by Kay Harms
I am fifty-ahem and just figured something out in very recent years. For most of my life I mistakenly assumed that everyone else – yes, I mean EVERYONE else – always felt included, involved, engaged and invited … and I alone did not. It seemed to me that everyone else – yes, I mean EVERYONE else – had places to be, friends to gather with, conversations to finish, phone calls to return, texts to answer and calendars full of meet-ups. And I alone did not.
Yeah, I know. I’m really ten inside.
The truth is we all have empty spaces. We all get lonely occasionally. Each of us feels excluded or forgotten sometimes. We have vacuums in our days, long stretches of solitude that suck us into pity parties if we’re not careful.
I’ve discovered that when I desperately try to fill that vacuum – those lonely moments and empty places – with human relationships, I sometimes drink in too fully. Loneliness and great expectations have led me to gulp up friendship in unhealthy doses. As a result I’ve occasionally been too dependent, jealous, possessive or controlling of my friends.
But when I drink fully of the living water Jesus graciously offers me in relationship with Him (John 4:7-24), I find myself satisfied but not bloated. Instead of grabbing hold and choking on what someone else can give me, I flourish as an individual and easily give my friends freedom and grace. Jesus alone can fully and safely satisfy my cravings for companionship, inclusion and intimacy.
Friendship is not the remedy for loneliness.
Friendship is the fruit of loving unselfishly and liberally. If we enter into relationships with other people to ease our own loneliness or fill our empty spaces we neglect to bring anything into the friendship…other than our neediness. Instead, I find I’m healthier and happier when I focus on what I can offer my friend instead of what I can gain from her. It’s in the giving that I find more joy.
Could I ask you to think about that with me today? What are you bringing to your friendships currently?
- Have you texted encouraging words to one who is trying something new?
- Have you offered perspective to one who struggles to see the big picture?
- Are you just “being with” a friend who is grieving?
- Are you listening to a friend who needs to talk it all out?
- Have you spoken truth in love to one who has lost her way?
- Are you giving practical service to a friend who is overwhelmed with responsibilities at home or work?
- Have you sent a sweet card to a friend who feels discouraged?
- Have you accompanied a friend on a difficult day so she wouldn’t walk alone?
- Did you give a simple but thoughtful gift to one who feels forgotten or unloved?
- Have you asked about her children, her mother, her work?
- Did you pray with her after she told you how she worries?
- Did you take a her a pound cake or a Starbucks…because you wanted to do something to make her feel special but didn’t really know what to do?
- Have you offered to help her accomplish that daunting task she dreads?
We need each other. So often we feel alone. And we feel alone in our struggles as well as our joys. We long to share both with someone who cares.
But maybe the key is not reaching out or hunting for someone to meet that need in us. Instead, maybe the safer, richer, healthier approach is to reach out and give…whatever you have.
If you’re feeling lonely, left out or forgotten today, I encourage you to take those aching needs to Jesus. Tell Him how you feel. In fact, feel those emotions fully in the safety of His presence. Allow Him to fill your empty spaces, to be your sweet companion and to satisfy your deepest desires.
Then let your loneliness draw you out. Look beyond your own needs to the hurts and struggles and weariness and celebrations of your friends. Ask God to show you how you can meet a simple need today. Don’t have a friend? Then reach out to someone with love and compassion and grace…and you’ll make one.
When we worry that our loneliness will stick and stay, we fear that it will become a label that will eventually define us. But when we see loneliness as a temporary emotion meant to draw us up then out, we are freed from our fears and loosed to love. Next time you’re lonely, let it draw you out.