“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”* – Mother Teresa
I struggled with loneliness during my first two years of college. I was in a new city away from everyone that I knew. I thought that by going back home for the summer I would feel better, but I still felt lonely. So I thought I would feel less lonely by going to a lot of parties and having a lot of friends. If I knew enough people the intimacy would add up, right? When that didn’t work, I turned to physical intimacy to fulfill my emotional desires. Pornography gave me a fleeting feeling of intimacy and for that moment I didn’t feel alone. But only for a moment… Then all the old feelings of loneliness and the thoughts of hopelessness returned. The more I tried to get rid of my loneliness, the more it grew.
Loneliness does not depend on the proximity of human beings to one another. You can walk through a crowd or even talk to someone and feel completely alone. When you are truly alone you feel hopeless because you believe that no one can, or will, love you. You believe that you are not worthy of love. Loneliness is the feeling of being unloved because you believe that you are unlovable.
Loneliness is a very hopeless state to be in. When we hope to be loved but believe that we cannot be loved, it may seem as if there is nothing to live for. Everything we hope for seems unattainable, but we will still try to attain it. We just set our sights a little lower. Instead of the true and deep intimacy we long for, we aim for something less. The lonelier we get, the more hopeless we get, and slowly we start placing our hope in things that cannot satisfy.
Bob Kauflin, a Christian songwriter, struggled with depression, loneliness, and hopelessness for three years. He finally went to his friend and told him everything. His friend’s response surprised Bob. He said, “I don’t think you’re hopeless enough. If you were completely hopeless, you’d stop trusting in what you think you can do to change the situation and start trusting in what Jesus Christ has already done for you at the cross.”
At first glance, this friend’s advice seems to make no sense at all. How can being more hopeless be better? Bob’s friend was not saying to just give up hope in everything and therefore descend into a deeper loneliness. Instead, he is saying that Bob is putting his hope in something that will not satisfy his craving for intimacy. Bob kept trusting himself to solve all of his own problems and was unwilling to look to a greater hope that could satisfy his cravings. His friend reminded him that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to die on the cross for everything that Bob had done (1 John 4:10). Not only that, Jesus made a way for Bob to have an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe (John 1:12). Bob needed to stop trusting that he, a finite being, could satisfy his craving for intimacy and start trusting in an infinite God – the only one capable of satisfying that craving through genuine acceptance and unconditional love.
After my second year of college I finally came to a place where I was lonely enough to start trusting Jesus. I was sick of trying fix myself and offered a prayer to God pleading with him to simply show up. I was too hopeless to believe I could do anything to make me feel loved again. In the next weeks and months I slowly saw the fruit of this prayer and many others as Jesus filled my lonely life with a sense of peace and joy and rest in him. I discovered that I truly am never alone. I can always rely on my omnipresent Saviour to comfort me and walk with me whenever I feel as though I am alone.
Jesus died on the cross so that we can be completely accepted by God. Jesus died for sinners-people like me, who are not worthy of the infinite and unconditional love he has for them. When I am lonely, I can turn to Jesus in prayer. I can pour out my heart and confess my fears. God is with me and he will never leave me or forsake me. All other things are worthless compared to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. Whether we try to be satisfied through friends, a significant other, pornography, or just pure willpower, we will just grow in our loneliness. True intimacy is found in a personal relationship with the infinite God.
How do you keep yourself from feeling lonely?
*Good Reads “Mother Teresa Quote“