Have you felt lonely and isolated during this time of quarantine?
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distress.
Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
I know loneliness sets in like a dark cloud. It's hard to focus on anything or appreciate what you have and the problems in your heart feel heavy. I want to validate your emotions but also encourage the spark of hope in you. God is near, He knows your emotions, He wants to talk to you, and He sees YOU (all of you!).
I'll share a little bit of my story when I went through a difficult season of loneliness in my life and maybe it'll help by giving some clarity and peace of mind.
I moved to Okinawa, Japan, in 2018 shortly after graduating from University. I went to be a missionary, work at a hotel, and start a sports camp. It was such an exciting time to go on an adventure with the Lord and I was passionate and extremely motivated.
I lived with a friend of mine for a few months then got my own apartment up north on the island near to work. A few weeks in I started to feel loneliness set in. I didn't have Sundays off from work to find a church community. I didn't have friends in the area. Work was hard for a while. I didn't have anyone to talk to. I didn't have Wifi in my home because of Visa restrictions at the time so I had to be careful with my phone plan data; I couldn't just call my family whenever and however long I wanted. I was completely isolated and the loneliness set in heavily on me.
I became angry. Why would God do this to me? How was I supposed to build my faith and stay motivated on mission when my spiritual, social, emotional, and physical life was at an all-time low? I couldn't see anyway how this situation was Biblical or healthy.
Then I heard a sermon about David and how he was alone. Then I remembered Elijah, Jacob, and even Joseph. These people knew what it felt like to be completely alone. My perspective changed. I thought: maybe there's a point to the loneliness? I read the Bible and thought about their stories. Slowly God started to unfold in my heart the power of being alone.
The first lesson I had to learn was to embrace the joy of being alone.
When I came home from work, no one was there to greet me. I combated this by decorating my home with Biblical reminders. I made paintings that reminded me of God's character, my spiritual posture, a Biblical truth I knew to be true, and I placed a big white construction paper on one of my walls where I listed all the good things God has done in my life recently. By doing this, I created a joyful living space where I was constantly greeted, reminded, and surrounded by the Lord's goodness. My mind wasn't distracted by another person there or a pet in my home. My mind was solely focused on the Lord and it was easy to talk to him and connect to him in the silence. It took months but I found joy in the silence and small space of my home where I felt the safest. My home became my safe meeting place to communicate to God.
O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.
The second lesson I learned revealed a process the Lord was doing in my heart.
Since I was all alone, the only person I could talk to was God. I felt isolated and sad... and these are the things that drove me into His arms. I cried a lot. I yelled at Him. I smiled up at Him. I asked Him to go on walks with me. I spilled my frustrations to Him. He revealed my heart, opened up my wounds and bitterness, and let them fall out for Him to be able to pick up the pieces. He refined me by taking out the bad and showing the ugly parts of me to change me. My heart softened as I let the Lord take out the trash in my heart and replace it with righteousness. Months after when I found I wasn't lonely anymore, I realized how deep my relationship with the Lord had grown during that process.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The third lesson was to hunger and thirst for spiritual meat.
I became more spiritually hungry than ever. I listened to sermons daily. I read the Bible daily. I only listened to Christian Worship music. I read books on Spirituality, Womanhood, Relationships, and the Christian Life. I read and listened to everything I could get my hands on. I learned very quickly that I needed to learn how to spiritually feed myself. So I found a routine that kept my spiritual hunger for God alive. When I woke in the morning, I read the Bible and while I made breakfast I would listen to a sermon. While getting ready for work or activities, I would talk to God like he was there and I would journal my prayers most days.
Several months into living in my apartment alone, I found a church that held services on Saturday nights. However, this wasn't a normal church, it was a discipleship center, and Pastor Nick demanded spiritual maturity. It was uncomfortable at first but I loved the challenge. This blessing of community, a spiritual challenge, and Pastors who cared for me at this time was enormous. Being around a community that wanted God with all their being and was serious in becoming spiritually mature made me want to become spiritually mature as well. By the time I met this church community, I had already learned my routine in how to spiritually feed myself because I went through that with the Lord. The next lesson was to learn how to keep my personal routine of feeding myself spiritually in my own time and not always solely relying on a church or Pastor to feed me. I would come to church ready for the hard questions and discussions because my personal time with the Lord was fruitful and my studies of the Word of God were settling in my heart.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The fourth and biggest lesson I learned was to go to the Lord FIRST for anything and everything. One of my deepest regrets is hurting people that loved me because I was upset and lonely. I used my relationships as a lifeline; I expected people to fulfill something inside of me that cannot be done by the human will. Looking back, I can see clearly that I slowly learned how to Lament. To lament is to let your requests, your deepest aches, and your needs known to God. It's not complaining, it's more about being truthful about the condition of your heart to the Lord. I started to practice talking to God exclusively about the aches and pains of my heart. If you want to know what this looks like, read the Psalms! David laments to the Lord in most of his psalms. I encourage you to read them, pray over them, and let your requests be known to God.
Here is an example in Pslam 86:1-2
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you- you are my God.
It's always hard for me to accept the seasons I am in, especially the hard ones. We are human and we want things to be light and breezy and lemon squeezy all the time. However, the Scripture is clear that there will be hard times. The most powerful position we can be in is always going to be right next to God and allowing Him to make good come out of every situation. We want happy endings don't we? It's my understanding from reading the Bible and knowing God personally that we will get that happy ending. Loneliness doesn't last forever and the hard times don't stick around for as long as we think they do. Inviting God into our happy times and bad times gives purpose to it all.
I'll end with some verses from one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. May it give you the same comfort I find in it as well.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
'For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the things for which I sent it.
'For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.'"