through His Word
by Katy Kauffman
The hunger finds us at opportune times—when we’re alone at night, when we hear that friends are hanging out, when a relationship has ended. A craving to be with people starts to nibble at our hearts, and sometimes it can be satisfied with a phone call, a visit to Facebook, or a prayer. But if we can’t satisfy the hunger for fellowship soon, the gnaw of loneliness can eat away at our peace and joy. Have you felt it?
No one is immune. Single people, married people, the young, the more seasoned. It finds us. Satan likes to use loneliness as a choice weapon to steal our joy, peace, and hope.
Two women in the Bible could have given into the gnaw of loneliness and resided in its pain. One woman, Naomi, was well on her way to getting there, but the other woman, Ruth, clung to hope. She actually clung to Naomi, and in doing so, clung to God. When both of their husbands died, Naomi told Ruth, her daughter-in-law, to go back to her own people and their gods. But Ruth chose to stay with Naomi and follow her God.
But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
and your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me."
(Ruth 1:16-17 NKJV)
Ruth loved Naomi, and her commitment to her took her to a new place, the land of Judah, Naomi’s homeland. As she faithfully worked in the fields to have food for herself and Naomi, she caught the eye of the landowner, Boaz, a relative of Naomi. Her loyalty to Naomi and her honorable character moved him to protect her and give her access to his fields. He took care of her, and eventually became the kinsman redeemer she needed. He gave her a home and a family. Naomi gained a son-in-law and a grandson. God took care of both women, and their sorrow and loneliness ended.
If you’re going through a season of loneliness right now, don’t lose hope. Cling to God, and do the work you know to do to take care of yourself and those entrusted to your charge. Trust God to provide what you need. He knows how to bring the season to an end and to ease the gnaw of loneliness. If we try to satisfy our need for fellowship and companionship our way, the results could cause more harm than good. But if we trust God to meet our need, we not only get what He can provide, we get Him.
Here are some strategies for easing the gnaw of loneliness and replacing it with hope, peace, and joy.
1. Talk to the Friend who is always present with you.
God is a Friend who never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5, Proverbs 18:24), and He never gets tired of us talking to Him. Tell Him how you feel, focus on His goodness, and ask Him for what your heart needs. Also, take time to hear from Him.
2. In down times (when you’re not around people), cherish the times you did have with them recently, and trust God that He’ll provide more fellowship opportunities.
Remember the positive times with people that God has provided, and use the solitude for good—have a quiet time, clean the house, catch up on your to-do list, or send someone an encouraging e-mail.
3. Be the initiator.
We can wait for people to befriend us or check on us first, but if we like for others to do that for us, let’s do it for them! Some of my best friendships started because I was willing to talk to the other person first.
4. Remember that other people feel the gnaw of loneliness, too.
Don’t let Satan fool you that you’re the only one. Pray for friends who struggle with loneliness, and seek them out—visit them, call them, send them a text or a care package in the mail to show them that you love them and are thinking of them.
5. Don’t let a need for companionship drive you to get ahead of God and make bad decisions.
This is what Satan wants us to do. He knows that we can damage good relationships and future ones by trying to meet a need our own way instead of God’s. Before you visit a questionable website, push God’s boundaries on romance, or give in to a feeling of hopelessness, appeal to God for help and direction. Don’t put yourself in a position that will make the loneliness and pain worse instead of easing it. Meeting needs our own way can bring misery, sorrow, and pain, but meeting needs God’s way brings joy, peace, and blessing.
6. Rule your emotions, instead of letting them rule you.
This is a tough one for me. It’s so easy to drown in negative feelings, but in Christ, we have the power to rise above them. God helps us to replace harmful emotions with good ones. Depend on God to choose hope instead of despair, joy instead of sorrow, and helping others instead of drowning in personal pain or loneliness. This is your life. You decide what rules your spirit. Let God rule your spirit with power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Let Him strengthen your heart with His joy, hope, and goodness. Refuse a “victim” mentality, and look at all the good things God has given you. Cling to the promises of His Word, and trust Him to provide what you need. Let that faith bring you peace and joy.
7. Cling to God.
This is the first thing that we should do, but I wanted to save the best for last! Like Ruth clung to Naomi, cling to God. Through bouts of loneliness over the last couple of years, I learned how to practice this, and the fellowship I had with God sustained me and chased away feelings of loneliness. The gnaw was eased, and closeness to God filled my heart with love and peace. But I found that drawing close to God and staying with Him in my perspectives and mindset, needed to happen every day. Cling to God daily, and remember that He’s holding onto you.
If you’re in a season of loneliness, turn this season into good by deepening your relationship with God like never before. The closeness you develop with Him will sustain you now and prepare you for when your life becomes full of people (and you need some time to yourself). God will become your center of gravity and keep your heart anchored in hope and joy, no matter who comes or goes in your life. He knows how to make you stronger through the trial and to sustain that strength when the trial ends.
Which strategy would help you the most to handle loneliness? Have you seen any of them work? Tell me in the comments below, and stay close to God. His love and fellowship can break this chain, and strip the gnaw of loneliness of its power.
© Copyright 2016 by Katy Kauffmanloneliness, friendship, companionship, Breaking the Chains: Easing the Gnaw of Loneliness, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies