Lonely Seasons On a Relational Journey

Many have commented that moving outside the confines of religious obligation took them to a lonelier space than they thought it would. For some that created an agony in their hearts that destroyed any hope they had for real community. For others those lonely stretches provided an opportunity for God to empty their lives of religious busyness and to discover how dependency on others warped the relationships they used to have. Wayne responds to a lot of listener questions and comments as he opens a conversation about loneliness and how God might want to address it in our hearts and in doing so open wide our hearts to a different kind of community he is breathing into the world.

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  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lonely space over the past couple of years. My husband and I left our church almost four years ago – though we struggled with the way they taught Jesus to us long before that. Since then we have gone through a steady withdrawal from close family and friends. We have been accused of being bitter, rebellious and judgemental. At first we tried to explain ourselves to those we love gently and carefully – but no matter what we said or didn’t say walls went up and we became more and more silent in these “conversations”. We thought at first to start a small group – but it felt just as fake ( I know that is a harsh word, sorry – I guess I mean stuck at surface level) and quickly fell apart. We thought to find friends outside of religion – but this has not been very fruitful yet. We have each other – which is a miracle and gift I am so grateful for. We have a few friends long distance. We live in a very conservative (in regards to available churches) area. So we feel very alone.
    But I have this theory Wayne, I don’t know what you’ll think of it. I met Jesus (though I grew up in a religious household and named myself Christian from a very young age) six years ago when my marriage and my life was falling apart. He stole my heart. As all of you others here, no doubt, don’t need me to explain. He showed me slowly, and tenderly, his heart. As I spent time with him I changed. He unwrapped the barbs of religious self abuse from around my soul and I fell so deeply in love with him. So much so that my husband yearned for this to happen to him as well. And Jesus rescued us both. He is so very amazing isn’t he! So here we both were – meeting this being, this amazing Power. And his love was so intense. And he was so very careful with us – so very gentle in teaching us, never accusing or harsh or disappointed in us. Its this amazing relationship – this connection – where you are Seen, on the inside, and where the Seerer delights in what he sees. Its like suddenly being known, deeply and fully, and being cherished rather than what you thought (being pitied and judged as undesirable). How can we not want to share that with others? I feel like its what I’ve always longed for – to be seen, to be understood and to be known. And when you are exposed to such an intimate connection you become awakened and aware that it is indeed possible with others too. And once you are awakened to it – its hard not to desire it – to search for it, to hurt because of the lack of it. Not only that, but Holy Spirit gives you insights sometimes into the hearts of others and you know things through him about the hurt they feel – and feel the desire to reach out.
    I don’t know if you can follow my train of thought – if I’m making sense. But I feel like my heart is softened to others – and exposed. Its more easily hurt in some ways because I know what it can be like, and I’m not able to find that connection with others that I have with him. Its lonely feeling sometimes. And his voice is so often such a whisper next to the loud ones of accusation and doubt. When we attended church – before we got to know him, we were so caught up in programs and search for purpose and following rules that we didn’t ever feel as deeply the lack of connection to those around us. We were more content to stay at surface level – we were also afraid (though we would never have admitted it) to search too deeply for answers as to why we couldn’t find that deeper connection. Now that I’ve gone on for so long, I hope that I’ve made some kind of sense. Does it ring a bell with anyone at all?

  2. Makes perfect sense, Kerri. I appreciate you adding your thoughts here. You probably speak for a lot of people. I love the way you met him and what it has produced in your heart. Lovely. I still hope for all of us that loneliness is only fleeting. There are so many lost, broken, hurting, people around us who would LOVE a conversation and perhaps a relationship with people like you. The other thing religion did was made us consumers of other people’s programs and didn’t help us learn how to love people without expecting anything in return, but celebrating when it does reciprocate, which may be less than 10% of the time. But that 10% is more precious than anything I own….

  3. I so understand what you are saying Kerri. My husband & I have also been through something similar. I thought I was alone & everyone else off to meetings but bit by bit the Lord connected me to other ladies. I tried to connect them together but it wasn`t in God`s timing so I have just related to each one individually & we share our journey in the Lord together. Now after many years some of the different ladies do want to meet others (they are from different towns) & just get to know each other. As Wayne says & I am realising that we are on this journey with the Lord & He is the one guiding. Being an organiser I am learning to let Him guide & not to try & run ahead or go the wrong way, which only brings frustration etc. To walk & rest is challenging but o so rewarding in Him.

