The Purpose of Loneliness
by Larissa Zdon
I have friends from all walks of life who have told me that their biggest struggle is with loneliness. Some who are married, some who are single, some who have kids, people of all different talents and personalities, extroverts, introverts, those with money, those without, missionaries, exotic dancers, those in the limelight as well as those who spend all their time at home online. Loneliness is something that every one of us experiences. For most of us, it’s a tangible ache that makes us so uncomfortable we’ll do what we have to do to make it go away.
Many of us look for that one special relationship to forever cure our loneliness. Then, when the relationship doesn’t show up, or, worse, shows up but still doesn’t cure the loneliness, we turn to other things to distract us from that unshakable void.
Loneliness has a very practical purpose. It’s meant to help us, to show a place in our lives where we’re missing something we need.
In the human body, we experience pain when some part of us is damaged or sick. If you were to sit cross-legged for too long, your legs start to hurt where the blood supply is being cut off. To make the pain go away, you change positions. Pain is uncomfortable for a reason! It’s a life-saving mechanism that lets us know to immediately take action to correct the problem. If we didn’t experience pain, we would keep holding our fingers in a flame, or running our toes into the walls until we started to come up short a limb or two. In the same way, loneliness is a spiritual and emotional symptom to let us know that we are missing out on relationships that we desperately need in order to have peace and joy in our lives.
We were created by God to be in relationship with Him and in relationships with others. When we’re not experiencing enough of the right relationships, we start to feel the symptom of loneliness. Just as we are not meant to be in pain all the time, we are not meant to stay lonely. In relationships we are meant to experience support, love, accountability, joy, affection, and intimacy, just to name a few. One relationship cannot provide us with all of those things. I believe the most common thing we are missing when we start to feel lonely is intimacy. Intimacy is commonly defined as “To know and be known.” In other words —the ability to be who we really are with another person. Again, one person can never fully know us; it takes a community of people to allow us to be known at the different depths and facets of who we are!
Ask yourself what could be causing you to feel lonely in this season of your life. Maybe you have been experiencing a struggle that you haven’t shared with anyone. So, even though you have good relationships, you still feel isolated. Or, perhaps you’ve fixated on getting a certain kind of relationship, such as finding a husband or wife, or having a baby. And you may not have wanted to put the time in to develop the available relationships around you that are just as necessary, such as a church family, or friendships with your neighbors. And, often, we think that we are lonely for a person, when really we are lonely for our Father God, either because we haven’t been spending time with Him, or haven’t been real with Him. Like shifting positions to allow the blood flow back into your cramped legs, opening the door up to relationships is what allows support, love and intimacy to come flowing back in to that place where it’s been cut off.
I encourage you to pray a simple prayer, ask God to show you a way to help alleviate your loneliness. You may be surprised at how easy the solution will be.
Let loneliness play its proper role in your heart, the symptom to let you know when it’s time to make a change to restore the relationships that you’ve been missing.