David wrote in Psalm 25:16, "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am alone and afflicted."
What Is Loneliness?
Many view loneliness simply as not having the company of others to enjoy. But loneliness is a compound emotion that not every person experiences exactly alike. For most, it involves sadness and feelings of isolation. For many, it involves shame, grief, anger, and a sense of inadequacy or inferiority. For some, it includes feelings of rejection, jealousy, and envy.
When Christians feel lonely, we need to think and interpret our loneliness through the lens of God as revealed in Scripture. God does not completely remove our feelings of loneliness, but He does give us biblical truths to help us cope with loneliness.
1. Many of God's People Felt Alone and Lonely.
Numerous examples are given in Scripture where God's people feel isolated and lonely.
Examples in the Old Testament
- Job describes his loneliness. “He has put my brothers far from me, and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me. My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me.” (Job 19:13–14)
- Naomi was alone, having lost her husband and two sons. "Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was left without her two children and her husband." (Ruth 1:3, 5)
- Elijah felt alone when Israel had forgotten God. “I have been very zealous for Yahweh, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, pulled down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)
Examples in the Psalms
- The psalmist’s friends abandon him and leave him helpless. “You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;” (Psalms 88:8)
- The lonely psalmist develops insomnia. “I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.” (Psalms 102:7)
- The psalmist has no one to care for him. “Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.” (Psalms 142:4)
Examples in the New Testament
- God the Father left Jesus alone at the cross. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34)
- No one showed the prodigal son mercy. “And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:14–16)
- No one helped the sick man in John 5. “The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”” (John 5:7)
- Paul experienced loneliness near the end of his life. "Be diligent to come to me soon, for Demas, having loved this present age, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service." (2 Timothy 4:9–11)
Though the Bible is replete with illustrations of loneliness, the English word “lonely” is only used three times in the ESV Bible: Psalm 25:16, Psalm 102:7 and Lamentations 1:1.
2. Loneliness Is the Result of Man's Fall.
Before God created Eve, Adam was alone without a suitable human companion. However, Adam never felt lonely before the fall. He had perfect communion and fellowship with God. There was no sin that hindered Adam’s relationship with God.
Adam and Eve’s sin produced painful consequences. One of sin’s results is loneliness. Sin destroyed Adam and Eve’s perfect union with God. Sin fractured their perfect union with each other. It was never God’s original intention that we feel lonely, isolated, and alone. Loneliness is the repercussion of the fall.
Since man's fall, our loneliness can deepen through living a life of isolation, broken relationships, poor communication, fear and insecurity, and a wrong view of self.
3. Marriage Does Not Cure Loneliness.
Many single adults experience loneliness. Married people get lonely too. In fact, some feel more lonely being married compared to being single.
People in difficult marriages are lonely. They may agree to sleep in the same bed; they may agree when to stop arguing. But there is no meaningful connection.
“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 21:9)
People in good marriages are lonely too. When a wife separates from her husband for many days due to a business trip, she can feel lonely. When one spouse loses his mind to Alzheimer’s dementia, both can feel intensely isolated and alone.
Sin created a barrier between us and God. Sin also corrupted marriage, the most intimate of human relationships. Because of sin, even married people feel lonely.
We experience loneliness when we "expect others to meet our needs and covet their attention and care rather than letting God sustain us...It is wrong to substitute human companions for God and place your faith in them instead of Him."
4. Christians Are Never Alone Because We Are United with Christ.
Every human being is never alone. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is always there.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalms 139:7–10 ESV)
Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:23–24 ESV)
God is ever present and near Christians. Our path to overcoming loneliness begins when we are united with our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we place our trust in Christ to forgive us of our sin, we are united with Christ. We become married to Christ. Our entire life is transformed. Our personal identity changes. Christ’s spirit indwells us, and He becomes our constant companion, counselor, and friend.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17)
Christ Jesus experienced a great deal of loneliness, especially at the garden of Gethsemane and at the cross. His disciples left him, and even God left him temporarily at the cross. Christ Jesus is a our great high priest who can identify with our loneliness. We can always pray to God who understands and cares and is ready to show us mercy and grace.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)
We share new commonalities with other Christians who are also united with Christ. We have the same faith, same hope, and same Lord. We enjoy the same desires and goals.
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6)
We have fellowship with God, and we have fellowship with other Christians. All of us inherit this new status. Christian are never alone.
