There is something about loneliness that I know to be both deeply cruel and extremely dangerous. I have spent many years of my life trying to achieve relief from a very real kind of loneliness. The worst part about addiction or homelessness or sin is the isolation and separation you begin to suffer from over time. Before I walked into the Miracle Hill Overcomers recovery program in 2018, I had never felt more alone in my entire life. Wanting to die is built on a lie of unworthiness (I know this from experience), but my unworthiness was fueled initially by a painful loneliness.
The Struggle To Talk About Loneliness
People have a very hard time talking about loneliness. We live in an era where scrolling through social media feeds will make you think that everyone looks so happy. I have never seen a post where someone says, “I am in a crowd of people, but I feel totally awkward and don’t think anybody really knows how sad I am today! #LONELINESSYALL.” Even Christians can make it seem like loneliness is some kind of sin or maybe a sign that you are lacking in faith. Many times when people share with me that they feel depressed or struggle with anxiety, we don’t get to address the underlying loneliness or sense of aloneness that they are experiencing.
We were never meant to be alone. We are made in the image of God who is, in fact, a community of three in one. We were built for a life of community. When God created the earth, everything was good, until the very first thing that God says is not good — for man to be alone. Even Jesus had 12 best friends that he traveled everywhere with all the time! I think God knows that loneliness would cause us to despair. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He answers to love God AND to love others. Jesus sets forth a way of living that along with honoring God, combats loneliness.
Searching For Community In the Dark
I recently had the experience of visiting a county jail amidst the coronavirus pandemic. This short “mission trip” was a final requirement to make amends with my past. I’m happy to share the entire story of what took me there, but instead, I will quote my favorite movie of all time, “Let me explain (pause). No, there is too much. Let me sum up. . .” In order to keep all of the inmates of the jail safe from transmitting COVID 19, we were all put into a 24-hour lockdown while we waited for our test results to come back. The entire block was separated into individual cells.
I learned something very powerful through this experience. First, even though I was completely alone in my cell, I was never really alone. I had Jesus drawing me close and keeping me full of joy and peace. Second, all of the inmates would find very creative ways to communicate with each other. They would yell from cell to cell; they would pass notes when possible; they would play chess by calling out moves; they would knock on the cell walls to encourage one another; or they would desperately try and connect in whatever ways they could.
These are some of the toughest, wildest and most independent men I have ever met. Even in the darkest of places, people will strive to find community. If you allow yourself to succumb to loneliness while incarcerated, your time becomes infinitely harder. The term that everyone used is “hard timing.” Moreover, the secret to surviving in any kind of prison is completely dependent on the people you can depend on.
A Tragedy That Led To Healing
I survived the prison of addiction for many years because I always had my younger brother with me. We did everything together. I don’t want to glorify or condone our behavior in any way. Quite the opposite. I am just saying that my brother kept me alive many times when I should have died. It is hard to admit that one of the reasons I managed to continue a lifestyle of drug abuse was because we enabled each other over many years. I wonder now if part of the reason we stayed in the voluntary slavery of addiction together is because we at least never were completely alone. I never felt more lonely than a few months after my brother died of a drug overdose.
BUT GOD. . .
I could never believe that my deepest sadness would be transformed into a life so full of people that I love and respect and treasure. I have come to understand that my brother’s tragedy was God’s plan to save my life and give me hope and a future. My whole life is filled with a Biblical community that continues to grow and heal my heart. I have mentors, friends, a church family, classmates, coworkers and Overcomer brothers who all help me follow Christ. The more I love God with all my heart and mind, the more neighbors and people He blesses me with to love as myself.
Dispersing the Loneliness With Love
I am famously a mentor collector. I find men much wiser than me who collectively help me to make pretty much every difficult decision in
my life. The beauty of making the best decision based on these mentors is truly humbling. I can’t believe how generous and loving many of these men are with their time and concern for me. I can only hope to share the same light of Jesus with others the way they have taught me to do. I have even begun to find others who now depend on me to be their wise counsel.
I recently began to teach the middle school boys at my church. God has found a way to give me new younger brothers and a heart to help them navigate some of their lives. I can’t believe that all of the loneliness I once felt would now become rejoicing. If you are someone who is suffering from loneliness, please talk to someone about it. God loves you and wants you to have a life filled with amazing people.
“We” Not “Me”
I was studying Ephesians 2:10 [NLT] the other day and I realized it uses the word ‘we’ as in plural: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God’s masterpiece was never meant to be built on one individual or another. God’s masterpiece is built on community. Don’t you want to be part of God’s workmanship? The opposite of addiction turns out to be connection. The goal of my life is now to cooperate with God and be transformed into a person who loves God and loves others. This is the real solution to never feeling lonely again.
Post submitted by Young Ghun. Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.