  4. Loved the podcast and the comments! “Living loved” is a great way to describe it!

  5. I have not listened to this podcast yet, but I am a bit disturbed by the picture. It appears to be a very strange, yet comedic Swiss fellow. And you let him have a stick! A Swiss with a stick is a very dangerous combination. 😉

  6. Timothy B., we like to take chances here. Haven’t you noticed that? And actually he only looks scary. He’s actually a wonderful old man!

  7. Finding Solitude

    All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

    Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.

    – Henri J. M. Nouwen

  8. Thank you Kent,

    That word is so encouraging & enlightening to me. I sense that now instead of being enclosed I will explore that space of solitude more & as my leaves sprout will encourage those around me to be released also.

  9. Thank you Kent,

    I was so encouraged & enlightened by your word. I seek to value that space of solitude more now & as my` leaves begin to sprout` I will encourage others also so we can grow more in Him.

  10. Howdy,
    I was hoping to write to you before you did the podcast as you had asked – ah but life just happened with several JOB misadventures that left me with no energy or time to write my heart.
    This will be the shorter version – But I have felt alone/lonely all my life is all aspects of my life.
    My family has always thought of me as strange and does get me. Have never had any real friends outside of one or two in High School and the Military but I have not heard from them since leaving.
    And any “church friendships” I thought I had ended as soon as I disagreed or questioned the established doctrine/rules/beliefs or simply when we moved away from the area.

    I have felt God either hates me or doesn’t like me much because no matter what I do or ask seems to not matter. I recently started listening to you all and then “Into the Wild” per your recommendation. I am gleaning a lot from you all processing it still. Strangely after listening to over 40 of the Into the Wild shows – Darrin has me feeling less loved and more hopeless and alone than when I started even though I know his is trying to tell folks how much God loves us. (?)

    I heard one of you guests say something like (If someone is in doubt about God – ask God to prove He exists – and He will – It always works for everyone all the time)
    I cannot count over the 50+ years I have cried that out to God — and I have always gotten silence.
    Makes me feel like I am the only it did not work for and that I am as crazy and strange as everyone has been telling me and that I am very broken -though I do not want to be like everyone else.
    I guess to try to boil it down to the essence of what you had asked:
    I have always felt that I was all alone with no one that gets me, cares about/for me or loves me.
    And through my youth to now my experiences have born that out.
    That’s my rant or cry.
    Thank you for asking and providing the means to express my thoughts and feelings.

  11. Wow Kerri !
    You perfectly described how I feel so much of the time!
    It feels like my arms must remain open and my heart exposed ! The love I feel for others is something that comes involuntarily as a result! There are very few people in my life besides my wife that I feel this heart connection with! There are a few though and I enjoy sharing my Journey with them more than anything else on this journey! To be seen for what is inside is awesome !!
    Something seems to be growing in me though and more and more I find myself spontaneously connecting with complete strangers! I get overwhelmed at times and connect with them on some level . I want to expose what is inside of me now as much as I used to want to hide what was inside of me! It seems like what God is doing in me is speeding up greatly in the last year !! Is it just me or is it speeding up for everyone?

  12. God in his awesome majesty has taken me out of the institution and continues to teach me life lessons that are sometimes rather uncomfortable. In this current season he is teaching me about the human need for companionship in the flesh and the loneliness that comes from not having it. Pretty much the subject of the podcast.

    The last few months I fell into a depression and I could not find a way out. I was in so much emotional pain and felt isolated and alone. People that I was turning to for help, were not able to help me as they really could not understand what I was going through. Realising this, made the desert around me, feel even more barren.

    As I sought God in the midst of this, he softened my heart towards these essentially helpless people (they were helpless in their attempts to help me) and the unintentional hurt they inflicted was lovingly forgiven in my heart. But still the dilemma of being alone was not resolved until my daughter came to visit me. In a flash my depression left.

    What I learned from that is that we need real flesh and blood people in our lives that love us unconditionally. Not perfectly for my daughter and I had many heated disagreements but there was that heart connection of unconditional love that underlay every disagreement.

