The Pains of Loneliness

For being full of light bulbs and illumination, it sure was hard to take notes.

But nonetheless, I did my best.

Last Friday at Solid Rock, we were blessed with the presence of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and his daughter Joy for the Love and Respect Now “Illumination Project” (www.loveandrespectnow.com).

I must admit, I felt somewhat awkward walking in.  I am of the older demographic of the 18-35 year range that was invited.  Walking in, there were girls all over the place dressed to impress… and young boys being overly impressed.  What better place to find that special “one” than at the Love and Respect Conference, right?!  Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the evening and gained much wisdom.

One of the things that stood out the most to me was on the topic of loneliness.  I guess it wasn’t really a topic but it popped up several times.  I mean, that’s what happens when you are talking about singles, inevitably the topic of loneliness will often trail close behind.

I like hearing about loneliness.  I relate.  As much as people see someone like me and think I have thousands of friends, I still go home to an empty house every night.  And I definitely know what it feels like to be lonely.

One thing single people have experience at regardless of whether they have many friends or not is that of being lonely.  And loneliness is a deep, deep feeling that causes you to do things you would swear that weren’t you… and cause you to do things that you swear you would never do.

Might Paul even have been writing from the a lonely heart when he penned the words, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  It’s a lot easier to get caught in doing the things you hate to do when you are by yourself because you simply want to “feel” something.  “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”  A single person looking to fill the needs of loneliness could relate exactly to what Paul is saying here.

And although I must admit I am extremely blessed with the friendships and community I currently have, I know what it is like to be lonely and depressed.  I moved from Virginia to Portland 5 years ago.  I worked 7 days a week which left little time to find community or attend church or even find one.  I was terribly lonely for two years.  Like painfully lonely.

It’s not even, at least for me, “Will I ever get married?” or anything like that.  I assume I will someday.  But it’s the, “I do not want to feel like this right now.  It hurts.  Its painful.”  And it is.  Singles often cry themselves to sleep at night.  Not because anything is terribly wrong, but simply because it hurts to be alone.

And there is an excruciating loneliness that can go along with being single.  A pain that goes deep that not all can understand.

And one might commiserate with the Psalmist saying, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”

Now don’t get me wrong, there is fullness in singleness as well and we’ll get to that more in other blogs but this is about the incredible emptiness of loneliness that also often travels along with singles.  For those who “burn within” and are…. Still burning.

I know often those who are lonely struggle with how to handle such deep feelings of companionship, of passion, of desire, of lust.  What do you do with these feelings?  …and what happens is we get advice from others who got married at 22 and have no idea what its like to be 27, 30, 35 and single.  And waiting.  … … …

I know married people often struggle with those same feelings and lust in different ways… but imagine not ever being able to express that passion or desire or love that is so deep in your soul.  It rests there and demands to come out.  And there is no “outlet” for it.  This is what gets the young Jesus-follower into trouble, male or female.  We often choose unhealthy ways to “cope” with these desires because we don’t know what to do with them and the same advice we seem to get over and over doesn’t take away the desire, it only seems to put it back in the box before jack comes out again… we stuff him in, and pretend or think its over with only to have that passion cranked a few times and see him come out again to our shame.

One thing we must do which was reiterated at the “Illumination Project” is to rely on what we know to be true.  And if we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, we believe that God is good, that God has a plan, and that God is working.

And how we respond as was shared by the Eggerichs’ is to “Not waste the loneliness” and to “Let whatever God is doing happen.”

So very, very true.  God is at work.  And as we allow Him to work, we are going to see a beautiful work of art come out of our lives and the pieces of our puzzle fit perfectly.  And yes, we may have to wait.  (I honestly don’t feel it is better to be married or single.  It is full either way, it’s simply a matter of what and how we fill our lives).

I notice when looking back, although, I did waste a lot of the loneliness and had my share of struggles with lust and depression.  God still redeemed that time.  And is still redeeming it.  I began writing again.  And writing poetry (I will post one everyday this week that dealt with loneliness.  Oh yes, you can come back here everyday).  Some was fairly depressing.  But that’s the best kind.  I try to write now but it doesn’t work.  I have too many friends.  I can only write poetry when I am lonely and depressed.  I guess that’s why I write a blog now, I can smile and write funny stories about missionaries.

