“We all struggle, regardless of what we believe…But it’s what we believe that determines the outcome of the struggle.” – Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford
Have you ever been lonely? I suspect we all have at some point in our lives. Maybe you are lonely right now.
Loneliness can strike whether you are alone or surrounded by people. It can come in short waves or stay around for seasons of life. It can be constant or appear off-and-on.
I write from a cross-cultural context, but you don’t have to be in a cross-cultural situation to experience loneliness. Perhaps your loneliness feels like no one understands you. Maybe you are at home with young kids and feel alone during those precious yet hard days, days that can certainly be lonely even with constant noise and activity in the house. Maybe you have a job you don’t love or a life situation that doesn’t seem agreeable and you feel like no one can identify with what you are going through. Perhaps you aren’t married but want to be. Perhaps you are married but feel disconnected from your spouse.
Surely I’ve struck a chord by now. That’s because loneliness doesn’t discriminate.
I am not particularly prone to loneliness. While I recall certain times in life during which I’ve felt lonely, it’s not been something I’ve dealt with often, even in my previous move to Madrid or this current move to Brussels. As an introvert I am generally content with fewer people around and don’t feel the need to be interacting with others all the time. I’m not saying that introverts can’t struggle with loneliness— of course they can and often intensely do. I’m just speaking from my personal experience.
But I certainly have hit loneliness walls at times. Or maybe those walls have hit me.
On a human level, it helps to confess the loneliness to someone. During those times that I’ve experienced loneliness, speaking it and owning it to someone else helped take away some of its sting. But as a Christian, I’ve got to go deeper than just the human level. The question is, if I’m lonely, for what or whom am I lonely?
As a Christian, my loneliness is an expression of a deeper longing for heaven, for something more. For Jesus, the One who knows me perfectly and who entered into relationship with me so that I can know Him—the One who is there whether I am all alone or surrounded by millions of people. In those lonely seasons, I needed to confront my loneliness and remember the deeper longings underneath it. Jesus was truly forsaken and abandoned by His Father on the cross so that His people would never have to be.
But does that theology mean that God doesn’t want to hear me cry out in my loneliness? Does He just want me to push through it and pretend it’s not there because, after all, Jesus?
He cares immensely about the loneliness of His people. The book of Psalms shows us how much He cares. In Psalm 61:1-3 the psalmist cries out to God from a place of loneliness:
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
That’s exactly the reminder I need in my loneliness. The Lord does hear the cries of his people: He has been and will be their refuge. Think about how the Lord has been your refuge this week, this month, this year. And the many years before this one. No matter how discouraged or tired I may feel, I can never deny the sweet reality that He has been my refuge.
Sometimes Madrid felt like the “ends of the earth,” and Brussels will no doubt feel that way as well at times. You may be in a new geographical location or be preparing to make that kind of move. But even if you aren’t, you may still feel isolated or alone or discouraged, like you live “at the ends of the earth” in some way. The Lord is your refuge there. He always has been, and He always will be.
“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” means that we want to be led to Jesus Himself. He is the one our hearts long for. He is the one who meets us in our loneliness and gives us refuge in Himself. The next time you experience loneliness, remember Christ, your refuge no matter where on earth God has placed you.
Katy and her family hail from Memphis, Tennessee, but they currently serve as missionaries in Europe: they spent three years in Madrid, Spain, and have recently relocated to Brussels, Belgium. Katy’s main passions are supporting her husband Daniel and being mom to their two children, Annabelle and Harry, but she also enjoys reading, writing, drinking cappuccinos, and eating chocolate. She blogs at katybrink.com and in 2016 published an eBook called Clotheslines and Callings: Home Is Where My Laundry Is, based on her cross-cultural experiences.