    For a while now, I have been feeling more and more disappointed with the cyber friendships I have forged with many precious people whom I have grown to love dearly even though I have never met them. I worry about them and check up on them but more and more something has been missing in these relationships. My need for physical connection has not been met.

    And that is what we all need and so we go to meetings (even though they are less than perfect) and seek to invite people over and form house churches, etc etc. As human beings we NEED to have real fellowship with living breathing individuals. And unfortunately it is the only cure for loneliness. That is what God has taught me in this season of my life.

    And like many, I do not really fit in anywhere. I am too spiritual for secular groups and I am too rebellious and non-conformist for religious groups. I toss the idea around in my head to start another house church but the thought of the religious system that inevitably takes root whenever such a venture is attempted, is very off-putting. Where to, from here? I do not really know but in time the answer will come because I know without a doubt God did not create us to be alone and he has not forgotten about us or called us to be miserably alone.

    We have to seek fellowship and understand that many are helpless in understanding us but it should not prevent us from loving them in their weakness while connecting face to face, in the flesh.

    This afternoon, my loneliness drove me to a cinema, just so I could sit in the company of other people. It helped. We cannot be passive. God created us to fellowship. Cyber fellowship is good but it is still in isolation. Our bodies need to come into contact with real people. God designed us so.

  13. As my wife and I listened to this podcast, we were struck with the fact that many great men of God were called out into the wilderness to find God (Abraham, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus). This is all part of the journey. I am finding the purpose of this journey is to become intermingled with God. I sometimes think the dry times, the times some might describe as loneliness, are often those times when our humanness doesn’t exactly align with who God is, and must be refined and made more compatible with Him. He does this with love and with the intention that we are to become one with Him. We can be known as more than His friend, we can be known as His bride. If we realize when we focus on Him and not on ourselves, we will find the joy of the refining love of God perfected in Christ.

  14. Thanks Wayne and Marilyn – its so nice to be understood. Harvey, I haven’t experience this speeding up thing yet – but you give me hope! And David – didn’t Paul also do some tent making in the wilderness?

  15. Robert, my heart goes out to you. I don’t know that this is going to be helpful, or what Wayne might think about this book – but I read the book “Can you Hear Me?” by Brad Jersak. I don’t often suggest it (mostly because I’m surrounded by very conservative folks who don’t believe God speaks) It is all about listening – and gives you ideas about how to find God’s voice – because he IS talking to you – we just often do not know how to listen to him. In Psalms 139 David says, “how precious concerning me are your thoughts, Oh God – how vast is the sum of them!” God is thinking of you – you are on his heart.

  16. sorry if my message is a bit too radical…. but there’s one more interesting way to deal with loneliness.

    you can go to a poorly developed country. It shouldn’t be a long trip. it shouldn’t be an expensive one. But just join for a week a group like the one Wayne was talking about. Or if an African country is a bit too extreme for you – eastern Europe can be an option, for example. Any country. The need is there, at times it’s overwhelming. But you will probably find friends there, you will be able to LOVE people as sometimes it’s challenging inside a quite closed ‘rich’ society of Western world nowadays.

    It’s not about ‘deeds’ and it’s not about ‘See God how hard I’m trying!’ – not at all. But to shake up a little, to change the surrounding, to get some ‘fresh air’… You can definitely pray about it. And Lord is willing – you’ll go somewhere where ‘lonely’ has a different meaning and you’ll be able to pour God’s love and share your journey with other people.

    that’s it. that’s what Lord put on my heart while listening Wayne’s podcast and reading the comments.

    Big hugs and love to you my friends!

