We can all agree that 2020 was awful. We started the year with wildfires in Australia, moved swiftly to a global pandemic, added a divisive election, and then murder hornets for good measure. The plot twists from last year have been more ridiculous than a horribly written SciFi novel.
Beyond the ridiculous was the deep revealing of what many of us had tried to ignore for too long: racial discrimination, health care disparity, educational challenges and the reality of poverty in our nation. While this was happening on a global or national level, it doesn’t even touch what each of us endured on a personal level.
Last year, I had friends experience job loss, baby loss, friend loss or the death of loved ones. It was a year where everyone was affected in life-shaking ways. But the one theme I’ve heard over and over again is a deep sense of loneliness. I’ve heard it from single friends, I’ve heard it from married friends longing for children and I’ve felt it as a mom of four. I’m certainly surrounded by people, but loneliness continues to creep into my life.
Only Jesus can bring wholeness.
The Loneliness Remains
While I would love to say that 2020 is over and we’ll never have this kind of struggle again, I know the struggle is not over yet. I also know that even when our situation changes, the loneliness can remain. I know because it’s followed me. I have a great marriage and fantastic kids, but I can still feel lonely and ignored. I’m sure you can relate because loneliness isn’t always about the people around us; loneliness is about our hearts before the Lord.
I have acted out of a belief that my loneliness would be solved by getting married or by having a baby or maybe finding the right friends or the right job. While those desires are for good things, they can’t solve our loneliness. The only thing that will truly satisfy our deepest longings is to allow ourselves to be most satisfied in Christ alone.
Maybe you’ve heard C.S. Lewis’s illustration of having a God-shaped hole in your heart. The idea is that we all have a hole in our heart that can only be completely filled by God. We try to stuff other things in there, a husband or a friend, but it never really works. Because only Jesus can bring wholeness.
I have been greatly impacted by John Piper’s statement that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” I think it might be true. God is glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him because it means that we have set aside our idols. We have chosen to be satisfied with God instead of whatever else we’re trying to fill our God-shaped hole with.
Uncovering our idols is rarely pleasant but always worth it.
Finding Satisfaction in Christ
But I hear you already, that you’re still lonely. What should you do about it? How do you find your satisfaction in Christ alone? Well, I’ve learned some things in the revealing year that was 2020 and I hope they can help you in 2021.
- Ask God to reveal to you where you’ve been trying to go to satisfy your loneliness. Husband? Baby? Friend? Maybe it’s recognition or the right job? Or busyness so you avoid feeling your loneliness? Asking this question isn’t fun. Uncovering our idols is rarely pleasant but always worth it. Confess them to the Lord and look for ways to turn from them and turn towards Jesus.
- Remember that you’re not alone. Jesus told us himself that he would send a helper, and he has. Not only that, but it is better for us that Jesus would go away so that the helper could come (John 16:7). He has sent the Spirit himself! The Holy Spirit has come, and he indwells God’s people, uniting them to Christ. You’re not alone. You have a helper, a comforter, an advocate in the Spirit who lives in the Christian.
- Remember Christ’s body, the church. When I feel lonely and hurt, my tendency is to withdraw from my brothers and sisters in Christ. I expect them to read my mind and chase after me. As you would suspect, it never works out that way. When I miss the community of Christ’s body, it is up to me to go find it. I have to be vulnerable and willing to get hurt. I have to seek after friendship.
One of the many lessons we’ve had to learn this past year is that we can’t know what will happen next. Hopefully 2021 will be better than 2020, but we can’t rest our hope in a new year. We can’t rely on a change of circumstance to bring an end to our loneliness. But we can rest our hope on Jesus, and we can rely fully on him.