|Here’s Amy being awesome in Canada.|
Today we begin our series on Singleness. Because there is no one way to be single, and because the church doesn’t often emphasize Singleness as a powerful thing, I’m so excited to bring you the voices of some wonderful (and you guessed it…single) guest bloggers. Up first is Amy Nickerson. Amy is a twenty-something grad student at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. In the time she isn’t reading for class, she enjoys writing at daysliketheseones.wordpress.com, traveling, and living in community.
And don’t forget our giveaway! You could win the new Passion cd, Let the Future Begin and the new Sophie Kinsella book, Wedding Night. (I recognize the irony of this book title with our current series, but I mean it’s SOPHIE!) You know the drill–like, follow, share, like again, and comment. The more you do, the more entries you will receive. I’ll announce the winner later this week. (I’m kind of jealous of whoever wins this one!)
The Shame of Feeling Alone
and 3 Ways in Which Loneliness Can be a Good Thing
I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s anything worse in life than feeling alone.
The pain of going home to an uncomfortably empty house at night, being merely a face in a city of strangers, or attempting to express yourself only to feel like no one understands can be excruciating. Its impact runs deep, leaving scars and the nagging fear What if thereâ€™s something wrong with me? on your mind.
And it is a universal issue. While not everyone knows the struggle of poverty, abuse, or illness, loneliness is a part of being human. It is why in my lovely city of Vancouver, BC, rated high on lists for its livability, studies say that one in every four people are alone more than they desire to be. It is why more than 160,000 American kids stay home from school each day for fear of being bullied and why over a billion dollars is made in online dating revenue each year. There is something in all of us that desires intimacy. We are made, after all, to be in relationship, to know and be known.
I have no clue when youâ€™ve felt most alone in life, but Iâ€™m fairly certain that whether youâ€™re 15 or 75 there have been times when youâ€™ve felt it â€“the hollow darkness of being completely by yourself. The shame that follows quickly behind. Although I wouldnâ€™t wish this feeling on my worst enemy, it does give me strange comfort to know that Iâ€™m not the only one who has felt this way.
My parents are missionaries, which of course means that my family moved around a lot when I was a kid. Mostly it was a childhood full of adventure and blessing and Iâ€™m thankful for the memories. But I would be lying if I didnâ€™t admit that there were nights when I cried myself to sleep. New schools. New churches. New countries. And languages, and customs, and people… The list could go on. Newness can be exciting, but it can also be isolating, singling you out as different when all you really want is to fit in.
The act of feeling alone is a universal one, but let me suggest that this very miserable feeling can teach us some valuable lessons. In fact, it has even gotten me wondering if there is some good in the loneliness of humanity. Here are three reasons why:
1. Loneliness Puts Us in Our Rightful Place
In my life, the feeling of being alone has reminded me over and over again that I am small. Honestly, this kills! But without feeling small, we tend to forget that we are not gods. We are not in control of the universe or even our tiny pieces of it. Loneliness says that this is indeed the case. It kicks you into a corner like youâ€™re just a kid, and while youâ€™re there it allows you to remember that there is more out there than little old you.
It tells you that you donâ€™t matter that much. But then, it points you toward the One who gave you the desire to belong in the first place. And He matters quite a lot. In fact, He makes you matter. While you sit there hugging your knees, God is in control of the entire galaxy. He is big and itâ€™s okay for you to feel small, because in comparison you are.
This humbling aspect of loneliness then gives us the chance to trust in God. To rely on Him for the company we so badly crave. When we do, surrendering ourselves and believing He will provide in our times of aloneness, He does. He did for Adam in the garden when man ached for woman for the first time (Genesis 2:18). He did for the Israelites wandering in the desert when He promised to never leave them or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6). He did for me when I prayed persistently for a North American friend while living overseas, and a girl who shared my name moved into my city.
And I guarantee He will provide for you in your own struggle with loneliness, because you may be small, but He isnâ€™t.
2. Loneliness Brings Hope of What is to Come
Besides reminding us of our rightful place, loneliness also has a way of confirming a brighter future. It makes us long for a time in which we no longer feel alone. Let me reassure youâ€¦ that time is coming. You wonâ€™t always be sitting in a corner by yourself, no matter how you feel now.
With God on our side, we have the hope that He will be with us in our times of loneliness. But the even better news is that we can have hope that someday we will never have to be lonely again. Godâ€™s kingdom is coming and with it is the promise of perfect community for the rest of eternity.
Jesus died so that you would never have to be separated from Godâ€™s love (Romans 8:38-39). He came to Earth, took on flesh, became obedient to death on a cross, and rose again because he cares a whole lot about loneliness. He is not merely a temporary fix to your craving for love. He is love. And someday you will know Him fully â€“seeing Love face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).
No mean kid in class, Friday night at home, or pain of missing someone you care about is ever going to change that. This truth brings me immense hope and has gotten me through even my loneliest of days. It has the power to do the same for you.
3. Loneliness Offers Us Opportunity Now
Finally, loneliness also gives us motivation and opportunity to change the present. It reminds us that we are living in the tension between our sinful world and the renewed Heaven and Earth that is still coming. We have hope for the future when we see God in the flesh, but what about right now?
Sure, we have a long way to go before we are fully redeemed by Christ, but I truly believe that we have the opportunity to be helping with this process right now. Iâ€™ve been thinking recently about the idea that there are â€œthin placesâ€ in life where Heaven and Earth meet. I think community is one of the areas where Iâ€™ve seen this glimpse into the redeemed future â€“a combination of the human and the divine.
Though Iâ€™ve struggled with loneliness over the course of my life, Iâ€™ve also been given numerous opportunities to be a part of godly communities and make friends who challenge and encourage me so often. These are made all the more sweet by my memories of loneliness.
Not only am I grateful for the body of Christ I get to be a part of, but Iâ€™m also motivated by my loneliness to love others well. As I said earlier, I wouldnâ€™t wish the shame of feeling alone on my worst enemy. Keeping this in mind is good inspiration to step out of your comfort zone to make others feel welcomed, accepted, and loved. This opportunity is one we are called to now and one that can make all the difference to someone else.
Loneliness is humbling, it points to a hopeful future, and is a motivation to live in community right now. For these reasons, the loneliness of humanity can be an asset, not just a struggle. If youâ€™re willing to move past the pain, God can redeem your loneliness. I know Heâ€™s used it powerfully in my own life.