“I feel so isolated”.
That’s what I said to a friend of mine several years ago while visiting for a few minutes after church. Little did I know that even deeper isolation was on my horizon. It wasn’t the first time in my life I had felt alone and disconnected, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Looking back, I can now see that I’ve been relatively lonely my entire life. (Wow, maybe that’s why God designed me to be an introvert; makes it a little easier to bear!) I grew up in a very small, very rural town. My church had oh, 5-10 young people at any given time. Five of them were my siblings and me. So, spiritually, it was a fairly lonely place.
College was a reprieve. I had several friends and one “kindred spirit” friend (who I’m going to spend a weekend with very soon!).
Then I got married. And we moved a lot. (I mean a LOT!) Sometimes I was lonely because we were again in such a rural place that it was difficult to find friends at all, let- alone friends of the same faith. Other times we were in a more populated area, with healthy churches even. But it was difficult to make my way into the solidly formed friendships that existed there. Other times we just didn’t stay in one place long enough for friendships to take root.
When I made the comment to my friend about being isolated, we were in a healthy church, but things were changing. The landscape of the homeschooling community within that church was changing, and I was finding myself without the support system I had grown to appreciate.
Not long after that, the true isolation began with a very difficult pregnancy and then three years of stress, worry, and almost no sleep. We still don’t really know for sure what kinds of things our son was going through. $7,000.00 worth of doctor visits revealed very few answers. All we knew was that this boy cried more often than not, and very rarely slept. Sadly, we got a lot of advice in those years but very little help, making the isolation that much more painful.
I don’t tell you all of this to make you feel sorry for me. That would do me no good. I tell you so that you’ll have a point of reference; so you’ll know that when I talk about being isolated, this is what I mean. Just lonely. Doing life with all of it’s worries, struggles, and things to learn… alone.
It’s hard. And I’ve asked God so many times to make it better. Send me a mentor. Let me have a social community. Do something to make the mundane have meaning.
As I look back on the different seasons of isolation that I’ve walked through, I can clearly see ways in which God has worked in my life not just in spite of the isolation but through it.
He changed my perspective on what a friend looks like.
During those times of isolation and loneliness, I spent a lot of time reading books by beautiful Christian women, like Elizabeth George and Sally Clarkson. As I was struggling against the loneliness, with a desperate desire to have Christian mentor, God showed me that for those times my mentors and friends were the authors of those books. I was able to sit at the feet of these godly women and learn from them, because they had taken the time to write, and I had the time to read.
He gave me time and space to focus on my relationship with my husband.
We spent our free time together. We depended on each other for comfort, fun, and everything else you typically get from your social circles. Not that I ever looked at him to fulfill all of my needs. I know that only God can do that. But I looked at him as a real person in my life and not just a business partner.
And then there were the first three and a half years of Josiah’s life. They were hard, I’m not gonna say they weren’t. But even in the midst of it all, I saw some lifelong blessings.
We never had to hurry.
Those three years were a gift to my children and me. Because we had very few places to go, we are very seldom in a hurry. (You don’t go far when you get about 3 hours of interrupted sleep a night and your child cries all day.) I can only remember one time that Josiah was crying to be held and I had to let him sit alone and cry because I had to get us ready to go somewhere. Very likely it was a doctor appointment considering how often we went to the doctor, and nothing else on my schedule had a specific time attached to it. Any time he wanted a story or wanted me to play with him, I was able to drop what I’m doing and spend time with him. Why? because I’m wasn’t filling my day so full that I didn’t have time to stop and take in those moments. I’ll never regret the time I spent holding him, reading to him, singing to him, praying for him, and yes, begging God for help.
We focused on each other.
Lydia and I talk all throughout the day. We have a strong, open relationship and I have to credit some of that to the fact that we’ve been together so much and that we both have time to share our lives with each other. I don’t mean to imply that we should be so “family focused” that we don’t see the needs and the blessings around us. Just that by not having any outside engagements, we were able to make important connections within the walls of our home. When those connections are solid, we’re more effective in The Kingdom.
I spent many hours in prayer.
When you’re up six-ten times a night, sometimes for an hour or more, there really isn’t much to do but pray. I prayed through the songs I sang to my sweet boy to try to settle him. I prayed in the silence, and through the tears. I prayed not only for myself and my family, but more than ever before, I had plenty of time and quiet to pray for others. I’ll never try to claim that I got to a point that I was grateful to be awake most of the night. But I did come to the point that I was grateful that even in my circumstances, God was still able to use me as I submitted to Him in prayer and interceded for loved ones.
The more I contemplate loneliness and isolation, the more I learn about How God can use our pain to bring about good things. And in all of this loneliness, I’m realizing something else about being alone.
It’s often where the people in the Bible were when God got their attention and then worked through them in a mighty way.
Right away I think of people like Moses, David, Nathaniel, Ruth, Joseph, and Paul. I wondered if I was just making connections that didn’t exist so I could feel like I’ve found some consolation for the loneliness that I’ve felt. So, I went to Facebook and I asked my friends and readers who they could think of in the Bible who was alone when God worked through them. Here’s what they came up with in just a short amount of time:
(I’ve included names I mentioned above if someone suggested that name in the comments.)
Peter (when the rooster crowed)
Jacob at Beth El
And then there’s Jesus.
Wow. I’m thinking there is definitely a connection here.
God may want to get you away from it all to get your attention. He may need to get you into the wilderness so you’ll see his burning bush, that awesome plan He has for you and only you. You need to be away from the chaos and noise of your busy life so you can hear what He is saying to you
- Maybe He wants to teach you something.
- Maybe He just wants you to draw back from the things you’ve been doing and get a fresh perspective.
- Maybe He wants you to be still and look to Him for friendship and direction instead of the people around you.
- Maybe He has a work to perform through you that he couldn’t do if you were busy with lots of people and activities.
- Maybe He wants to show you that being quiet and even alone can be a good thing.
- Maybe He wants to show you how to open your eyes to the people outside your comfortable circle. Not just so you can serve them but so you can see that you can have valuable relationships with people you might have overlooked if you had never found yourself feeling isolated.
- Maybe He knows you need different people in your life and the only way you’ll cooperate is to get your away from your circle for a while, or maybe permanently.
- Maybe He wants you to learn to be empathetic to those people who are even more isolated than you are, so you’ll know how to reach out to them.
- Maybe He wants to teach you how to help someone in need (a little less advice, a little more practical help.)
I’m not suggesting that God makes you lonely on purpose. But what if your loneliness is the very place where God can teach you what He can teach you nowhere else, use you like He can use you nowhere else, and prove Himself to be your one and only source for life?
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Photo courtesy of Dan; freedigitalphotos.net