Loneliness. It’s probably one of the worst feelings to endure. I would think it is safe to say that all of us have felt lonely at some capacity. Everyone can understand the pain and fear that can accompany this emotion.
It is one thing to feel lonely when we are actually isolated from friends and family. But what about so many of us, who can feel that empty, lonely feeling, despite being surrounded by so many friends and family members who love us? How is it possible to be surrounded by a loving community and yet feel all alone?
For anyone who has been in this place, I can relate. It can be an overwhelming, fearful feeling. For myself, I have begun to understand what goes on in myself that makes me feel alone. When I’m feeling lonely, deep down what I am really feeling, is misunderstood. No matter how many people surround me, and no matter how hard they are trying to love and understand me, if I don’t feel understood, I feel alone. God designed us for relationship, He doesn’t want us to be isolated. There is something inside of us that needs to feel like we are known and understood.
There have been a few trying seasons in my life, where I was experiencing some kind of overwhelming emotion, and I found breakthrough because God brought me someone who could understand. I was brought to a few relationships, in which that person did not have any answers for my current predicament – all they could offer was the mere fact that they themselves were in the same place, and could truly understand. I remember feeling like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders when I realized I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t crazy. I didn’t do something horribly wrong. I was just walking through this battle that life can be, along with so many others.
So how do we get out of that trapped feeling of being misunderstood? How can we find those people whom we truly can connect with, and how can we truly feel understood?
I have found three key things that have helped me take steps toward feeling connected. There is no particular order to them, but focusing on each of them has helped me reach major breakthrough.
1. Take steps to understand your own emotions.
I have noticed that for myself, I often want to be open with others, but I don’t have the words to describe what I am feeling or going through. I need to be able to understand my own emotions before I can really be open and honest with others. This is one of the first steps toward intimacy. When I feel stuck in an emotional mess that I can’t understand, the first thing I do is try to identify what emotion I am feeling. A mentor of mine once gave me this tip. She said to look up a chart of emotions. You know those ones with a bunch of cartoon faces conveying different emotions that you probably first saw in your elementary school classroom? Look at one of those charts and identify what you are feeling. Maybe you are sad, or angry, or frustrated. Whatever it is, once you can identify what you are feeling, ask yourself why. Once you do this, a lot of other things will start to make sense.
2. Be willing to be open and honest with others.
Once you have a good grasp of what is going in inside of yourself, you have to be willing to be open and honest with others. If you don’t make that personal decision for yourself, then it probably won’t happen. Maybe it is fear that is keeping you from sharing. Or maybe you feel loads of shame every time you think about sharing. Whatever it is that is holding you back, it’s important to recognize that ultimately, it is a choice that you must make. A willing heart will lead to connection and community. It is important to also look inside and see that you are willing to share with God. He knows you inside and out, but there is also a powerful connection and level of intimacy that is reached when you are willing to share with Him by your choice. And it is likely that whatever is keeping you from God is related to what is keeping you from sharing with others. It all begins in your heart.
3.Trust God to bring the right people- be aware of His leading.
Maybe you have a good understanding of yourself and you’re completely open and willing to share, but you just can’t find anyone to share with. It’s important to not just run out and tell the first person you can find. Pray about who God would want you to share with. Ask God to bring the right people into your life, and keep your eyes and ears open for His leading. Being a part of community requires action on our part, but it is also God’s hand that brings certain people in and out of our lives. We must not just sit back and expect someone to knock on our door, but we need to be listening for His voice as we actively seek community. He will bring the right people to us for connection and fellowship.
Be comforted, that even in your loneliness, you are not misunderstood by God. Our Wonderful Savior understands all that you go through. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:12) Even loneliness. There can’t be anyone who understands loneliness more than Jesus, who Himself who had His own Father turn His face on Him for our sake. “Father, Father why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) As He hung on that cross, He experienced the ultimate loneliness. He knows. He understands. And His love goes deeper than any other love.