Loneliness- sadness because one has no friends or company; isolation
Solitude- the state or situation of being alone
If pressed for the number one reason people don’t want to be single, the answer will probably be loneliness. Loneliness is a state of mind that plagues a person, wearing her down, even making her feel disconnected from others when she’s not alone. It is a cause of physical and mental problems like depression, obesity, high levels of stress, alcohol and drug addiction, and decreased memory (verywellmind.com).
In her wonderful book The Path of Loneliness, Elisabeth Elliot writes about God’s creation of Adam and Eve. They were together in the garden, but each was alone in the sense that they were in separate bodies, each bearing God’s image, each answering to Him. She states that this aloneness was a good thing because everything in the garden was good.
However, she goes on to say “But something happened. Sin destroyed the perfect harmony of the universe. The relationship of man with God and of human beings with each other was fractured. Man now knows that he is alone. His aloneness is no longer an experience only of solitude but also of deprivation. The human companionship, which in the divine plan was the answer to man’s aloneness, no longer suffices. Disobedience ruined it. His aloneness has another dimension which is an experience of pain- a pain called loneliness.”
Loneliness is a very real and painful thing. It is HARD to endure loneliness. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid it.
Last week I wrote about waiting for God and trusting Him to act on your behalf. This- right here- is where we start waiting. We can’t necessarily change the fact that we’re alone, but since loneliness is a state of mind, we can change our perspective and take steps to turn our loneliness into solitude.
Four Steps to Turn Your Loneliness into Solitude:
- Learn to view alone time as an opportunity to draw closer to God
The way we view God is going to be reflected in the way we view our lives. Do you look at your single life and despair over all the empty hours in front of you? Do you scramble around trying to make plans with others, so you don’t have to sit alone in an empty apartment?
I’ve been there. I’m still there sometimes. I moved to Ohio six years ago and I’m still praying for a close friend. God hasn’t chosen to answer that prayer yet. At least, He hasn’t answered it the way I want Him to answer. Instead, God has steadily used my alone time to draw me closer to Him. I’m slowly starting to see free hours as extra time to give back to Him, time best used in prayer, scripture memory, and biblical meditation.
Even though my heart longs for a friend, God is showing me that my heart needs to long for Him first.
2. Change your point of view by speaking truth to yourself
Look through God’s lens to see your situation differently. The world tells us that being alone is a terrible thing and should be avoided at all costs. However, you don’t have to see it that way- work to find the positives.
Start with this: “It’s ok to be alone.” “Solitude is a good thing.”
Tell yourself that you are NOT a failure or a loser because you’re alone. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed by it. Instead, reassure yourself with truth- Elisabeth Elliot writes “As I began to learn about suffering I learned that trust in God’s strong arms means that even our suffering is under control. We are not doomed to meaninglessness. A loving Purpose is behind it all, a great tenderness even in the fierceness.”
You are not doomed to meaninglessness. There is purpose even in being alone. God’s Word assures us it can be a good thing.
3. Embrace silence rather than seeking to fill it
I’m not a big fan of silence. I usually have my headphones in, Youtube running in the background, or an audiobook playing. Even when I exercise without music, I always have mental chatter running through my head. I’m subconsciously trying to avoid silence.
Silence means loneliness, right?
In my first apartment I had a clock that ticked loudly. I remember sitting there, alone, in my blue chair, with just the ticking clock to fill the silence. There were some days when that clock had a lot to say-
You’re all alone
No one really likes you
I’m learning to see that silence- peaceful, meditative silence- is a a useful tool that can clear our heads and help us think. Once I stopped listening to the clock, I started to see the value of silence. As an elementary teacher, I even began to revel in it. Silence can soothe our anxious, fretful hearts and let God speak to us in ways that noise never can.
Remember, God commands us to be still.
4. Find positive ways to fill your alone time
I’m not suggesting that you run around in a frantic effort to fill all of your alone time. Instead of meaningless activity, find ways to fill your time when you’re alone. Learn to enjoy your solitude.
Sitting in front of the television night after night is just going to make the feelings of loneliness worse. I suggest activities that keep your hands busy and focus your mind.
What speaks to you? I often do my best thinking and praying when I’m moving- walking, biking, hiking, or even paddle boarding. For so long I resented or avoided any activity I had to by myself, but by using my alone time to draw closer to God and through speaking truth to myself, I’ve come to value and even relish solitude.
If you follow these four steps I guarantee your outlook will change.
One closing thought from Elisabeth Elliot: “Turn your loneliness into solitude, and your solitude into prayer.”
Solitude just means we’re alone. It is not a bad thing. It draws us away from a chaotic world and offers peace and perspective. It is a chance to revel in freedom and enjoy a deeper relationship with God. It’s an aspect of my life I’m slowly learning to love. And when solitude turns us to prayer, it becomes a beautiful thing.
This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of solitude in my life. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!