Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most family-oriented holidays of the year. However, for some of us, they can be the loneliest times of the year. Holiday loneliness can emerge from a variety of factors—the absence of loved ones due to death, divorce, or deployment; employment or career choices that separate grandchildren from their grandparents; financial hardship and family disputes that trigger feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
Loneliness is a lack of relational connectedness, especially during the holidays. Whether you are single or married, you can experience loneliness. Relational disconnectedness, whether you are shopping among hundreds of people in a crowded mall or entertaining in-laws while there’s unresolved conflict with your spouse, can overwhelm you with feelings of loneliness and send you into the pit of self-pity, bitterness, and depression.
The Great Escape
The popular advice in how to deal with loneliness is suppression or distraction. We are told to get our minds off of feeling lonely by doing something to escape it. We become amazing escape artists. Staying busy with many festive plans such as overspending on food, gifts, and entertainment distracts our minds from impending loneliness. Engaging in Internet chatter and anonymous liaisons with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube temporarily keep us in a fog of denial.
Once the festivities end, the credit cards are maxed out, and our eyes and brain are fatigued from spending hours on the Internet, the feeling of loneliness falls on us like a wet blanket. After many failed escape attempts, we are faced with the undeniable reality that this thing is much bigger than we are.
The Greatest Gift
Loneliness is not an experience to shun or despise. It is a very real emotion that God uses for good in our lives. The purpose of loneliness is to draw us to God and to others in a godly way. Matthew 22:37-39 states, “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
It is God alone who fills the void of loneliness with Himself and with others. We’re totally incapable of filling this void ourselves. Try as we might, we cannot make another person, thing, or activity satisfy our loneliness. It is God who first connects us to Himself and then brings the right human connectedness into our lives when He deems it time.
We see this in Genesis 2:15-24. In observing and naming the animals, God brought Adam to recognize that he was alone and that He needed a helper. God fulfilled Adam’s loneliness at the proper time and with the proper purpose. In the same way, God opens our eyes to the ache of loneliness to fulfill His purposes in our lives.
Loneliness Brings the Gospel to Life
Loneliness comes out of a lack of true companionship. It brings about feelings of emptiness and aloneness. Lonely people often feel unwanted. Where do the lonely people go? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the cure for loneliness. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, are not alone in our loneliness. We identify with Him in our loneliness because He experienced loneliness. Jesus, the Son of God, “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).
In His humanity, Jesus’ relationship to His Father was different. The closest connection and fellowship were suspended as He did the will of His Father on earth. Once His work was done, He longed for His close relationship with His Father to be restored. We get a peek into the deeply emotional heart of Jesus in John 17:5, when He said, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Jesus longed for His pre-incarnate companionship He had with His Father.
Loneliness Draws Us to God
Jesus calls the lonely people into a fulfilling relationship with Himself. He promises that the one who comes to Him, He will not cast out (John 6:37). He died for us so that we can live in Him. The power of His resurrection swallows up our loneliness so that we can have the power to live and experience a deeply satisfying and fulfilling relationship with Him.
Loneliness Draws Us to Love Others
Loneliness exposes our need for loving relationships. Commitment to marriage, loyal friendships, and Christian fellowship and community would never happen without our capacity to feel lonely. God uses our loneliness to draw us into loving fellowship with others.
However, it must be pursued His way and not our way. To demand attention, love, or companionship from others is not loving your neighbor as yourself. Singles struggling with loneliness may use manipulation and deceit to get married. When this fails, they fall into self-pity and depression. Lonely spouses might look outside the marriage to fill the loneliness void, only to end up defeated and empty.
We learn from the Psalmist about what to do when we’re lonely. He turned to God for help in his loneliness; “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16). Then we wait for God to fulfill our loneliness; “God makes a home for the lonely” (Psalm 68:6). He is the source of all things. He brings the right relationships into our lives to satisfy our loneliness in His good timing.
Join the Conversation
Have you experienced holiday loneliness? Did you run to God or away from Him? Did God meet you in your loneliness?