“To believe I walk alone, is a lie that I’ve been told. So let your heart hold fast, for this soon shall pass, like the high tide takes the sand.” Let Your Heart Hold Fast – Fort Atlantic
A few years ago I was told that loneliness is part of the human condition and somehow it brought comfort to know that we all feel alone together. However, while the concept is probably true, I’m not sure how helpful it is. Sure, there are periods of loneliness that we all go through but when I am living in loneliness and it is in my power to do something about it, shouldn’t I? I have lived a good portion of my life in a continual state of loneliness but should I just accept that as part of life or should I try to change it?
It’s important to understand what loneliness is and where it comes from. I think there are at least two kinds of loneliness:
- Loneliness when you truly are alone
- Loneliness when you have convinced yourself you are alone.
The first one is pretty self-explanatory – you are physically isolated from people or at least the important people, the ones who know you intimately; the people who you want to be around. This can be due to a move or life event that physically changes the community around you but unless you are suddenly in Antarctica or a space station, with some effort, it should be temporary. The world is full of people and who knows which one is going to be your next kindred spirit.
The second is a little more complex and more individual, but I believe loneliness is often born from insecurity. “To believe I walk alone is a lie that I’ve been told” – unfortunately, more often than not, I’m the one spreading these lies to myself. I often find myself thinking that nobody wants to be around me. I feel I’m too needy or too much of a burden. I believe I’m too messed up to deserve to be in anybody else’s life. These all lead me to a lack of initiative in seeking people out or trouble maintaining relationships I already have.
This kind of loneliness is the result of deep hurt, history and insecurity – too many outings I wasn’t invited on. Too many birthdays nobody wanted me at because that’s obviously what it means when you aren’t invited, right? Too many nights spent alone with no plans. Clearly there is something wrong with me.
Deep down, I know this isn’t true. I know it is a lie that I have chosen to believe. I know it is from Satan. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna Lovegoodsays some truly insightful words to Harry: “If I were [the enemy], I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.” So many of these things are born from little lies that Satan plants that my own insecurities and past hurt grow into an entire hedgerow. But it works and I am rendered useless.
I desperately long for people to know me but fear being hurt. Last week I wrote a whole blog about how I crave intimacy but lack trust. I work against myself, shutting people out, never giving them the chance to know me then fear losing the ones that are on the inside and the result is usually the same – depression.
How closely are these two related – depression and loneliness? From what I can find they often go hand in hand but are two distinct conditions. In my life, loneliness has led to depression. Isolation both physically and mentally have led to sadness and worthlessness which in turn is a downward spiral of self-doubt and depression.
How do I get back out of it? What is the antidote?
This past Easter I was struck at how lonely Jesus must have felt on this earth. Nobody understood him. Nobody knew who he was. Most people did not believe him. In the end, in his deepest hour of need, he was deserted by the people who were supposed to be closest to him. He was hours before death and completely alone in the garden.
However, in this moment, he did not falter in faith. He did not waver in his identity. He did not throw in the towel and crumple into a heap of self-doubt. In this moment, he sought the Father’s love and clung to the promises he knew to be true. He prayed. (Read John 17, it is beautiful). He held fast to the truth of who he is, and his purpose and the joy of restoring his family – us, me – to the Father.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2
So what is the antidote?
It’s Jesus. It’s my identity as a beloved daughter of my Heavenly Father. It’s the body of Christ, community.
Jesus died to restore us so that we have freedom to fellowship with one another in the Spirit of Christ. This is a community unlike anything in this world. It is a community that is real. A community that will look past the insecurities and feed truth to the lies. However, it is up to me to find it and fight for it. Yes, loneliness is part of the human condition but I’m starting to think that it is also a choice. It is up to me to choose to believe truth, choose to believe who I am in Christ and choose to fellowship with those around me.