Gaining God’s Perspective on Seasons of Loneliness
by LESLIE LUDY
I sat dejectedly at our kitchen table, staring blankly out the window as my two small children played on the floor near my feet. Their carefree giggles sounded out of place against the depression and confusion that was threatening to spiral me downward into a pit of despair. Eric and I had just come from a meeting with close friends in which we had both been falsely accused and unfairly criticized. These friends, whom we had sacrificially loved and prayed for, had suddenly turned against us with spite and disdain. I felt like David when he declared, “They have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (Ps. 109:5). Never in my life had I felt so misunderstood.
Besides Eric, who was also reeling from the same blow, there was nobody else I knew who had walked through anything similar — no one I could call on for empathy, compassion, or wisdom. Never before had I felt so alone.
This unexpected rejection had come on the heels of an already lonely and difficult season. After spending nearly a decade traveling and speaking full time, Eric and I had spent the past year shifting gears and focusing on discipleship ministry. Our goal was to build deeper, longer-term relationships with people in individual and small-group settings. But things had not gone as we had hoped.
The small band of Christian young adults in whom we had invested countless hours into over the past year had all but dissolved. Some had fallen into sin and walked away from God. Others felt that following the Narrow Way of the Cross was too extreme and wanted an easier road. Some had simply gotten too busy and distracted to make pursuing Christ a high priority. Only a couple of people from the small discipleship group were still actively and enthusiastically engaged.
We felt uncertain about where God was leading us, disregarded by the ones we had poured into, and rejected by close friends. But on that dark day, while sitting at the kitchen table grappling with feelings of despair and misery, I became aware of God’s presence in a whole new way. In the midst of my emotional fog, loneliness, and pain, I came to know beyond all doubt that underneath me were His everlasting arms. (See Deuteronomy 33:27.)
In that moment, I had nowhere else to turn but to Him. And that became an incredible blessing. As I inwardly cried out to Him in desperation, He met me there. It was in that season of extreme pain and isolation that I began to experientially grasp the reality that even though others may betray, abandon, and fail me, and even when it seems like nobody else in the entire world can understand what I’m going through … Jesus is enough.
That season is certainly not the only battle with loneliness I’ve fought. In fact, since then I’ve walked through more extreme times of feeling alone, rejected, isolated, abandoned, or disregarded. But each encounter with loneliness has brought a fresh reminder of the incredible nearness, comfort, restoration, and faithfulness of my King.
Amy Carmichael expressed it beautifully, “Bare heights of loneliness … a wilderness whose burning winds sweep over glowing sands, what are they to Him? Even there He can refresh us, even there He can renew us.” From personal experience, I can say a hearty amen to those words.
Some modern Christians have challenged the notion that Jesus is enough to carry us through seasons of loneliness with joy, peace, and triumph. For example, I recently saw an article on loneliness from a well-known Christian women’s ministry that referred to a statement from Oswald Chambers about intimacy with Christ being the answer to loneliness as “baloney.” The writer of the article went on to declare that we need more than God when it comes loneliness. And I’ve read several Christian books that excuse being discontent and angry over singleness as justifiable and right, because God created us with a need for human companionship.
While it is certainly true that we were designed for human relationships and born with a healthy, intrinsic desire for companionship, it is certainly not true that Jesus cannot satisfy us at the deepest level of our soul, even if our earthly relationships are taken away or when others let us down.
Never forget, He is our All in all. (See Ephesians 1:23.) And that means He is able to completely, perfectly, absolutely fulfill every single need our hearts will ever have — if we will allow Him to.
This doesn’t mean that our desire for human companionship is wrong, or that God intends us to live our lives in a state of loneliness because it is somehow more spiritual to do so. Relationships with others are an amazing, God-given gift as well as an important part of our calling as Christians. But let’s never forget that when we have Jesus, we have everything we need whether we are in a season of “relational plenty” or “relational want.” Paul’s secret to being content in any and every situation as expressed in Philippians 4:12 doesn’t merely apply to our finances — but to every area of our lives as Christians.
When we grasp this amazing truth, there is no need to fear times of loneliness … because we have Him.
Imagine being an ocean away from all that is familiar, cut off from friends and family in the middle of a world war. Imagine being imprisoned in a concentration camp surrounded by sorrow and sickness with no news of the outside world. Imagine learning your beloved husband has died without the chance to say goodbye. Imagine being falsely accused as a spy and placed in a filthy confinement cell with only a half-cup of maggot-filled rice to eat each day. Imagine being tortured by cruel guards while also suffering from serious illnesses and wasting away from starvation. And on top of all this, imagine being sentenced to be executed.
This kind of scenario sounds far more like a terrible nightmare than anything that could ever really happen. And yet, it was actual reality for Darlene Deibler — an American missionary taken prisoner by the Japanese military during the Second World War.
In one of the most powerful messages I’ve ever heard, Darlene recounted the overwhelming moment when she was put into solitary confinementon death row. Her response to the extreme isolation and dire circumstances she faced was truly remarkable:
When [the guard] opened the door [of my cell], he got a hold of me, and he slammed me into that cell. I hit the other side, and then I turned around quickly and came back to the door and dropped on my knees. I was watching the end of that key because I knew when it made a complete revolution, I was locked in death row. And then I realized that I was singing. It was a song I had learned as a little girl in Sunday school. “Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot, He enters all rooms, ‘the doors being shut,’ He never forsakes; He never is gone, So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.”
And I counted on His presence. I don’t know if you can understand what I’m saying … but that cell on death row became my sanctuary. And my God was there with me. I wasn’t fighting against those walls. How truly it was written, “Iron bars do not imprison me” … and I learned experientially about the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Though nearly all of us have walked through loneliness, few people on earth have experienced it at that level. But as Darlene testified, even in the midst of the loneliest, most dire situation we could imagine — He was enough.
Similar testimonies can be found all throughout Christian history, as well as in persecuted countries today. I have often told the story of a pastor in China who was imprisoned for his faith in Christ. After spending a year in complete isolation from the outside world and being kept in almost total darkness, he emerged physically weak, but spiritually radiant. He declared that his year in solitary confinement had been a taste of Heaven on earth. It had been an entire year in the undistracted presence of Jesus Christ, and he didn’t regret a moment of it. Jesus was enough.
So, the next time you feel alone, abandoned, or rejected … be encouraged. Jesus is ready and waiting to show His love, comfort, and faithfulness to you in a greater way than you can even imagine. Seasons of loneliness are not meant to last forever. But when they come, we have the privilege of allowing that loneliness to chase us into the loving arms of the God of All Comfort. Remember that Jesus was rejected and abandoned in His greatest time of need by those who had vowed to always stand with Him. (See John 16:32.) As Darlene Deibler said, “He understands like nobody else can.”
Turn to Him with your pain, sorrow, and loneliness, and you will experience the joyful realization that you are never alone because He has promised never to leave you or forsake you.
And unlike human promises, His promises never fail.