This is my first summer since 2004 without VOICE. Even without VOICE this year, many of us past VOICE staff gathered in Saint Louis for a wonderful reunion hosted by Luke and Karen. Part of each day was spent sharing about the lessons God has been teaching us, and through it, I noticed a surprising common denominator: the shadow of a little friend lurking, nagging for our attention, gnawing away at our emotions. You may not yet be aware of it’s presence, but trust me, it can creep upon you in surprising ways.
This little friend is loneliness. Humans needs fellowship, and without it, we experience loneliness. We can see this in the Genesis account of God creating mankind. After making Adam, God observed, “It is not good for man to be alone.” It seems scandalous to say this, but even God Himself wasn’t sufficient to satisfy Adam’s need for community. Only after the creation of Eve was paradise complete: God, Adam, and Eve living together in harmony.
In some ways, the experience of VOICE has caused many people to realize how lonely they really are. VOICE is a period of such intense fellowship, a chance to share so deeply with the other people on your team, when you go back home, you realize how much you’ve always been missing that fellowship in your regular life.
Now, what do you do once you know you’re lonely?
Some try to just ignore their loneliness. Things like social media, music, and movies can help us forget for a time, but that is just like chewing gum when you’re thirsty. Sure, it will help create saliva, helping you forget your thirst for a time, but eventually, what you really need is water.
Others might think that their problems will be solved once they have a significant other. Since I myself am still single, I often look at my married or dating friends with a twinge of jealousy, thinking that a girlfriend would make me less lonely. And yet at this past VOICE reunion, I realized that marriage cannot keep you from loneliness. There will be times when you’re separated by physical or emotional distance from your significant other. There will be many times when we need additional friends to support and encourage us.
So what should you do instead?
First, understand the real reason for your loneliness. As Christians, we have two key relationships that we MUST have. One is our relationship with God, one is our relationship with other believers. Which relationship needs work? Nothing else can fill the void of loneliness if these two relationships are neglected.
Second, turn your focus from yourself. Spend time in prayer, not just focusing on your own problems, but contemplating the amazing things God has done in nature, in your life, in the people around you. Take initiative to get to know new people. Take time to find out how your friends are doing, and pray for them.
Third, realize that as Christians, it is now impossible for us to be truly lonely. Jesus suffered complete utter loneliness on our behalf by dying on the cross. He was not only separated from the people He loved, but more importantly, His deep intimate connection to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit was totally destroyed. His death is what makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God, so that now nothing will ever separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38) For us, loneliness has been tamed from a devouring monster, to a hungry little friend that can only be satisfied with the most important relationships in our life.