Another point brought up Friday evening was that we cannot fear the loneliness and this is so true as well.  Fear paralyzes us.  And while it often paralyzes us to the lack of movement, in relationships and feelings it often paralyzes us into a relationship for fear of ending up with no relationship at all.  This leads to the path of unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship.  A never-ending cycle where one’s heart is never truly filled.  One must not put their hope in another to fill that place.  One’s heart can be filled whether single or married.  And one’s heart can be left empty whether married or single.

But alas, you will continue to go through struggles.  And you can continue go to that older person who shares some great advice about staying pure and keeping your mind right…. While they continue to go home and have sex with their wife at night.  Thanks.  I’m gonna go home by myself now… again… for the 1,186th straight night.  But……….

….This is one of the perks of singleness.  Oh yes.  It is a perk.  But only if we “get it.”

We get to experience something (passion, desire, lust) that is impossible to mend or cure or keep in the box.  And in return, we get a Hero who sympathizes with us.  One who was tempted in every way just like you and me, and yet is without sin.  And we have an opportunity to experience Jesus in a way only few can.  When He’s not only your husband, but your only husband.  When He’s not only the One who fills your heart.  But He’s the only One who can fill your heart.

And the Psalmist concludes his wrestling with the words “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.”

I don’t have many answers at all.  Others do but they don’t always “get” us.  Jesus was us, is us, and “gets” us.

(References: Romans 7:15-19, Psalm 13:2, 5-6, 1 Corinthians 7:9, Hebrews 4:15)

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16 thoughts on “The Pains of Loneliness

  1. “Fear paralyzes us. And while it often paralyzes us to the lack of movement, in relationships and feelings it often paralyzes us into a relationship for fear of ending up with no relationship at all. This leads to the path of unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship. A never-ending cycle where one’s heart is never truly filled. One must not put their hope in another to fill that place. One’s heart can be filled whether single or married. And one’s heart can be left empty whether married or single.”

    TRUTH!

  2. WOW thanks for this! Don’t get me wrong I’ve loved and laughed through the past posts, but this was real and true and beautifully written. It will be one that I definitely read multiple times and maybe even re-post myself. Thanks for blessing us singles with the continual challenges and reminders!

  3. Agreeing with the others: this is the best. I loved “…and what happens is we get advice from others who got married at 22 and have no idea what its like to be 27, 30, 35 and single. And waiting.” Heck. Yes. It’s one thing to *gasp* graduate college while still single and another to be an older single. The struggle only increases, which is what those who married young can never understand. What you said about fear is also so true. We can all see it in our own lives as well as our friends.

    There are pros and cons to every part of life. There are a lot of pros to being single, but there are some really difficult cons. Loneliness is such a big one. Thanks for your honesty, John. I resonate so deeply with this.

    • So true Sarah. That “older” single is a whole nother category. Absolutely, pros and cons on both sides. I think unfortunately, people too often dwell on the cons (in whatever situation they are in), however difficult they may be. When that is simply life – there is always a “gap” in whatever we do – and that gap, that emptiness is to always point us to Christ, the only One who can fill that place.

  4. John,
    I’m so glad one of my friends told me about your blog. You’re a good writer…AND, man, your posts on mission trips had me rolling. So, so good (and true!)

    I’m glad for your honesty. No sugar coating, no sprints towards a resolution of your struggle (okay, OUR struggle as single Christians) with christianese phrases that completely miss the heart of the matter altogether.
    Also,I love this paragraph: “But alas, you will continue to go through struggles. And you can continue go to that older person who shares some great advice about staying pure and keeping your mind right…. While they continue to go home and have sex with their wife at night. Thanks. I’m gonna go home by myself now… again… for the 1,186th straight night.” Haha.
    It’s a difficult tension to live in: that of longing for lifelong companionship and choosing to be joyful in the present as a single person, knowing that God IS good. Thanks for not ignoring that tension, but instead being both honest and anchored in truth!

  5. Quick comment on the part of you writing good poetry when you were lonely and depressed. Back in college, my brother and I had this one friend who’d write really good songs, but only after getting his heart broken by a girl. :) So, when he wasn’t writing well, we’d say, “Quick! Find a girl to date Johnny, have her brake it off, and crush his heart so that he can write a decent song!” Looking back now… years later… all I can say is… poor Johnny. :(

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