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Why Loneliness Isn’t Your Enemy

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         I sat staring out my bedroom window. Shoulders covered by a blanket as I watched our newly hatched ducklings dart after their mother, skittish and wary of being separated from the group. It was one of those spring days where the sun was bright and shining, and the air cool and crisp. As I stared at this sweet little family, tears slipped down my cheeks. The weight on my chest was so heavy, my throat so tight, I thought-as any good nurse would-breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Breathe in, breathe out. In… out.
         Loneliness seems like such a bad word sometimes. It’s the emotion that no one wants to admit to, yet every one of us occasionally feels. For some of us, loneliness is a visitor that often shows up unexpectedly, and when we can’t get him to leave, he gets shoved into the nearest closet. It’s like “Oh no, not you again! You are the worst. guest. ever!” So we tidy up the house, double-check that all looks normal, then hit the town with our lively, vibrant buddies. We paste on our bright smiles at dinner, along with our cheery dispositions–all the while on the inside, feelings we have no idea how to deal with quietly lurk within the shadows.
        On the other hand, there are those of us who wear our loneliness like a badge. We take him out in public, just to isolate ourselves from large groups in the hopes that someone will notice us. We make desperate cries for help regarding our houseguest on social media, which are often clothed with sarcasm, and “just kidding” or “lol” after every despairing comment. We are the ones that make the other group want to shove their guest in the closet at the risk that they may appear to resemble our consistent reactionary houseguest behavior. They say “I’ll just ignore him and act like he’s not there.” We say “If we introduce him to enough people, maybe they’ll help us get rid of him.”
        Here’s the thing. Both of these parties realize that if you allow Mr. Loneliness to stay in your house for too long, he can do some major damage. I mean seriously. BINGO. Loneliness has the potential to make us do some crazy things. Feel lonely? Date someone you really don’t like. Have a sense of isolation? Go out and party with friends. Feeling the need to break away from “the solitary life”? Catch the latest *under par* love story that Hollywood tries to convince us is awesome. Yuck. I kinda felt nauseous just typing that. So yeah, it just makes sense that loneliness shouldn’t take up residence at su casa. But the problem is, we see him knocking on our door, and we immediately go into a panic, thinking “The enemy is here! Seek and destroy!” And we attack before we realize Mr. Loneliness didn’t knock on our door because he’s our adversary. He, in fact, is just the opposite–he’s our emissary.
         So rewind back to my whole “breathe in… breathe out” moment. Pal, it had just been one of those days. The one where it’s the same date as a previous heartbreak, or what should have been a wedding anniversary. You hear your song. You run into someone who looks just like him. And here you were, just going about your day, when all of a sudden, an uneasiness begins to creep in, and you sense the knock, knock, knock of that achingly familiar presence. It’s loneliness at the door.

Here’s your defining moment. What do you do? Here are a few responses I had to consider:

1. Identify your triggers. What brought his visit on? Is it something you can control? For instance, are you flipping through old photos on FB? Watching a chick flick that gives you that empty romantic ache? Or maybe your mind was going down a path that it shouldn’t. Yeah, don’t tell me that we aren’t guilty of that. I’ve lived my life far too long to let you convince me otherwise. Be willing to ask yourself some difficult questions. If your trigger is one that continually depresses you and sends you into a tailspin-kick that thing to the curb. Whether it’s something you personally fanned into flame, or a circumstance out of your control, listen up, the next point is for you…

 2. Change your attitude towards him. Isn’t it interesting how quickly we try to hush the ache when our loneliness is one of the more effective tools we’ve been given in our “emotions bank” to discern what’s going on in our own souls? Imagine Mr. Loneliness as a spotlight. He often exposes some of the darkest places in our hearts. Our neediness. Our steady relationship with insecurity. Our tendency to replay rejection moments like it’s a bad highlight reel (ohhhh more on that in a later post. Chord. Struck.). If he would never show up, often those emotions remain unchecked and unrealized. So stop shoving him in the closet, people. Put him to work.

