Loneliness: It’s been my close friend at times, and an enemy at others.
I used to think marriage would take away my loneliness. Surely having a best friend who promised to spend the rest of his life with me would fill all the space in my heart, until there wasn’t any left for loneliness! And yet…loneliness is still there, even with the wonderful soulmate I’ve been given. It’s part of the human condition.
Here are eight things I’ve learned in my struggle with loneliness. Because of these things, loneliness has become one of my greatest teachers, rather than my greatest enemy.
1. Figure out why you’re feeling lonely. When I’m PMSing, I could be in a room full of people and still feel 100 percent alone. Hotel rooms at that time of month are the WORST for me. I travel much of the year on speaking tours around the country. When I am stuck in a hotel by myself, I’m okay as long as the hotel is bright enough. But if the room is dark, I get depressed and feel overwhelmingly lonely! Sometimes loneliness is caused by hormones, or chemicals in our body. Sometimes it’s caused by situations. Figure out what’s causing your feelings of loneliness, because then you can move on to tip #2.
2. Create an action plan. Because I’ve figured out that dimly lit hotel rooms make me feel lonely (even if my husband is with me), I’ll either book a hotel that’s well lit or go out and work at a coffee shop until it’s time for bed. (This is a big reason for my love affair with Starbucks.) Other options on my action plan: Call my mom or a friend. Set up a coffee date. Or I’ll do tip #3.
3. Do something you enjoy. Make a list of things you enjoy doing, both with others AND by yourself. Some things on my list: yoga, long walks, curling up with a delicious book, writing music, Zumba, shopping. If I’m alone for the day, I’ll do one of these things!
A quick word of caution: It’s easy to think ONE THING will cure your loneliness, and to allow that thing to become an addiction. For example, my husband says that when he feels down, he just wants to eat, because he assumes that will make him feel better. It might help in the moment, but in the long run, it doesn’t solve anything. That’s why it’s important to have a variety of ways to work through loneliness, so that no one thing becomes an addiction.
4. Pursue things that give you purpose. I like to use lonely seasons to write blogs and books that I hope will help other girls going through similar things. It gives me a sense of purpose, which provides fresh energy and joy in life. Serving others is powerful, because it takes your focus off yourself (and your loneliness) and puts your focus on others. It also connects you with part of your God-given purpose as a human! But even more, my greatest purpose is to know God and make Him known, which leads me to tip #5.
5. Spend time with the One who never leaves us. Even when we feel completely alone, we have a heavenly Father who will never leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:9). This means that no matter what we feel, we are never actually alone. I try to let my loneliness pull me closer to Him. I can either run FROM Him or TO Him. My goal is to let every situation and emotion in life push me TOWARD Him.
6. Let loneliness teach you. Christian author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot once said that “loneliness is a required course for leadership.” And truly, loneliness has become one of my greatest teachers. Even in the sadness that accompanies it, it has brought me deeper in my walk with God than anything else has. When I broke up with my first boyfriend and moved away to college, I felt constant, immeasurable loneliness for several months. During that time, alone in my dorm room on Saturday nights, I’d spend HOURS with my heavenly Father. That difficult season made me who I am today.
7. Redirect the loneliness. I love that Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has also set eternity in the human heart.” In some ways, I believe that loneliness is simply an ache for eternity, a longing for our heavenly home, a realization that we were not created just for life on this earth, but for something much more. Redirect the loneliness heavenward, rejoicing in the knowledge that you have been given the gift of this one life on earth, and then we get to spend eternity with God in heaven, where we will never be lonely again!
8. Remember that this too will pass. Loneliness is just a feeling, and it will pass. Sometimes it feels incredibly overwhelming. I’ve definitely experienced that—where I felt like I couldn’t even think straight, I was so lonely. But it passes. It doesn’t last forever. That’s one of the hardest things to realize as a teen. Developmentally, our brains in our teenage years focus more on the present, rather than having a bigger perspective. So when we feel lonely, it feels as though it will last forever. But it won’t. Remind yourself that this is just another feeling, and it too will pass. As you get older, it’ll be easier to see the bigger picture, remembering times when you didn’t feel lonely, and knowing those times will come again.
I’ve realized that loneliness is part of life, and I have to stare it in the face and make peace with it, knowing that whatever I feel, I am never actually alone.
Note: The information expressed in this article is not medical advice, nor it is professional counseling advice. As always, find an adult you trust to talk with about these tough issues of the heart! If your loneliness isn’t going away, or feels incredibly overwhelming, you may need to seek medical or professional help. Don’t hesitate to seek those things out.