Albert Einstein once said, “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” You can be the most active woman in church — volunteering yourself like crazy and hosting every party — but be riddled with loneliness.
What is loneliness? Ironically it’s not being alone. The strange thing about loneliness is that we feel it most intently when we are with people. Loneliness is the knowing in our heart that we were created to really, truly know each other in the deepest sense but we feel stuck with superficiality. I just have to tell you about this horrifying example because I think it demonstrates what I’m talking about.
I have a friend who was in a tragic car crash that killed her little seven-year old-daughter. People just didn’t know how to step out of superficial mode to comfort her and to really reach her heart. They felt uncomfortable with the reality of her situation. The most common statement people approached her with was, “So, I heard you really crushed your foot in that car accident.” Hey, people….her daughter was killed! She and I spent time talking about seemingly small things…the way her daughter left her panties on the floor all the time, the fact that Tarzan was her favorite movie, and that she loved horses. My friend confessed she didn’t know how to stop the hurt but because people didn’t want to talk about such simple but real things. She felt lonely most of the time.
Loneliness is most often triggered by a major painful event such as the divorce of parents, a major dating break-up, an illness or long hospitalization, the loss of a loved one, a broken friendship or a rejection from a group of people you trusted. Let’s face it: it’s hard to talk about a cake icing recipe or who is dating who when your heart is crushed by rejection or loss. You want to talk about real issues. We want to be known.
According to surveys, one of the three greatest fears of teen girls is that they will never be truly known and loved. I’m not sure we ever outgrow that, girls! Even Jesus experienced acute loneliness. His disciples forsook him and fled in his hour of greatest need. In that darkness of loneliness, Jesus confessed His unshaken confidence in the presence of God when he said, “You will leave Me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for My Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
Are you lonely? Is there someone close to you who is experiencing this excruciating alienation? Here’s how you might be able to tell.
1. Has there been a significant painful event in your life (or theirs) in the past twelve months? (Parent’s divorce, boyfriend’s rejection, etc.)
2. Do you/they zone out when people start talking about superficial things desiring to talk about “real” issues? (Perhaps you leave parties or see your friend leave them quietly.)
3. Do you feel painfully isolated when you are with people? (If being alone is comfortable for you but being with people makes you feel alone, you are probably experiencing loneliness.)
4. Do you cry often and feel sadness but still maintain productivity and efficiency? (Depression dampens ability to function. Loneliness does not. If you find yourself unable to perform, you should consider depression, which can occur if loneliness goes on too long.)
If you answered yes to all of the above, you may be experiencing loneliness on some level. We all experience it at some point of our life. It’s not a sin. (Remember, Jesus knew this emotion well.) But it’s not something God wants you to live with as a trait of your character. So, how do you relieve loneliness? That, my friend, is the great “secret of the Lord.”
In Psalm 25:14, God’s word calls his people “the secret of the Lord.” This isn’t a secret like you or I would know a secret. It’s a rich Hebrew phrase that was difficult to translate into our language. It portrays a tight-knit group of intimate friends; with unconditional trust; a company where weaknesses, strengths, successes and failures are shared. Oh, my friend, the pill to relieve our pain from loneliness isn’t one that we can swallow alone. We must all dive in to become the “secret of the Lord”-so tight knit that we talk about real things in real time. That means we take off the mask and be transparent so intimacy can grow and our friendships are so deep that they aid us in our times of deepest need.
If you are experiencing loneliness, I encourage you to call and friend and tell them what is REALLY going on in your life. If they can handle it, you’ll find the way out. If they can’t, find someone who can. Dive in to become “the secret of the Lord!”
*Article originally posted November 2009 on GirlsGoneWise.com