3. Take time to really listen to him. Okay. Hit the jackpot. Now that we know your loneliness is an emissary-a courier of sorts-it’s time to figure out his message. Here’s how I imagined it that crisp, spring day. As I stared at the lake, felt in my chest the steady growth of that familiar ache, I realized something. Loneliness doesn’t just show us old residue from past hurts and present disappointments. He shows us a huge gaping hole that’s right in the center of our heart. Every time he pops up, he’s actually there to show us the same exact thing. We have a need. And His name is Jesus.

That day as I thought about loneliness and all it’s negative connotations, I couldn’t help but think of how it was one of the most beautiful visitors I’d had in a good long while. Reason being? He pointed me straight to my Jesus (He’s your Jesus too!). That day, my loneliness looked like a bright neon sign with an arrow pointing straight to heaven that flashed “JESUS. JESUS. You need JESUS.” I don’t know that I’ll ever get that image out of my mind. You know what happened with my loneliness after that? He quieted down. Because when Jesus is given the invitation to fill up that big gaping hole in our hearts, Mr. Loneliness starts to realize that you just may not need him anymore.

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Listen, sweet friend, I do want to say this. I have lived through a very painful, consistently lonely season. I truly know what I’m asking you to test out is very difficult. The betrayal you’ve felt is real. Your wounds have cut deep. But I promise you, there is an aching sweetness to be found when you offer your injured heart up to Jesus. He cares more about it’s safekeeping than you could ever imagine. I KNOW He does.

Isaiah 41:13 contains a gem. “I…hold your right hand.” Isn’t that just about the sweetest thing? I have tears welling up just like a little schoolgirl. Those moments when you stretch and then ball your fist up… because your hands just feel empty. I want you to take a moment right now and look down at your right hand. Imagine the most beautiful, strong hand you’ve ever imagined laying palm-to-palm upon yours. Feel the weight of it. The all-consuming warmth. He then laces His fingers with yours, looks into your eyes and whispers, “Don’t be afraid. Not alone now.”

  • Kate Foster - July 6, 2015 - 12:04 pm

    Beautiful Tiff. One of my favorite things about God is how he can take negative things in our lives and use them to teach His gentleness and care. Nothing is wasted in His hands.ReplyCancel

  • Kim Berg - July 6, 2015 - 2:22 pm

    Tiff, what a beautiful picture you have painted here. Your beginning description of loneliness is one that so many know all to well, but the hope you share that this is not how our loving Jesus intended it to be brought me to a place of deeper love and greater desire for my truest friend, my king, the lover of my soul, my Jesus. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Chrissy Sturgeon Sutton - July 6, 2015 - 3:34 pm

    Touched my heart right where I need it.ReplyCancel

  • Roxanne Yoder - July 6, 2015 - 8:38 pm

    Oh my heart just feels lifted so much higher…lifted towards HIM. I just love your heart. I love HIM in it; Him shining out of, and speaking through you. Thank you thank you thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Rieger - July 7, 2015 - 2:17 am

    Tiffany, I don’t even know where you start. This was perfect. You’ve stuck a chord within my heart with your words. Every single one of them has spoken to me where I am at right now. Thank you for your honesty and passionate love for the Lord.ReplyCancel

  • Robert Stow - July 7, 2015 - 3:32 am

    Remember we are GODS masterpieceReplyCancel

  • Gail Lynn Pliszka - July 7, 2015 - 4:15 am

    Thank you for the reminder that He is always with me, and that I am not alone.ReplyCancel

  • Christine Armendariz - July 7, 2015 - 7:04 am

    This was perfectReplyCancel

  • Jamie Stillings - July 8, 2015 - 4:12 am

    I really love this. For many reasons.ReplyCancel

  • Steve Osborne Mary Mydske - July 9, 2015 - 3:45 am

    Very encouraging words, Tiffany! I can see how God is using you to bring God’s comfort to many of us! Loved the Isaiah verse! And viewing loneliness as a good thing…a signpost to our huge need for Jesus!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Mettler - July 9, 2015 - 8:40 pm

    This is amazing, Tiff – what extraordinary insight!! 🙂 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Aimee Aileen - July 9, 2015 - 11:47 pm

    Soooo good and true 🙂 thank you! Ps Kristin M I’m glad you shared this 😉 😉ReplyCancel

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