single people who all feel the same loneliness.
Why is that?
It seems odd. I mean, doesn’t loneliness come from being, you know, alone? I used to think so. Until I realized that you can have a lot of friends, but experience no real friendship. You can love a person, and never really be present with them. You can be with somebody every single day and still not experience a real connection with them. It isn’t just about romance. This is about so much more than just getting a Valentine date. Relationships as a whole are deteriorating.
So what’s the problem?
Well I won’t pretend to be an expert. I’m no psychologist and I haven’t mastered the spiritual realm either. But if there is one thing I have learned from, that is my own experience (and what God has revealed to me about my own life through prayer and scripture).
I think the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, is expecting flawed human beings to understand me. To read my mind and know what I need. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you, that this is completely unrealistic. Even loving, sympathetic people will fall short in this area eventually. And when we spend all of our time searching for that one person who will finally “get” us, we are actually setting ourselves up for toxic relationships. (Hint: If somebody seems too good to be true, they probably are. See Proverbs 27:6)
The truth is, there is only one person in existence who will ever really get you, and that is Jesus. He is only one who can fill the void. However, we also know that God intended us for relationships. He declared at the creation of mankind that “It is not good for man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18). I think this not only speaks to a man’s need for a woman, but also the human need for relationships as a whole (family, friends, community etc;)
But people will let you down. This is inevitable…so do we really need them?
Maybe it isn’t as much about whether we do or don’t need need relationships, as it is about how we approach them.
Love people for who they are, not who you want them to be
We need people. I think that much is clear. But, if we go around expecting people to fulfill the role that only God can in our lives, we will, inevitably end up disappointed. Because as hard as they may try, nobody can be that super hero we think we need.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we should put up with abuse or toxic behavior. That’s a whole different story. Too many Christians allow people to walk all over them in the name of forgiveness. This is when we need to remember that boundaries are also important.
But, all things considered, I think most of us have room to grow. If we could just focus on what people have to offer rather than judge them for what they lack, we might be able to appreciate them more. As in, try to magnify those good qualities which you recognize in the people around you. Learn to recognize the unique strengths in others.
Ex: Maybe you like physical affection, but your friend/mate is not a hugger. Sure they aren’t naturally affectionate, but are they a good listener? Are they dependable? Do they come through for you in other ways? Ask yourself these questions. Don’t resent somebody because they don’t measure up to your ideal standards. Appreciate them and learn to communicate your needs when necessary.
Love without Strings Attached
One of the most powerful revelations I’ve ever had in my relationship with God, came when I read a single verse of scripture: 1 John 4:19- “We love because he first loved us.”
God, that is. Not other people.
So often I think we approach our relationships with the idea that we give love to get love. And, to some degree, I think this is healthy. Relationships should be give and take. But when we approach every interaction with this philosophy in mind, we only end up playing a miserable game of expectations. We end up “keeping score” so that we can make sure we aren’t being taken for granted. I used to do this a lot. Now I only do this…a little bit. (Hey, I’m human)
And this is because I had a life-changing realization.
Love comes from God, not from people
Don’t get me wrong, we can get love from people, and we should. But it won’t be enough.
I used to think that the cure for loneliness was to find people who could fulfill my never-ending needs. And what did this result in? You guessed it. Horrible relationships.
At one point in my life, I would often become dependent on the people I trusted, only to push them away the moment they hurt me. This could be a perceived rejection or possibly a violation of one of my invisible boundaries. But whatever the offense, I had no problem ending relationships on an impulsive whim. When all was said and done, I would cut them off and move on to “better things”.
This became so painful, that eventually, I just gave up.
Because what I didn’t realize was, these perfect people I was searching for didn’t exist. These needs I had could simply never be fulfilled by another person. And instead, I got caught up in a very painful cycle. A cycle of exhausting ups and downs; of pushing and pulling, and an inability to trust on a core level.
My Personal Transformation
It was only when I found myself completely alone and desperate, that I finally turned to God.
In all of this, I had been missing out on the simple, but beautiful reality of God’s love-A love that He had been offering me all along. A love that was real and unconditional. It was only when I finally began to seek him out sincerely that I finally felt this large void in my heart begin to decrease. Instead of constantly picking fights with others, I found that I started feel a newfound compassion for them. Instead of looking to people to fulfill me, I now had my own private “love supply” that lasted. And even better, I would often find that this love would naturally flow out of me through my relationships. This was the only way I could ever truly find peace in my relationships.
I can’t say that I’ve completely overcome the struggle of loneliness. Some days are better than others. However, what I can say, is that I’ve come to understand where the real cure for loneliness is found. And, as God has managed to mold me over the years, I look back and see how far I’ve come from the angry, unpredictable person I once was.
Making Real Changes
I don’t what your situation is. Whether you are single, dating, or married. You may have hundreds of friends…or none. You may have a solid community of support or around you, or maybe you are isolated. But wherever you may be, I hope that you can find some comfort in the fact that the cure for loneliness isn’t unattainable. In fact…the cure for loneliness is very attainable. I am not saying it’s easy to overcome this problem, but it is possible. And it begins with shifting the ways you view your relationships.
If you are lonely, don’t lost heart. It’s not the end of the road for you. If you don’t know where to start, start with God. Communicate and develop an intimate relationship with him. Once you have, He can and will lead you to people who you are meant to connect with if you trust him to.
If you are alone, find ways to seek genuine relationships with others. That may be as simple as joining a group or coming to church and making an effort to develop these relationships. Or, if you are struggling in your current relationships, consider a change in perspective. Ask yourself the hard questions, and, if necessary, have honest discussions with the people closest to you.
But, whatever you do, don’t leave God out of the equation. Instead of being led by your emotions, rely on Jesus to lead the way in your relationships!
I guarantee you won’t regret it.