  17. Michelle my heart goes out to you!
    I have lived in the space you are describing for most of my life ! It is extremely painfully and lonely as you describe! I have never been a member of a “church with walls” so I can’t relate to that loss. For me all I wanted was a deeper connection with my wife and Family! The more I focused on our relationship the worse and more lonely I felt! I would cry and calmer to God to make our relationship better ! Let me connect with just one person , the woman I love I would plead!! After 8 years of loneliness our marriage in shambles . I decided I needed more than a personal relationship with another person to live and enjoy this journey we call life! I gave up on finding a connection even with her!! I decided in my heart I needed something only God himself could give me!
    I decided to never again have a scheduled relationship with God ! I wanted a real one where he talks to me . Not just me ranting and pleading frantically to him! I thought it would be even lonelier ! Boy was I wrong! As I stopped struggling I realized he has always been calling to me and longing even more than I to be a father and best friend to me! Some times it is hard to go to sleep now because of the love I feel from him to me! The tears now are 90% joyful ! As a side affect I began to connect with my wife and kids on a whole new level! But it hasn’t stopped there ! I began opening up to more of my family some on a spiritual level and others not spiritual at all! It doesn’t seem to matter! Where I am there he is in me! Sure some think I am strange! Too In touch with my emotions! But I have come to know a Father who loves me for who I am ! Not who I should be!
    My relationship with my wife and family is beyond what I ever dreamed of Yet does not compare to what I get from Father! Sorry for going on so long !

  18. I too know that funny Swiss young man with the stick. He might look a bit lonely in the photo but it’s definitely not true !! Such a comic – never alone for long 😉 We love you Silvio <3

  19. I love sitting with Jesus in heavenly places, basking in His love. My heart goes out to all of you who also live this lonely life but I think it is part of the journey. I didn’t expect it to go on for so long. I am not a loner. I enjoy chatting to people but I also love that Jesus talks to me. That is so precious. I get upset when Wayne talks about community because it is not happening for many of us. When I talk to Jesus about it He just tells me to sit with Him and enjoy His presence.
    This last month has been extremely difficult. 12 years ago I had a brain haemorrhage which affected the right side of my body leaving me in a wheelchair, without the use of my right arm. Jesus graciously restored my speech.
    On Dec 17 I had an accident, which broke my left arm at the shoulder. My husband has been looking after me, even having to feed me. He is extremely angry. It is hard living with his anger. He is not home much now as I am managing and have a couple of ladies I can phone when I need help. I have five hours a week paid help, which I can use judiciously. I have a lady who comes for 1 ½ hours on Mon to Friday mornings. My arm is in a sling, not in plaster. It is five weeks now and I am starting to use my hand so I can communicate.
    I Enjoy hearing from all of you

  20. Eva,
    Just reading your post is like hearing your voice- you certainly are engaging with others as you pour out your soul and what you have been going through. My prayers are with you sister and that your husband will know the joy of taking care of someone as precious as you. Your love for Jesus is quite evident and shows.

    All the others who have written are just helping me to see that so many are leaving the institution for something more real and in the long run better and healthier. We are beginning to understand fellowship with God in a deeper and more meaningful friendship. We are sons and daughters of the living God and are meant to have that intimacy with Him. Along the way we became sidetracked with “American Christianity”, not unlike, the McDonalds mentality. We wanted fast results and quick gratification; now we are seeing that none of this even has resemblance to what God even wants with us and for us. I see that now. I have never had such peace and joy even in the midst of not being with my husband for over 4 months now (we are moving and he is living in another state as I sell our house) and financial difficulties (which we have had since 12 years). My relationship with my children is (especially my 19 year old daughter) is so different; I am seeing her through the “eyes of the Father” instead of forcing my own desires onto her. We are communicating and loving each other. God is so good. Even when I can’t open my Bible or even pray He is still working on me and I can’t help but be thinking about Him or in gratefulness and like I said hearing the stories here are truly a blessing to me.
    Wayne, I am so thankful for your pod casts and engage videos- they have truly been just a peaceful oasis to come drink and rest. Thank you for that. Your gifts are truly in healing. 🙂

  21. Thanks to all of you for your contributions and thoughts. It’s helpful in a lonely “season” to be able to see what some others are going through. Eve-Lorraine thanks for sharing a little of your story. It’s wonderful to know that Jesus values honesty…we no longer have to pretend to “have it all together”. Like your situation (I’m dealing with job/financial issues plus my Dad’s health/diagnosis) it seems that Jesus values us coming back and back and back to Him. Slowly I’m seeing that His love for me sometimes means He’ll walk me through this pressure rather than remove it. His extravagance in the midst of brokenness is breathtaking at times. Kerri thank you for the beautiful way you expressed how Jesus revealed His love to you and your husband…it provides hope and encouragement….thanks. I continue to walk with Him through this period and learning as my hand is in His that I can collaborate my movement with His (not running ahead trying to pull Jesus along, trying to move Him into a direction I want or hanging back when He’s lovingly walking me forward)and slowly He’s building that trust. He really does have our best in His heart …often more we than we know.

