Loneliness is quite possibly one of the worst feelings I experience these days. I’ve been a widow for almost 16 months and it wasn’t until probably the last 3-5 months that I realized loneliness had crept in, like a ninja stalking its enemy. I suppose before then I had been so focused on grieving the death of my husband that I didn’t have any room for loneliness.
I’m in a new city and state and have made some friends here, most of which are married. I love each one dearly and am very thankful that God plopped me in their midst when He did. But it’s sometimes difficult to spend time with married people or other couples because it only serves to remind me of the gaping hole in my heart as big as the Grand Canyon that was left when my husband died. He would comfort me when I was sad, rejoice with me when I was happy, reach out and grab my hand while we were out shopping, and look across the dinner table smiling while flashing his dimple and winking (swoon!). I had all of that and, in an instant, it was gone.
So I sit in the middle of Lonely Village, crying tears in my Diet Dr. Pepper. I’ve recently started to reflect on the how it affects me and, to be honest, it’s kind of heartbreaking and a bit frightening. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
- Loneliness causes me to isolate myself from others. When I’m lonely, the last thing I want to do is be around other people, especially happy, coupled people. But isolation can be extremely dangerous. A few Sundays ago, I skipped church. I intended to go to my small group meeting that night, but by the time it rolled around, loneliness and misery had dug their heels in and weren’t letting me go anywhere. It was a very bad day and it took me several days to recover. As an introvert, I have to carefully balance my need for time alone with complete isolation. Most days I get it right, but some days I fail miserably.
- Loneliness creates feelings of bitterness, jealousy and envy. When I do choose to spend time with people, I often find myself sulking. Why do they get to have a significant other and I don’t? It’s as if I’m on the wait list for a table at the Loneliness Cafe just waiting for the hostess to say, “Bitter? Party of One? You’re table is ready.” I think if I were to step back and take a good look at myself during these times, I’d only see a toddler throwing a tantrum on the ground.
- Loneliness makes me lower my standards. This is a huge one for me. In previous times of loneliness, I’ve accepted poor substitutes for love just so the loneliness would go away. Because when you feel completely and utterly alone, you would do almost anything to make it go away. And that substitute love is great in the beginning stages. There’s someone to talk to, do stuff with and hug. Man, I miss hugs. But because it’s a poor substitute, it’s always short lived. And when that relationship fails, the loneliness comes back with a vengeance and I find myself searching even more desperately for something to fill the void. And eventually I do. But it’s short lived. And back comes the loneliness, even stronger. It’s a vicious cycle from which breaking free is very difficult.
- Loneliness takes my focus off of God. I left this for last, not because it’s the least important, but because it is what I want to leave you with. In my times of loneliness, I have a one-track mind. I do everything in my power (and sometimes outside of it), to find someone to make my life complete again. And in that pursuit, my relationship with God either gets pushed to the side or forgotten altogether. I begin to serve my emotions rather than the one who gave me those emotions. I can see only the burden in my singleness rather than the blessing or even the calling of it. I choose to find my significance in a fallible man rather than in God who knows my every thought, always protects me, sacrificed His Son for me, and loves me even when I am unlovable.
Now you know why I said it was a frightening list. Even looking at it now, I shudder at the thought of the person I can become if I don’t keep my heart guarded and my eyes on Jesus. Next week, I’ll share some ways I’m approaching my loneliness differently this time than all the rest, because I’m really trying to do the whole “being single” thing right this go round. I want to look back on this time and see it as a period of amazing growth as a daughter of the King, not as a time full of regret over bad decision and lost time with God. Because at some point, it’s time to put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and be the woman that God has called me to be.
How has an experience of loneliness changed you? Have you found any ways that being lonely has been a benefit?