In other words the way you feel your loneliness is based on why you are alone. For example:
1. Loneliness caused by aloneness.
For instance, people without partners or separated from family for whatever reason. Their loneliness has a sense of fear, panic and discouragement because they are forced to wait and look to the future for relief of their loneliness. People lonely because of being alone experience anxiety, the feeling that their time is being wasted, and sometimes anger at themselves or God for not resolving their aloneness. Those who suffer from this kind of loneliness usually receive the least sympathy from others. Instead, the comments are:
- When are you going to visit your family?
- How come you're not dating?
- You should've settled down with someone by now...
To these comments the alone person says inwardly, "I want all these things but it's just not happening for me!"
The great fear for those who suffer from this kind of aloneness is that they will always be this way and there is no hope for change. These thoughts breed the twin problems of envy (of others who are not alone) and despair of one's situation. The great burden of this kind of loneliness is that it doesn't get better with time, it gets worse.
2. Loneliness caused by loss.
Loneliness caused by loss is different than aloneness because of the element of grieving. When you lose a spouse, a child, a family member or a friend to death, divorce or dispute, the feelings you have revolve around the fact that someone (or something like a career or favorite pastime) was taken from you (or you left it) for some reason or other, not that you never had it. The loneliness in this scenario centers around feelings of loss, regret, anger and actual physical pain. It's a loneliness where the person doesn't feel whole anymore.
There is no silver lining of hope in this loneliness like the loneliness of one who is looking for a partner. There is no feeling of "maybe tomorrow" for this type of loneliness. Loneliness at this level doesn't want tomorrow to come.
I suppose the great difference between the loneliness of loss and the loneliness of aloneness is that one is stuck looking at the past (trying to answer questions and finding comfort in memories) while the other is always looking to the future hoping to find these and an end to their aloneness. Loneliness from loss is especially difficult to deal with because we rarely choose it. It is forced upon us against our will. Unlike the loneliness of aloneness, which can change in one day, one meeting or one event; the loneliness of loss takes its time to heal. It cannot be hurried or avoided, and it usually has to transform into the loneliness of aloneness before it can be dissolved.
On the plus side, people who suffer this kind of loneliness usually receive greater sympathy and support from those around them. The biggest complaint is that when their sense of loss begins to transform into simple aloneness, they lose the support and sympathy they were getting from their family and friends, and a whole new challenge begins.
3. Loneliness caused by difference.
Some people are lonely because they are very different than the people around them. Perhaps they are different looking because of their body shape or size or physical handicap. They could be different culturally, spiritually or intellectually than the majority around them. And some people are just "different" socially. They don't seem to fit easily or comfortably into any category or group. They may belong to a group that wears loneliness as a badge of honor, a necessary burden to belong to their club. There are also some that are different because of a unique situation or struggle and for whatever reason find themselves marginalized and lonely because of it.
This type of loneliness is filled with the pain that comes with always being on the outside looking in and experiencing resentment that life is somehow not fair. People lonely in this way see their loneliness as a curse, some cosmic injustice that has been visited upon them (why me?). The most difficult part of this kind of loneliness is that there doesn't seem to be a cure for it. Those "alone" can hope to find someone to remove their aloneness. Those suffering the loneliness of loss know that with time the hurt (along with the loneliness) will heal to a degree and perhaps the emptiness can be filled again one day. But for those who are just different, the loneliness is part of who they are and no time or other person can change this fundamental fact.
The best defense for loneliness among the "different" sees them celebrating and organizing themselves according to their differences. However, this does not remove the loneliness, it merely creates a group of people who are lonely together.
The Bible and Loneliness
One of the interesting things about the subject of loneliness in the Bible is that the word does not appear. There are times when the word "alone" appears but the word "lonely" is used only four times and the word "loneliness" not even once. I suppose the idea is that the Bible writers acknowledged that a person could be alone and feel lonely but the subject of loneliness is not discussed much.
There are, however, many references and examples of how people dealt with the feelings connected to loneliness in its various forms. Perhaps God acknowledges the feelings we have but rejects the reality of this thing we call loneliness as a legitimate condition. In the same way that the Bible acknowledges the sinfulness of the action of two men having sex, but refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the "gay" lifestyle, since the Bible has no word for homosexual, it only describes the sin. In our study we see that the Bible talks about the feelings that accompany loneliness, and people who feel lonely, but does not acknowledge loneliness as a legitimate state of being for several reasons.
1. No one is ever truly "alone"
Whether a person is alone because of their social situation or separated by time and distance, or they are alone because of some critical loss, they are not really all by themselves.
