Q & A: Making Sense of Loneliness
Throughout the Making Sense of It All campaign, we will be inviting you to share questions with us about the challenging situations you are trying to make sense of in your life. Many problems do not have simple solutions, but here are some brief answers from David Jeremiah to address the most asked questions about loneliness. Be sure to follow his teaching series for more tools that will help you live fearlessly in a scary world.
Click here to view all the questions and answers.
Making Sense of Broken Relationships and Loss
Robin wonders, “My husband died in August. I’m not close to wanting a relationship, but with Covid–19, my options are slim to none. I wonder how I will ever have a loving relationship again.”
David Jeremiah Replies: People face different kinds of loneliness. But when we lose a loved one, it touches the very core of our lives. I don’t have to tell you that survivors of death, divorce, and estrangement experience the most intense form of loneliness and often believe their pain is insurmountable. Before long, loneliness can give way to hopelessness.
Once these feelings set in, many people choose to remain lonely because they fear rejection. They imagine that rejection would hurt worse than being alone, so they spend a great deal of time and money avoiding it. I want to caution you against this. Those who expect to be rejected usually will feel that they are. Those who expect to receive friendship and comfort usually will.
Instead, focus your thoughts on Christ, who has given you this promise:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened…. Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7–8, 12)
When you need friendship and comfort, offer friendship and comfort, and don’t expect rejection. During the pandemic, this will require additional creativity, but it is still possible. Contact your church and ask to be part of the prayer ministry. While you’re on the phone, ask about support groups for people in your situation. Perhaps you could volunteer at the local food bank, library, or school. Whatever you do, accept yourself where you are, and remember that Christ will not reject you. He will always respond with loving acceptance.
Your greatest source of comfort and hope is Christ Jesus.
You can become a survivor in Christ through your faith in Him. In Christ, you can survive grief and loneliness. Your greatest source of comfort and hope is Christ Jesus. And that hope can propel you into a spirit of praise and thanksgiving for His constant care.
Finally, let me offer this encouragement: It is not sinful to experience loneliness. You have good company in your suffering. The prophet Jeremiah struggled with loneliness as he stood for righteousness in an evil time. Ruth moved to a foreign country as a poor widow with only one companion (who was also grieving). King David not only experienced abandonment and discouragement, but he was betrayed and even hunted by those close to him.
Loneliness only becomes a sin when we indulge it. Equip yourself with a few verses that are particularly encouraging to you. Keep them close at hand and meditate on them. It is hard to remain discouraged when you realize, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Making Sense of Retirement
Lina says, “I retired this last year due to low immunity and trying to stay safe from COVID. I have worked all my adult life and am finding it difficult to find purpose. I am praying for a place to be useful and maybe be a blessing to others. I am sure I am not the only one.”
David Jeremiah replies: In this new season, I encourage you to stay connected to your calling from God. While some people opt for a wholesale change after retirement, I’ve observed that those who finish best never consider themselves retired from their primary calling. There is no “best if used before” date stamped on your soul. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and Caleb was 85 when he received his inheritance in the Promised Land. According to Scripture, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
Try to maintain a connection between what you did before you retired and what you do now. Someone said, “Your career is what you are paid to do. Your calling is what you were made to do.” Many of my friends who pastored all their lives have continued to preach during their retirement. They find new ways and means of teaching and preaching. For many of them, it’s a welcome change. They’re able to continue doing what they love without all the administrative hassles that go along with being a full–time pastor.
If you’re a follower of Christ, you have a calling—a gift.
You may not have a career that’s transferable into your post–retirement life, but if you’re a follower of Christ, you have a calling. You have a gift. Is there something you’ve always yearned to do but didn’t have time for it before retirement? Now’s the time. God has given you an ability for service. So keep using it for the Lord.
For a more thorough answer, my recent book Forward offers a step–by–step plan to discover God’s plans for your tomorrow—including retirement.
Making Sense of Isolation
Marcia is a widow who recently moved to a new town. COVID has made her feel even more alone and forgotten.
Joan says, “Loneliness has been so hard for seniors. Miss seeing my friends.”
Marian is praying for a godly man to marry.
Cindy doesn’t feel connected at church.
David Jeremiah responds: Long before COVID–19 entered our world, we faced a pandemic of loneliness. The changing social structures of our modern society have been slowly separating us for years. Families are more spread out geographically. More and more people are living alone. And our culture encourages those who are suffering a loss to retreat within themselves until they have recovered. Social distancing has only intensified the situation.
From time to time, you will meet a Christian who says, “I don’t really need friends. I have the Lord.” I’ve heard that. But God does His best work through other people.
From time to time, you will meet a Christian who says, “I don’t really need friends. I have the Lord.” I’ve heard that. But God does His best work through other people, and He does His best loving through people that God puts on this earth. He put us together on this earth so that we can express love and friendship one to another. Life is so difficult that we all need friends.
Let me encourage you not to live in denial. You’ve taken a necessary step by admitting that you are struggling. The next step is to ask for God’s help.
Only God can solve the problem of loneliness. He created us in such a way that our emptiness can only be filled by an intimate relationship with Himself. Until God is at home in our hearts through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we’ll always feel incomplete. When Paul described his loneliness in 2 Timothy 4:16–17, he concluded by saying, “No one stood with me, but all forsook me…. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” He will do that for you, too.
Hearing God’s voice through the pages of Scripture is one of the best remedies for loneliness. He will speak to your situation if you read His Word. Search the Bible for verses that reassure your heart and mind, like these:
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 54:5).
“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Timothy 4:16–18)
“I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:1–2).
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8–9).
Do what you can to be part of the community of believers. I know it’s challenging right now, but there are ways to take the initiative and get involved. Join a small group, even if you can only meet online. You might provide a meal for a family with a new baby or someone who is undergoing medical treatment. Write notes of encouragement to those who are ill or in a similar situation to yours. God’s wonderful secret for victory over isolation is a combination of His presence, His Word, and His people.
I need help
Your response has been received, and we will be praying for you.
Look for answers to some of the most common questions in the weeks ahead.