  22. I used to be very careful about what I shared here but decided that I needed to get real if I was to connect with anyone. I wanted to share what Jesus was teaching me but if He doesn’t send any real people then I will do it here. Bob, I don’t know why you haven’t found Jesus, maybe someone else knows. I am just so grateful He speaks to me. I have found that doubt is a big obstacle. I have to choose to trust Him. He goes quiet if He had told me to do something and I have chosen to disobey Him. Many a time I have said, “That is too hard, Lord.”
    I was reminded last night that I chose to die daily and here I was getting fed up because life was a little difficult. I keep getting my eyes off Jesus and back on me, and falling in the trap of feeling sorry for me. I went to be x-rayed today and heard that my arm was healing but not yet healed and I could take the sling off. I can feed myself; use the phone, TV and the computer so I am making good progress.

  23. I just got to listen to this podcast yesterday and I had read this Henri Nouwen quote the day before. He has written a lot on solitude, thank you Kent,( great minds think a like). But this one may shock people. It shocked me for some reason. Its talking about vertical connection but you can substitute human connecting and its still true. Our need for others to “wake up” is still all about us. When Wayne was talking about community and ministry gifts etc it struck me that we are so programmed in our beings via religious constructs about how its suppose to be that we can’t even see our arrogance in the way we want to share living loved with others. For me once I dropped that story and just lived more awake and aware to Father’s affection I have more community than I can handle sometimes. (I exaggerate but just a little). Its about “finding” vs allowing and so interested in getting that we miss God’s giving. If you frame shift your lens just a little bit, loneliness, like pain, can be a gift. I say all this with complete awareness that I am no different in that I argue with reality daily. Somedays I surrender early and sometimes not till I fall asleep. LOL

    Monday January 20, 2014

    Yearning for Perfect Love

    When we act out of loneliness our actions easily become violent. The tragedy is that much violence comes from a demand for love. When loneliness drives our search for love, kissing easily leads to biting, caressing to hitting, looking tenderly to looking suspiciously, listening to overhearing, and surrender to rape. The human heart yearns for love: love without conditions, limitations, or restrictions. But no human being is capable of offering such love, and each time we demand it we set ourselves on the road to violence.

    How then can we live nonviolent lives? We must start by realizing that our restless hearts, yearning for perfect love, can only find that love through communion with the One who created them.

    – Henri J. M. Nouwen

  24. I’m so glad Eve Lorraine that your arm is slowly healing and thankful that Jesus has given you an opportunity to share your thoughts with us. I have noticed how gentle He is when I fall back into self-absorption and this has helped me to see more clearly what is in His heart for me. How wonderful that He values honesty, “keeping it real” and moving away from pretending. I have some deep questions regarding my circumstances and learning to trust Him is something that happens much slower than I had anticipated. Seems that He’s gently changing my expectations…(smile).

  25. Alone, but not really lonely…

    I have also been contemplating this and I am not sure what I am feeling, or even how to express it but I will try.

    I am walking “alone” with God. That sounds like a contradiction, but I suppose what I mean is that God has me in this place where He is close beside me in all things. I am alone, but I am not lonely.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I have lonely feelings because I am not surrounded by throngs of people, but when those periods come into my life, I find myself talking to God about them. So, even then, I am alone but not lonely. Other times I pick up the phone to call someone on this same path; or read forums like this; or listen to a book; or read the Bible…something that helps me to press through those times of silent struggle. But, it is best (for me personally), to bring these troubled feelings to my Father and to crawl up into His lap for a while and work through them.

    It makes sense, after all…the work of the cross was meant to establish a relationship between my Father and me. This is a relationship that was always promised by religion, but never made available through systems and creeds. That means that my focus has turned from “being all things to all people”, and has become about developing a God centered relationship with the Creator of all…alone…Him and me.

    So, I believe that this is a good thing. What is being broken off of me is necessary. Prior to God’s working in my life, I NEEDED “fellowship” to validate my Christian life. Being involved in church activities led to man’s approval which cheapened the relationships that I built, but kept me busy ‘doing God’s work”. Now, the time spent with God is authentic and cannot be used by anyone to judge my merit in Heaven, because it is done quietly, and intimately without fanfare or spectacle.

