The heart wrenching scene at a grove of olive trees: Jesus, the Son of God, told his friends he was sad. “My heart is full of sorrow and breaking with sadness. Stay here with me and watch,” he asked Peter, James, and John. Loneliness and dread loomed in his head. He didn’t want to be led into the hands of bloodthirsty men, men who wanted him dead, but God the Father needed it to be so. There was no turning back; Scripture had it recorded from centuries ago; prophets set it in motion; but in the hour before it happened, earth’s Savior found himself needing comfort. It was almost too much, and no one but God and the angels were there for him.
You can hear it be said, loneliness is a feeling everyone feels. Yet a single person feels alone so intensely, individually, and without support of another. Would a person have to feel lonely, if others felt it, too? Is it some strange joke that every person in the world feels by oneself, alone, and secluded from others, in a pit of dark thoughts, if we all feel lonely from time to time? What an ironic thought that a lonely person could stand inside a population of lonely persons. Where is a mind, when one is lonely, that he or she cannot feel the warmth of love, or the company of others, even when they may be sitting in the same room?
Jesus felt lonely at the garden of Gethsemane, when his three friends were snoring while he was crying with the weight of the world on his shoulders. “Well, if he had wanted our help, he wouldn’t have gone over there to pray under the tree. I figured I’d just nap while I wait,” James might have said. Then there was introverted John who probably watched Jesus, trying to figure out what he could do to help his friend, yet doing nothing from his own sleepiness. Meanwhile, after the soldiers came to take Jesus away, Peter, who had just woken up from his slumber, in a rage cut off a soldier’s ear; maybe he felt guilty for not supporting his friend in their last campout together.
We can’t know for sure, but the Bible gave us the only information we needed to know; that Jesus was ministered to by the angels and that prayer is the response we should have to our loneliness.
So if a person has a problem with chronic loneliness, meaning it happens a lot, is prayer enough? “Praying isn’t physically intimate enough. Can’t someone in the physical world help me? Why is that too much to ask?” One might wonder. The solution for that is in three steps you can take, although keep in mind Jesus in the garden and the weakness of others to deliver help:
First step: before you seek help, really do pray. Go to a room, close the door, and talk to God until you know how to communicate your feelings with another person. You can cry to God, work it out with him, yell at him, get angry, complain, even express to him why you hate the way it is. Forget about the clock; keep praying until you feel like you can open up to others.
Second step: find your spouse, family member, or friend and express yourself. Tell that person you are lonely and in need of help. Follow the third step according to their response:
- Response: “Yeah, I’m lonely, too.” Do an activity you both can mutually benefit from.
- Response: “So?” Explain why it matters. If the person is a caring person, you can say how it affects your day to be lonely. For example, if your brother said “So?” when you said “I’m lonely”, you can tell him how hard it is to cram for your test when you’re lonely, and how it would be easier if you weren’t. Maybe if he’s nice, he will let you sit in his room with him or he will help you study.
- Response: “I can’t help.” Investigate why the person can’t help. You need to understand why before you give up, because it may be that he or she wants to help and just has no idea what to do.
- Response: “I don’t want to help.” Ask that person if it’s ok to go to somebody else. Like if it’s your wife that says that, ask if she’s ok if you go to somebody else for help, and if she isn’t ok with it, ask her for help again in a little bit of a different way, kind of like a bargain.
- Response: “I don’t know what to do.” Figure out something that person is capable of doing. For example, if you go to your husband and you hear this from him, ask him something specifically: to rub your back, to watch a movie, or to sit by the fire and talk.
- Response: “Not my problem.” You may want to find someone else to help you, if it seems the person doesn’t care. There’s nothing wrong with finding help elsewhere if someone really isn’t invested in your burdens.
Getting others help is more complex than getting God’s help, because humans are fickle and subject to their own bad moods. You have to become inventive in ways to get others to help you. Since they aren’t you, you may have to get on their level, to help them help you, by involving yourself in what they’re doing rather than them doing what you want. But if it is physical contact you need, work around the limitations of the physical, and keep trying. Never give up on anyone, including yourself.
If your loneliness is pesky, and you literally cannot find relief from people, there are creative outlets you can take to express your loneliness. A few ideas…
- Paint. Use colors to express your mood. You can draw a crying face, a splash of abstract tones painting a stormy sky, or even wilted flowers. It’s amazing what art does to help artists from falling into despair.
- Play music. Music heals. It truly does. By expressing yourself with sound and lyrics, or by listening to music, you can get out your most painful thoughts, translating them into something that sounds good and lifts your spirit into some kind of meta-physical realm.
- Make a video of yourself talking. Honestly, if you do this, I would suggest not posting it up on social media or Youtube, and just make it a private hobby. It really is easy to get even lonelier if nobody responds to your video. However, if you want to be brave and post it, just remember not to expect anything; do it for self-benefit; you can choose to disable comments on Youtube so that it will discipline your mind not to expect anything, if you start to feel lonelier after posting it on public, and getting no response (or worse, negative response).
If all else fails, repeat step one. Go behind the closed door again and pray. Take the Bible with you this time and open it up and read somewhere, anywhere, until the words began to form new thoughts in your mind. It really can help.
In conclusion, loneliness is not a sin. Sometimes the way we feel when we’re lonely stirs our sinful nature, and we stumble in our weakness, causing us to sin, but the feeling itself is not a sin. If you do make a mistake, God will continue to love you; even if you continue to make the same mistake a million times, like if you feel lonely and start to think of ways to fill the emptiness yourself, for example through lust or substance abuse, God will always continue to love you, forever and ever.
“ For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12 (NIV)