3 Steps to Overcome Loneliness – Loneliness and Single Christian – I am alone. Everyone is gone. There are no calls, text messages, or Facebook messages from people because they are out living their life. While there are people in my life, most moments are spent alone. Holidays, special events, each evening, until I close my eyes, are in relative isolation from the outside world.
My best friends are home tending to their new born, my children are with their mom, and here I sit writing it out.
Recently I spent the July fourth holiday home watching fireworks alone from my loft window while hearing the cheers of those just outside my window. Sounds sad, but it wasn’t.
I would venture to say every single Christian has struggled with loneliness. I know many people who are married and feel the same way in their marriage. Loneliness is something that we all must manage or it will get the best of our joy.
God didn’t create us to be alone. He created us for relationship. John Milton says, “Loneliness was the first thing that God’s eye named ‘not good.’” At the start of all creation God recognized that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:7) Many hold on to that verse for their future spouse. It’s a great word, but the word also teaches us about finding joy in each situation.
In the past, each Fourth of July would find me out on the lake. I would take my beautiful boat, anchor out in the middle of the lake and watch the fireworks with a few friends. Having a boat taught me about security and how to manage feelings of loneliness. It also taught me the freedom that results from wisdom in setting things up right from the start so that joy could be uninterrupted.
To anchor a boat you have to first assess the depth in comparison to the length of your anchor rope, the weight of the people on the boat, your boat size, wind speeds, then the surrounding boats and the coast line. It becomes natural once you have done it over and over. However, my first year on the lake I had no clue. I figured since my boat was bigger than most that I could just sit with the anchor in the water and it would stabilize things. I quickly found out that not understanding how to anchor or manage my boat didn’t give me special privilege or favor with people who had taken the time to learn how to anchor around others. The elements also weren’t forgiving and respectful of the size of the boat or lack of experience managing it.
My second year was a different story. I had spent the rest of the first and most of the second season testing and understanding how the anchor worked with respect to many different situations. Even to the extent of getting it stuck and almost having to cut it free from the boat. Good thing because that year there were many more boats out on the lake for the yearly celebration. I now understood what was at stake with respect to me being attentive to the anchor and the boat placement. I spent a great deal of time setting things up right from the start so that when it was time to enjoy the fireworks I was ready to sit back and relax.
I quickly recognized people who didn’t take the time to learn or were beginners not having the same care or experience with their boat or passengers. They would just throw their anchor in the water hoping it would catch or at least stabilize them long enough to enjoy the view. Sound familiar? I, however, was strongly anchored which gave a stable environment for those who were on my boat. It also gave security to other experience boaters who quickly anchored nearby so that there was a protection covering around us all. The fireworks were spectacular that evening.
The Bible talks a great deal about the water and boating. Many of the big lessons for the disciples revolved around this, because it’s what they knew.
Tackling loneliness and its affects is much like working the anchor on a boat. It requires many reflective moments of learning and a connection to something bigger or stronger with the reality of why you are doing it all.
Here are the three steps I use to battle loneliness:
- Reflect on the realities.
- Connect to something bigger and stronger.
- For the Joy in the moment.
Reflect – You have to truly reflect on the realities of your situation. When I first started boating I only battled with one thing, docking my boat. That was until I discovered I didn’t know how to anchor, and a host of other things. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Loneliness works the same way. While I may be alone for that moment, the reality of life is that I am not alone. Constant reflection of being alone will cause deep loneliness. So I changed what I reflect on by having a list. It’s my lonely realty list and it includes people who have and are invested in me. When I feel the onset of loneliness I start to reflect on how they walked through life with me. I rediscover my value in the light of the people that participate in life with me. It’s very humbling. In doing this step, I came to the conclusion that I could learn and that my value is not based on that moment of self-pity. I could have given you the standard, “church” answer that God’s always with you and values you. And he is and does, but sometimes we need Jesus with skin. That list is my visual proof I have people and so do you.
Connect to Bigger and Stronger – I think you probably get that if you anchor your life on something bigger and stronger that it will help stabilize you when loneness arises. It’s the ‘how’ that escaped me. I am a big music guy. Music is one way I enter into worship with God. Once I am worshiping, I start praying, and my desire, mind, and realty start to change. Connecting to eternal realties are the bigger and stronger we need in order to enjoy the view when we are doing it alone.
Seems too simple, but how many times do we put on that depressing song and reflect and connect to the weaker things rather than the stronger. Now, the reality is that even the greatest men and women I know still are challenged by loneliness. However, their time is shorter which pushes them to living in Joy more often than pity because they choose bigger and stronger.
Joy in the Moment – As I stood looking out my window this July Fourth, watching fireworks, observing families spending time, couples holding hands, it made me smile. In that moment I was connected to my memories of being out on the lake, or standing in the middle of the parking lot myself watching the sky with friends in previous years. As I watched people laughing and enjoying the night, I didn’t ask, “Why not me,” but instead reflected on how incredible it was seeing people living in joy for that moment. I was joyous for them.
As a single, our perspective can sometimes be all about us and our world. Stepping out and moving past ourselves and seeing others that we have no vested interest in, enjoying life is a great joy. It’s why many seniors love people watching. One evening I was at a high school choir concert sitting near an older couple. I asked them who they were there to watch perform. They responded, “No one.” They just enjoyed the kids and the music. They further described how their children sang in choir many years ago and they found joy in watching young people fulfill their passion in music.
If you are looking to fill your loneliness with a relationship you will quickly find others just throwing their anchor in the water hoping it will stabilize their life. Don’t be their temporary stabilization nor allow yourself to participate in the hopes that a quick, aimless throw of the anchor will stabilize you. If you are firmly connected, understanding the realities of loneliness, and choosing joy in the simple moments you will recognize those who will mess with your Fourth of July. This will propel you to anchor near others more closely to your hope.
Finally, if you don’t learn now how to be alone without being overwhelmed with loneliness, no man or woman will be able to fill that void. It is a God-shaped void that can only be filled by staying anchored to the bigger and stronger Rock, and your active pursuit of joy.