    Again, this is difficult to describe, but now, I spend most of my time time with the one who loves me most.

    I am alone, but not lonely…

  26. Thank you. I have just started reading Absolute Surrender and I see that as I ask Him to teach me to deny myself and surrender to Him, he sends hardship and frustration to help me but I get fed up and ask Him why all these bad things happen to me. I don’t see them happening to other people. I don’t embrace it and learn but I complain and try to escape the suffering. I will keep reading and relax into what He sends.

  27. Henri Nouwen nails it once again.

    …community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own.

  28. Marcellus, your statement “I Needed fellowship to validate my Christian life.” echoed in my heart. I understand what you are saying so well. What really validates us? How about a loving God who gave His only begotten Son for all? I think about Jesus saying “I am my Father are one” and then how electrifying it is to read John 17 where he prays (verse 11, 20) that “that they may be one, even as we are one:” Also I John 1:3
    Each of us is so unique. God has a great phrase in Philippians “to work out your OWN wholeness with respect and awe. That takes some alone time with a loving Father” and and the result being He works in us to will and do of His good pleasure.

  29. For so many years as a member of my local United Methodist Church, I took the mindset that I was to be the spiritual leader of my home. When my kids were growing up, I made it a point to set the example for my kids.

    My wife has always been in a very different place than I am, still clinging to the confines of religion. I thought also, that my leading may eventually bring her to a focus on a relationship with God. What I ended up with was kids who hated going to the institutionalized church because of all the programs and time I made them participate in, as well as wife who leaned on me and her ‘check off my to-do list’ attitude toward church.

    So when God led me away from the institutionalized church, a few years ago (kids in upper teens) it was a REAL shock to the system at my home. I came to realize that not only was God changing me, but he was also taking me away from being the spiritual crutches holding up my family from having to choose for themselves. They relied on me instead of relying on their own personal relationship with God and letting their own hearts choose, instead just going along with me. So, even though I was attending church as a family unit, I was still very alone.

    I am in the middle of this spiritual blender at home at this time. I am perfectly at peace with being away from the institutionalized church and focusing on relationship, but my wife is in disagreement with my choice for myself and is making more independent choices for herself. Ironically, my kids have taken more interest in reading the Bible with me because the choice is theirs, not something I am making them do. They are both at older ages where they are expressing a desire to learn independence and I am slowly trying to breed that as well in them. They have to have their OWN relationship with Christ, not rely on mine to fill their void.

    As far as loneliness, I am not lonely, but definitely alone at home with my wife in relation to faith. Luckily, God has placed me with a co-worker/friend man who is walking parallel with me in his own life and we have a lot of good conversation.

    The other week, I sat in a parking lot reading the Bible at the same hour my usual church service was happening. I felt a need at that time to go down to a place by a nearby river and away from the busy parking lot, and when I got there, there was an old woman who’s car had broken down and nobody was around to help. I spent the entire hour getting her on her way and in that hour, had the opportunity to talk with her about her faith and my own journey. Although she was not yet having a relationship with Christ, she was open to hear about mine as I helped her along. I felt God directed me down to her so that I could love her back onto the road and I thought to myself. “I”m Glad I was available for that hour”.


  30. Wayne and all,

    I am late to this conversation and maybe the moment has passed. But I tink about community a lot. And I hear in people’s comments that longing to connect, to know, to be safe. I share those same longings.

    I don’t have the answer but I would offer this. What if the longing each of us feels is not meant for this life? What if we have bought the advertisement that says you can have it all. You want deep, intimate, safe relationships – that is the standard Christian experience. And then we find ourselves missing out.

    Over the course of my life, I can count ‘close’ friends on one hand. I would describe them as friends who would always take me in and open their fridge to me. We have a bond that time doesn’t diminish and doesn’t require a weekly check-in to maintain.

    I have a broad range of friends and acquaintances. These are people I enjoy spending time with, see at parties or kids functions. We connect, we share stories and we move on. Sometimes we have dinner. Often we are all too busy to connect regularly.

    So this longing for community and relationship I get it. I just question if is real this side of eternity.

    Because honestly when I say community – I think I mean I want people around me that love me, are fascinated with me, accept me as I am, care about my dreams, would never betray me. And I have concluded that only God fills that bill.

