From elementary school all the way through high school, I was pretty popular. I wouldn’t really say that I was one of the “cool kids” or anything, everyone just knew who I was. I was a social butterfly! I really wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone; I wasn’t the shy type, I could make friends with just about anybody! However, it was also true that I was one of the loneliest kids in school.
Many people would ask, “Well how could that be?? If you had all these friends and everyone knew you, how in the world could you be lonely?” But that’s just it. It was like everyone in school knew about me, but hardly anyone really knew me.
Yeah, I was friends with everybody, but I was hardly very close with anyone. I would’ve happily traded all those friends for a couple really good and true friends. The fact that I didn’t have a best friend made school a very lonely place, and things only got worse when everyone I knew started dating.
I was always the single one. And even when I was dating, I hardly ever really liked the guys (at least not for very long). I just didn’t want to be the single one of my friend groups.
And everything went to Hell in a handbasket when my same-sex attractions started to get stronger and stronger. I felt like I couldn’t get close to anyone out of fear of them finding out and thinking that I was weird.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve done everything I could to not feel lonely. From dating and being friends with people I didn’t actually like to, at one point, trying to build a robot to be my friend, loneliness has sucked the life out to me. I was desperate to find a way to overcome it.
I’m now 22-years-old, and I think I’ve found a fairly good way to overcome loneliness. And that’s by realizing the simple fact that you’re never going to.
Loneliness as a Gift
In my friend Daniel Mattson’s book Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, there’s a chapter in it called “The Gift of Loneliness.” The title of this chapter perplexed me because I thought of gifts as something good, and I thought of loneliness as horrible.
But in that chapter, he quoted a passage from Henri Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer in which Nouwen stated, “the wound of loneliness is like the Grand Canyon–a deep incision is made in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and self-understanding.”
God made us for Himself; that means that only He can ultimately fulfill us! There’s part of the human heart that will only be satisfied with total union with God, a union that can only come in Heaven.
Bearing that in mind, it becomes clear why we suffer from loneliness; we feel separated from our first and greatest love.
But in that loneliness, Heaven can be so clearly visible; we yearn deeply for God, and we desire to draw near to Him. Loneliness points us to Heaven, to the fulfillment of all desire. The restless heart yearns for home, feeling the pangs of the loneliness of this life, while looking ahead to the glory that awaits it.
I don’t think that anyone ever overcomes loneliness in the sense that they did themselves of it. However, I do believe that it is possible not to be ruled by the fear of it.
Learning not to fear loneliness itself leads us to discover what loneliness truly is, and once we understand that, we can begin to embrace and love it.
To be lonely means to ache, and to suffer, but it’s our suffering that unites us with Christ Crucified. United with Him in death, we can also enter into the promise of new life. The pain we experience in this life is temporary, and not to be compared to the glory that is to come.
So the next time the ache of loneliness grips at you, whisper in the silence of your heart, “Jesus, I love You. Jesus, I long for You.”