Loneliness is prevalent in our society. The rising numbers of single adults, the breakdown of the family and the loss of neighborhood and community have all contributed to an immense sense of loneliness in many people's lives. Janis Joplin who died at 27 said, "When I am not on stage I just lie around, watch TV and feel very lonely." Thomas Wolfe the great American novelist wrote, "Loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and a few solitary men, is a central and inevitable fact of human existence."
If you feel lonely know God cares for you. He knows about loneliness. Jesus experienced the greatest loneliness of all when he was forsaken by the Father on the cross. God knows and cares. The response to loneliness may be to take up a new hobby, make more time for friends or get a pet. Loneliness is seen as something that is bad and we must do something to overcome it. God's way is different. God can help transform it into something beneficial for us. Here are four benefits of loneliness.
Loneliness can cause us to seek God in a Deeper Way
We are so busy these days that we often leave little time for God. When we are alone God has the opportunity to speak to our hearts and receive our undivided attention. Many times in the gospels we are told that Jesus went away to a lonely place to be with the Father. Jesus sought out solitude or loneliness so he could seek the Father's will for his life. Many of the early church fathers were called desert fathers because they sought out the desert as a lonely place to find God. In Hebrew the word for lonely can also be translated as solitude or desert.
When we are alone and seek after God we will be rewarded. He will give us increased the discernment so desperately needed today. This kind of guidance and wisdom does not come without a setting apart time to be with God. Sometimes God causes us to seek him by driving us to him by the loneliness we experience. Loneliness is a great benefit if we have drawn closer to Christ.
Loneliness can be used by God to Develop Our Character
In loneliness God reveals our deficiencies and works on changing them. God will test and many times increase our patience while we wait through our loneliness. Our weaknesses are revealed in our aloneness, which God can then use to become our strength. Paul knew the power of weaknesses becoming strengths when he said, "When I am weak then I am strong." When we are all alone our commitment is tested and our true character shines through. Being faithful even if alone gives confidence we will be faithful together.
Amy Carmichael knew something about loneliness. She was a missionary to India for 55 years and twice because of accidents had to spend months alone. In her solitude she wrote many books. In one of her books called Gold By Midnight, there is a boy who takes a walk in the woods and in the deepest, darkest place finds a patch of lovely orchids. In that lonely place God brought forth great beauty. God clarifies and develops our character through loneliness.
Loneliness can be used by God to Inspire Greater Creativity
Carl Sandburg wrote, "Shakespeare, Leonardo de Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio or looked at a TV. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that then the creative mood in them would work." If there was ever a day for creativity it is today. Creative problem solvers are needed in our world. Imagine the great things that God would do through each of us if we could tap into the creativity we have. This past week I spent three days along in order to write. I got more done in three days alone than I could in three weeks with people around.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together and talked about the need for community and for solitude. He said, "If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ's call to you and you can have no part in the community of those who are called." He wrote such strong words because he knew the importance of time alone with God. God wants to give us dreams and visions of what can be done through us and he is calling us to aloneness. Your greatest achievement can be birthed out of your loneliness.
Loneliness can create in us a Desire to Serve
When we are away from other people we can come to appreciate all of humanity more. If we learn in our loneliness we will have a sharpened sensitivity to others. Just as there is a time apart there is also a time to be in community. True community involves our serving one another in Christian love. Sometimes the very fact of our loneliness stems from our sitting instead of serving.
A boy once asked a lonely old man, "What is life's heaviest burden?" The man responded by saying, "To have nothing to carry." We are needed to do the work of the ministry no one else but us can do. In our loneliness we can see what the needs are and then determine how God can use us to meet them. There is so much to be done and God may have to put us in a lonely place for a season so that we can get a true burden to serve.
God makes a home for the lonely. It is a place where he can work in us; it is a place that can be very beneficial to us. It is not a place to avoid for you are not ever alone. God will never forsake you, but he will transform you.