    When we let the fantasy of community receded we can enjoy the random experiences of community when they occur. And then community becomes a gift not an expectation.

    Hope that isn’t too confusing.

  31. Jesus has answered my questions about loneliness in reading Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray.
    1. God Accomplishes Your Surrender
    “ “My God, I am willing that Thou shouldst make me willing.” If there is anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is, and be not afraid that He will command from you what He will not bestow.”
    I don’t have to do it myself. God will do it. He loves me with an everlasting love. I can trust Him. I just have to be willing.
    “Alas! alas! that God’s children have such thoughts of Him, such cruel thoughts. Oh, I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you. Do we not read: “It is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure”? And that is what we should seek for — to go on our faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed sight. God Himself will work it in you.
    2. God Accepts Your Surrender
    If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment, without intermission, will not God let His life shine upon you every moment? And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that trust.

    “O God, I accept Thy demands. I am thine and all that I have. Absolute surrender is what my soul yields to Thee by divine grace.”

    3. God maintains your surrender.”
    Because I have asked Him to maintain that Surrender and help me die daily he does. When I desire people more than Him he keeps me alone.
    This is my walk. Other people may not choose this path. It makes sense to me. I just hope I can remember this when I start hankering over what other people have.

  32. As I can relate to so many points that have been raised on this subject I thought I’d share a couple of my realizations and experiences.

    About six months before I left the fellowship I was very involved in, I felt the Lord challenge me as to how I would survive on a desert island. It seemed a strange thought but I started pondering and realized quite quickly that my dependence was on the folks around me and my self worth very much related to my busyness in that organization. I was in fact so busy “serving” that I didn’t have time for people. There was no time to visit my family and no time to engage with people outside the fellowship. My six night a week involvement was my choice, not a requirement, but looking back I realized that I really loved the validation it gave me as a person. When my time there was over I did find myself on a “desert island” in a manner of speaking.

    Following the departure of myself and others, three times we were given a word of encouragement from Christians that were, until they happened briefly to cross our paths, unknown to us. It was “Be still and know that I am God”. This was so hard to do but vital for me if I was to move to a more healthy, balanced spiritual experience.

    Several months later I woke one morning feeling so desperately lonely. I was single, in my mid thirties and all friends and social contacts in my age group were still in the institution and I was “unclean”. As I walked down my hall towards the kitchen that morning, I literally cried out “Lord I’m so Lonely”. As I turned into the kitchen I was enveloped in His presence. Tears of joy and relief just flowed from my eyes as I experienced the arms of His love enfolding and holding me and His peace filling me. It was just the confirmation I needed to know I was where He wanted me to be at that time.

    Since hearing the podcast a couple of weeks back I’ve been pondering and would probably now liken my desert island experience to time in an isolation ward of an infectious disease hospital. Until the religious sickness that permeated my being had been brought under control, it was important for me to be isolated. It was good for me to come to terms with the fact that I had been contaminated and helpful for me to recognize to some extent, the symptoms of my condition.

    One of the most important realizations for me over this time and subsequent years has been that my emotions are fickle and not to be trusted. So my bottom line has become “Lord I love you and I trust you” and it’s from that point, and in the knowledge that I’m totally and unconditionally loved by my father, I endeavor to address whatever set of circumstances comes my way. Of course I still get messed up in my emotions but then I’m reminded that they are fickle, can be manipulated and are not necessarily to be trusted. He however, is never fickle, can not be manipulated and can be totally trusted.

    If I remember correctly back in the early 70s, Berkeley University’s Psychology Department did an experiment on Campus which was subsequently made into a TV movie called “The Wave”. It’s some four decades since I saw the movie but it had a profound effect on me. They worked on the students’ need to belong, need to be needed and need for a sense of purpose. I think the experiment lasted just a semester but in the end they had to tell the students that they had unwittingly bought into an experiment and that it was all in fact, an illusion. The fall out as you can imagine was devastating. I see a real parallel with what seems to be occurring in a lot of religious situations today.