38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 8:38-39
God, who is always there, says that nothing can ever remove you from His loving presence; no power or event (not your death, or the death of someone you love) can diminish His love for you. Neither can circumstance or events. God's presence means we are never really all alone or unloved. There are many who choose not to believe this or to neglect it, but this is the basic truth that overcomes the fear and suffering that come because people think they are or will be "all alone."
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,"
- Hebrews 13:5
Not only are we never truly alone now, God assures us that we will never be alone. For those who have lost loved ones, for those who fear they will never find a partner or another partner, God says that He will always be with you and will never abandon you whether you are alone because you have no one, lost someone, or simply because you are different. God rejects the possibility of loneliness because He always is, and He is always with those who believe and love Him and is ready to be with those who search for Him. Loneliness can only exist in the mind and heart of an unbeliever, and even then it is only an illusion.
2. God really "gets" you
Most of the feelings associated with loneliness like fear, anxiety, resentment or sadness are caused by the belief that no one understands us or will come along to change our condition. But the Bible says that God knows us more intimately than anyone. In Psalm 139 it says:
13For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
God not only "gets" you, He also knows about your life, every single day of it from its beginning to its end! There may be no person who gets you, or shares your life with you, but God has always known who you are (no matter how different) and aware of every day and experience of your life. It is one thing to acknowledge that you are alone, at loss, or different and want to improve or change that condition, but to say that no one understands is not true. I'm not denying that being alone or lonely is a burden, it is. What I am saying is that God invites you to give Him the burden that comes from this situation and He will help you carry it.
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
- I Peter 5:7
God is able to give you joy, peace and contentment despite your aloneness. Our prayers are always for God to end the loneliness by giving us someone to love us. But God desires us to conquer our aloneness with His love so we can be at peace no matter what happens in our lives.
3. Jesus was a single man
Jesus was 30 years old (which was midlife age in that time) and single in a society where there was tremendous pressure to marry (hard to fit in if you were not). He was alone in the sense that he had no spouse, no female partner. He was separated in time, dimensions and mission from His own family of the Father and Holy Spirit. He was different in the sense that no one really understood what it was like to have a divine spirit inhabit the body of a human being. Nobody really "got" Him. Not his apostles or disciples, even His friends Mary and Martha couldn't quite grasp what manner of man He was. And as a man He suffered because of His "aloneness."
Isaiah says of Him in chapter 53 verse 3:
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Doesn't this sound like a man carrying the burden of rejection, sorrow, misunderstanding and loneliness? Please understand that I'm not using Jesus here as a model for how to be single or widowed. He had a special mission from God and marriage was not part of it from the very beginning. I'm using Him as an example of how He dealt with His aloneness.
How Jesus Dealt With His Aloneness
A. He made His life about other people, not just Himself. His ministry was not hiding out in Capernaum writing out the New Testament (which He could have done). He went to weddings and funerals. He mentored disciples, mixed with the crowds, spoke to kids and visited the homes of all kinds of people. He was alone, different, far from home, but His life was not about loneliness, it was about loving others. The fastest cure for aloneness is giving yourself to others.
B. Jesus continually renewed His core relationship with the Father. Very lonely people are not usually very active in prayer and Bible study. They're so focused on their loneliness that they can't see God waiting to comfort them. Jesus was often in prayer through the night and always immersed in bringing God's Word to life. He knew that despite the distance and difference, He and the Father were one.
There are much worse things than being alone. Jesus spoke often with the Father about His life and ministry, building a relationship between His human nature and the heavenly Father that hadn't existed before. God doesn't always change the circumstances of our "aloneness" but He does lift from our hearts the suffering that often accompanies it.
C. Jesus stayed focused on the true prize. Marriage and all the potential for happiness that comes with it always ends in sorrow (divorce or death). It was created as a temporary thing to teach us about the everlasting relationship we will have with Christ in heaven (Ephesians 5:32). Jesus, as a man, did not marry because of who He was and why He came. However, He didn't allow His feelings of aloneness to change His focus away from His goal: to gain eternal life for us through His death, burial and resurrection. Many who are lonely make the elimination of loneliness (or wallowing in it) their life's work and lose sight of the true purpose of life which is to know God, His son Jesus Christ, and receive eternal life (I Timothy 2:4-5). Being married or not, being understood or not, being with all those you love or not - changes absolutely nothing in the condition of your soul before God in eternity. For many, loneliness can be a distraction that keeps them from finishing the race. For others it's a thorn in the flesh, and a cross to bear that actually draws them closer to God and consequently away from aloneness.
In closing let me remind everyone that at the beginning of the book of Genesis God looked at Adam and said, "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). God recognizes the suffering that comes with being alone for whatever reason. This should encourage us in our prayers knowing that God desires that we be fulfilled with loving relationships and not have to suffer the burdens of loneliness.