Growing up, I had a reputation for being very independent. Because my birth father was rarely at home, it felt like I was raised by a single mother. Often she would rely on me to help her take care of my younger siblings. From changing diapers to helping with dinner to babysitting, I took on a lot of responsibility. This responsibility led to a sense of independence. This independence led to extreme loneliness at times.
Lonely because first, I didn’t have a relationship with Christ the way I know him today.
And second, the pressure I put on myself to keep up this perception of not needing anyone for anything was overwhelming. I needed my mom (and soon to be step-dad). I needed friends. But I mostly needed a Savior so that I could learn the difference between being lonely and being alone. I needed to learn that being alone could be a good thing.
So what is the difference between feeling alone versus feeling lonely?
As a leader in singles ministry — and single myself — I often I hear people tell me they are lonely. They hate being single, without a spouse, without that wonderful person by their side. What I sense is that they are not lonely, but instead, alone. There is a huge difference.
Being lonely is saying you have no hope. No hope in Christ, no hope in your everlasting life, and no hope in your future.
But to say “I feel alone” is being honest, because in some cases, we are … and it isn’t much fun. Having all the responsibility to pay our bills, fix things and make decisions is hard. That is why we need a Savior who can help us with those things.
Jesus was alone many times in various ways. He understands what it feels like to have the whole world on His shoulders and carry the load. Even though He had 12 disciples who were there to help Him, they would abandon Him over and over (Luke 22:4-46). But remember, Jesus reminds us to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This should give us comfort when we are trying to carry the burden in front of us, such as kids, a home and work responsibilities. But here is a cool thing about being alone: When you know the Lord as your Savior, you are never truly alone. God is always with you, giving comfort, encouragement and hope.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. –Deuteronomy 31:6
Despite what the world does to us, despite the betrayal and abandonment, God is still there. He has not moved or changed. Christ came so we wouldn’t be alone.
So next time you are feeling “lonely” as a Christian, remember you are really feeling alone. God sometimes uses these alone times to talk to us, to encourage us and to empower us. Don’t miss the value of being alone, because it is there when you are closest to the Lord. He knows what you need, your every hurt and pain. He will fill all those empty spaces. Just give it all to Him. Then leave it there.