    Someone also mentioned how isolating long term illness is. It’s about 20 years now since I had to give up my work and go on welfare due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. I’m very thankful that this country (NZ) has a system in place that has taken care of me over this time. The living is basic, but Jesus and I have come to know each other even better as a result. Consequently I feel I’ve gained far more over these years through having this condition than I would have done had I remained healthy. I also have had to deal with chemical sensitivities and numerous food allergies which greatly impact any ability to socialize or travel.

    Up until this illness I had still been able to do things that satisfied and aided my sense of worth. Now all that had come to an end. It was again time to readdress my perceptions of what successful human living was all about. It has made me realize that many people are marginalized by religious society because of their circumstances. I had never considered this before. The expectation while I was attending the institution was to get to all the meeting and be involved in serving etc. I had never before considered those that were not able to do this for one reason or another. Did God love them any less? Of course not, but what is the message they are receiving from able bodied members.

    It is so liberating to know that no matter what our circumstances, everyone can have a deep and intimate experience with the Lord. Everyone can walk through their day in fellowship with him. We might not always be able to go out and met with others or invite others home as often as we would wish but we can pray. This over the years, has given me a sense of purpose in times when I’ve felt very isolated and quite useless.

    Life definitely has seasons and over the years I’ve been on this journey, there have been times when it’s been possible for me to walk beside others, times when I could barely get out of bed and disappointing times when a rare opportunity to meet with others has had to be cancelled at the last moment for health reasons. However it’s through these episodes that I’ve come to realized just how important an email, text or phone call is to those whose circumstances have limited their ability to get out and about. It’s just a little thing any of us can do but means so much to those on the receiving end.

    One other thing I’ve found extremely helpful in coping with life’s transitions is to have a dog (or two). I realize this is not always possible but I’m lucky to be living in a small country town where walking a dog is a very easy way to met people and strike up friendships. 🙂

  33. I enjoy reading the comments here but want to add that while some have been through this season of their journey, others haven’t or are in the middle of one, like myself. We come out of these seasons with different insights and perspectives because we each bring different experiences into them.

    My loneliness is also complicated with chronic depression, so as I hear the positive experiences people have I sometimes wonder why I don’t come away with the same positive spirit they do, then feel awful. I try to remember that my experience will be different and is no less or more than that of someone else, it’s just that God works through my loneliness in a different way, unique to my own journey and my needs. The positive of my journey may just be that I survived through it to see another day, and that is all.

    I say this to actually encourage those who are steeped in their struggle with loneliness and can’t seem to escape. We go through these seasons together, never alone, with our Triune God of Love and compassion. Those who have come out on the other side and positive in spirit–please walk hand-in-hand with those of us who are still hurting. In the church what affects one member indeed affects the other. 1 Cor 12:25-26. Even our own physical bodies tell us this.

    I believe loneliness at it’s core is a call to give attention to and support the “weak” member, a call for unity in love among us.

  34. Wayne,
    I don’t read your site as often as I think I should. However this really hit home tonight. God has been taking me on a journey the last few years. We met at the in-n-out at Sand Canyon at leat 6 years ago. We we interviewing you to be our speaker at mens retreat at Heartland camp a few months later. You agreed and by the time Jan came atound I had read all your postings. I still have them in a binder to read on occasion. That retreat showed me a window into Christ that I never knew existed. It also prepared me for the journey of being on the outside looking in with the church. A few years ago the leaders went to an elder plan and I found out that that there are two classes of Christians. Having been divorced over 40 years in the past and before I accepted the Lord, I was found to be a second class member. That is my term, it was just explaned to me that the divorce made me unfit to serve in a leadership role.

    Since then, I (we) eventually left and while we are attending another church, which my wife of 40+ years loves. For me the experience has shown that my time with Jesus is all that matters. He has answered me a number of times by showing me what he wants me to in the real world and with the people there. Yes it has been a lonely few years and I have had fallen at times, but as I depended more on the Lord and less on the world it all changed. I focus on what Jesus said (the red letters) and not the latest thing to come down the church line. I found a copy of John Piper’s book “what Jesus demands”. It is a great book and I am using it for an informal mens group at work. I call it tool time with Jesus. We compare life solutions vs Jesus solutions.
    Last, I received a word I would like to share. Jesus said to take his yoke and that it would be light. The word I got was that when the yoke was painfull, I was pulling away and when it was heavy, I was pulling ahead. He just asks us to walk with Him each day!
    Love you man!

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