Two years ago I went through an intense time of loneliness after a bilateral mastectomy. I was physically exhausted and home for weeks with the drains, taking the time needed to recover. It was a daily battle waiting for my body to process the trauma, heal, and move to the next step physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I went from full days of activity, meaning, and purpose to a dead standstill. All the busyness and interactions with others came to a halt. In addition to the trauma from the surgical experience, one of the greatest difficulties for me was the loneliness I felt due to the isolation. I knew I needed time to rest and heal, but the feeling of abandonment surprised me.
Maybe you’ve felt the same way. After a surgery, a divorce, the loss of a loved one, a job change, an illness, or even a move to a new place, you felt lonely, isolated, or abandoned. Loneliness and the sadness that comes with it can overwhelm even the most outgoing of people.
Seasons of Loneliness
There are seasons when loneliness seems to be the natural rhythm of life. Change, in itself, can fuel loneliness. Even the good changes. How many moms have felt the heartache of loneliness when a child moved away for college or a job? What about the woman who grieved when she made a job change? Or the one who was excited about the new position but missed the relationships and familiarity of her former role?
What do we do with this loneliness? What do we do when we feel like life is swept away, and we are standing alone? We can wallow in our sadness and continue down the deep well of isolation. Or maybe we need to be intentional about connections instead. This is not always easy when you are sinking in feelings of abandonment and it seems that a part of you is missing. But sometimes, you need to step up, despite your feelings, and be the giver that helps bring life back to the one in the pit of loneliness. And we all need to lean into the Giver of Life who is the only One who can satisfy our longings, our loneliness, and our unspoken needs.
While I was sitting and/or sleeping in a recliner for more than four weeks, I would catch myself looking up a lot. I was not allowed to lift my arms, and I was limited from a list of activities. When you sit in one place day after day, there is so much time to think and ponder—not always a good thing! I discovered during this time of sitting that the only way to combat the loneliness and worst-case scenarios in my head was to lean into Jesus for the comfort and peace I was seeking. So many verses of Scripture nourished my soul and reminded me I was not alone. Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lᴏʀᴅ will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry” (CSB).
I needed God’s Word to seep deep into my bones and marrow to remind me of His care and protection over me. I needed His Word to take captive my thoughts and feelings. He did not want me to be afraid of wrestling with the loneliness; He wanted me to remember His presence and His Spirit within me, a fresh spring that does not dry up.
In my own journey, God continued to show me the needs of those around me. He wanted me to look to Him but also to look around to give and receive from others. Philippians 2:3-4 says it so beautifully, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Sometimes it is one simple, unselfish act that helps someone break away from the loneliness she is feeling because she knows she is seen. She knows others care. She realizes she is not alone.
My friend was recently in the hospital for two weeks after chemo and radiation. She really missed her family and friends but had restrictions on visitors. Based on my own experience and knowing the loneliness she felt, we started a prayer chain updating people daily on her progress. We gave these prayer warriors her phone number and address. We intentionally asked these people to send her encouraging texts or cards. We encouraged them to share her info with others who would send a card. Daily, at random times, she would receive texts of encouragement and Scripture. Then, when her husband went to visit her at the hospital, he would shower her with the cards that were coming to their home each day. This went on for weeks until she was released.
Several other friends who are single have found the best way to combat their own loneliness at times is to reach out to others. Sometimes that means spending time with a family, going to a soccer game, or taking their children out for pizza. Other times it is intentionally planning a dinner with others, building community and connections.
Simple acts of kindness. A text, a card, a visit. A small personal touch. The body of Christ reaching out to one another really does make a difference. I’m reminded over and over again of the valuable message in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
One of the greatest gifts that lifted the loneliness I felt were the people who would come and sit next to me even while I slept. I remember waking up in the hospital with my sixteen-year-old daughter next to me holding my hand. To wake up with someone near meant I was not forgotten. I was not alone. The gift and power of presence was an unspoken need but brought a wave of comfort and peace each time.
What is your story of loneliness and how did God use others to bring you comfort? When have you encouraged someone through a time of loneliness and ministered to them? What is your advice for someone struggling with feelings of loneliness, isolation, or abandonment?
Michelle Hicks is the manager for Women, Marriage & Family resources at LifeWay in Nashville, Tennessee. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to LifeWay. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.