Loneliness: The Hunger that Drives Us Out of Hiding

By Keith Miller | June 18, 2010

For years I have been a basically lonely person, actually it seems like always.  When I became a Christian as a single adult some years ago, it helped, but I was still lonely.  I figured it was natural though since I wasn’t married.  But fifteen months ago I married a lovely Christian woman and we have been very happy.  The only trouble (and you’ll probably think I am crazy), lately I have realized that I’m still a basically lonely person.  What’s the matter with my faith? Or my marriage?

Thanks for sharing your lonely feelings.  That was an important step that helped me get beyond mine.  I don’t know that anything is necessarily the matter with your faith or your marriage.  There is a common notion among Christians that if you are a “committed Christian” and happily married you couldn’t really be a lonely person.  But I think this is a serious misunderstanding of our basic human condition.  I believe that all people are lonely at times unless they have repressed their feelings.  Some years ago I was surprised to read about one of my Christian heroes, the priest-scientist Pierre Teilhard, that although he was a real optimist (he attributed a sense of direction to the universe in spite of the existence of evil and in spite of appearances), he was evidently often lonely in his personal daily life and “far from being an optimist.  He bore with patience, it is true, trials that might well have proved too much for the strongest of us, but how often in intimate conversation have I found him depressed and with almost no heart to carry on… and he sometimes felt that he could venture no further.  During that period he was prostrated by fits of weeping, and he appeared to be on the verge of despair.” (See introduction to “Letters from a Traveler” by Pierre Teilhard.)

 As I have studied the lives of the saints—married and single—I have come to believe that the deepest kind of human loneliness is universal and is not caused by rejection or failure of faith as we often suspect.  No success, no beautiful, loving wife or husband or intimate embrace and tender kiss, no community, no woman or man or child will ever be able to satisfy our desire to be released from our lonely condition.  I see this loneliness as the hunger for ultimate acceptance and completion which brings us back to God again and again.

But not recognizing and accepting that basic loneliness is real and natural leads us to make exhausting demands on ourselves and the people around us to fill a need we believe can be satisfied by an ideal human relationship and/or massive human approval and affirmation.  Finally we may become bitter and hostile when we start discovering that nobody and nothing can live up to our total expectations (to eliminate our loneliness).  Some people keep rejecting prospective mates, and others ruin their marriages or vocational partnerships because they have the idea that the right marriage partner or business partner should be able to take away their basic loneliness as Christians.

By getting with some men for a number of years now who also believe in God and in sharing our real lives, and praying for each other, I’ve learned that we’re a lot more alike that I could have imagined.  As we’ve shared our feelings, God has normalized our loneliness.  And now loneliness for me—when I finally quit fighting and fearing it—has become a time to do simple things like filing notes, writing letters, reading articles I’m behind on, and praying, (thanking God in the awareness of my finitude—which loneliness brings—that he loves me).  And gratitude for the real and present blessings in my life,—that I didn’t even notice when I was so busy trying to get people to meet my needs…blessings like “sight” (two cataract operations this month), “a place to sleep and work,” “the ability to walk and do strength training, and gratitude for family members and a deepening relationship with God. 

God, when I am restless and miserable because of loneliness, struggling to figure out why I’m lonely, wondering what is wrong with me, help me to remember that periods of feeling lonely are a natural part of being human.  Help me to stop fighting and fearing being lonely and afraid sometimes, and to learn to keep moving through my days, turning my focus away from my own condition toward you, and toward doing something for someone else who may be feeling lonely, too.  I am very grateful that you faced loneliness and provided a way that we’ll never have to be alone again.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus’ solution to our deepest loneliness:  Knowing how great the fear of loneliness is, Jesus said before leaving the disciples, 

“I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!”  John 14:15-17, The Message

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on Loneliness: The Hunger that Drives Us Out of Hiding
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