5. When Feeling Lonely, Look First to God.
Moses taught the Israelites that God will always be our everpresent refuge.
The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you. (Deuteronomy 33:27 NLT)
The Psalmist declared his confidence that Yahweh was his constant keeper and companion in this life.
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close." (Psalm 27:10 NLT)
"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from Yahweh, who made heaven and earth...Yahweh is your keeper; Yahweh is your shade on your right hand...Yahweh will keep your going out and your coming in from now until forever." (Psalm 121:1, 4, 8 LSB)
The apostle Paul was often alone and abandoned by his companions and friends, so he sought strength and protection by lookng to God.
"At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me." (2 Timothy 4:16–17a LSB)
God can minister to us in our moments of loneliness through our prayers and through our time reading and meditating on God's word. In fact, loneliness is a type of trial that God has designed for good. (James 1:2–3) It can stir us to profitable self-examination, humble dependency, and a necessary desire to know God more.
6. When Feeling Lonely, Redirect Our Focus Toward Others.
As Christians, we have a new identity and standing. We also have a new perspective. We are not to look at our self interest, but we are to shift our attention and direct it toward others. Don't be fixated on how others aren't loving you. Focus on how you can grow in your love for others.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3–5)
- Look and see others for who they really are.
- Listen carefully to other people.
- Reach out and show others mercy.
- Think and pray for the needs of others.
The Apostle Paul, when he was forced to leave the Christians at Thessalonica, constantly thought about his fellow brothers in Christ. Instead of dwelling on his personal problem, he set his focus on others. What brought Paul joy was looking at the well being of others.
“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:17–20)
It is vital for us to not just attend but involve ourselves in a local church so we can practically love and serve our fellow brethren.
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
We also want to cultivate a godly character that is conductive to developing friendships. Some of these character attributes may include transparency and vulnerability, tolerance and forbearance, sincerity and earnestness, Christian love, joyfulness, humility, and hospitality.
7. Feelings of Loneliness May Remain Until the Eternal State.
Even though we are not alone anymore, we can still feel lonely. Feelings of loneliness will never disappear completely until we are with God forever in heaven in the eternal state. Only then will we never experience any more sadness, pain and loneliness.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1–4)
But until then, we want to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving and Christian contentment to combat the temptation to grumble and complain during our seasons of loneliness.
Final Thoughts on Coping with Loneliness
1. Do not be surprised that you feel lonely. Because of sin, loneliness is a universal condition for all people. Even marriage, the most intimate of human relationships, cannot fully remove our feelings of isolation and loneliness. Even though this was not God’s original plan, this is our present reality.
2. Remember God has restored our broken relationship with Him. Because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins and united with Christ. We are set free of sin’s penalty and power. This includes deliverance from our loneliness that results from our defective communion and fellowship with Him.
3. Nothing in this fallen world cures loneliness. Not even marriage. Sin has corrupted every part of God's creation including marriage. Don't pursue or hope for anything in this world to relieve us from loneliness. That pursuit will fail.
4. Remind yourself that you are never alone. The Spirit of God indwells every Christian, and He lives in us. We have a new commonality (and fellowship) with other believers, since we share the same faith, same hope, and same Lord. We have a new identity, and we have a new purpose in life. Our Lord Jesus Christ was left alone on the cross (Matthew 27:46) so that we, as Christians, will never be alone.
5. Look to God, our shield and protector. God is the answer to our struggle with loneliness. Our feelings of isolation and emptiness can be satisfied by our personal and intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father through the work of Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Holy Spirit.
6. Christ gives you a new perspective. We can focus on serving God and others and not just ourselves. And when we focus on serving and loving others, we will gradually forget how others aren't loving us. This is one way we can experience more joy and overcome loneliness this side of eternity.
7. You have an eternal hope. In this life, we will need to cope with loneliness, and the loneliness may feel agonizing. But we eagerly await a future day when we will be rid of this pain in the new heavens and new earth with our God. Only then does God promise to eradicate forever our feelings of loneliness.
Further Readings on Loneliness
- Finding Your Way Through Lonelienss by Elisabeth Elliot
- Loneliness: Connecting with God and Others by Lou Priolo
- Finding God in My Loneliness by Lydia Brownback
- All the Lonely People by Scott Devor