Loneliness is a feeling many of us would rather avoid at all costs. But what if the very thing that causes so much discontent, could be a heavenly tool in the hands of God? The truth is, loneliness doesn’t have to be viewed as a curse but as a gift, if we receive it with a pure heart and the attitude. Discover how it is possible to treasure seasons of loneliness when realize you are never alone with Jesus by your side.
Leslie Ludy: Hi everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. In today’s episode we’re going to be talking about loneliness. If you’ve chosen to live a life that is set apart for Christ, then chances are you’ve experienced loneliness, or maybe the sense that people in your life don’t always understand or support the decisions that you’re making.
Navigating Loneliness for the Glory of God
Leslie Ludy: Maybe you relate to the words of Psalm 73:25, where the psalmist says, “Whom have in heaven but You?” I know that in my own life, when I finally chose to radically follow Jesus Christ, I had to make a lot of really hard decisions. I had to pull away from friendships that were steering me away from Jesus Christ. I had to give up my pursuit of popularity and a bustling social life so that I truly could build my life around Jesus Christ, and spend the amount of time that I needed at His feet. So I went from a very intense swirling social life and having loads of friends that I was constantly in contact with, to suddenly feeling very alone, very isolated. And yet that time of loneliness became the foundation for everything significant that God wanted to do in my life, including my love story with Eric.
Some of the things that God taught me in that season of loneliness was first and foremost how to find my satisfaction in Jesus Christ — how to turn to Him first without feeling that I always had to have another person to process all of my thoughts and feelings with. I needed to learn to be content in Him. I needed to learn how to be at peace without having a huge circle of friends around me, or always being in a romantic relationship. And up to that time in my life I was not at rest unless I was with my friends, or I was in a romantic relationship. God was telling me, “Until you’re satisfied in Me, until you’re content and at peace without those things in your life, then you’re not truly ready for real romance, or a real friendships. You’re always looking to other people to meet needs in your life that only I can fill.”
So I went through a time of learning how to truly make Jesus Christ my first love. I still had friendships in my life, but they were just a few friendships, and they were people who truly led me closer to Him. And I realized I wouldn’t really be ready for a romantic relationship that was going to point me closer to Jesus Christ until I was willing to be content without one, content in Jesus Christ alone. Many times since that season of my life I have gone through times of loneliness, or times when I felt isolated or misunderstood. I’m so thankful for that first season of loneliness that God took me through because I learned so many things that have been invaluable throughout all my years as a Christian, and I always go back to the things that God taught me in that time of my life. So I want to share some of them with you today — three key things that God taught me in that season.
Key No. 1: Stand for Truth
Leslie Ludy: The first one was, that loneliness is a required course for leadership. I heard Elisabeth Elliot say that once, and I thought about that so many times. Loneliness is a required course for leadership. If we’re going to make an impact on this world, we have to learn how to stand strong in our convictions, whether or not others ever understand or approve of us. If we’ve learned to be at peace standing alone with what God has called us to regardless of what other people think of us, then we will be far less likely to compromise in order to win social approval. We have to let go of that fear of man that so many of us are prone to, and learn how to stand alone with Jesus even if no one else stands with Him, or with us.
I often refer back a lot to the story, that children’s story, about the emperor’s new clothes. There’s this emperor who is convinced by these deceiving weavers that they are weaving him this amazing, beautiful, magical clothing; when in reality, they’re weaving nothing. But they deceive him into thinking only people who are truly wise can see the fabric. If people are stupid and they’re not wise, then they won’t see anything. The emperor is too proud to admit that he doesn’t see anything, and the noblemen that he calls to watch the weaver’s weave are too proud that they don’t see anything, and so everyone is convinced that there really are clothes there. This all leads to the emperor marching through the city to show off his magical new clothes to all the townspeople, and no one is willing to speak up and say, “The emperor has no clothes!” And finally it’s a little child who has no concept of being afraid of what others think of her who finally yells it out, “Mommy! The emperor has no clothes!”
God needs to make us as a little child, where we are wiling to say what nobody else is willing to say, without fear of what others think. Of course we do this in the nature and the attitude of Jesus Christ, but when we are willing to stand alone on the side of truth, that’s when we’re truly ready to be a leader and make an impact on this world for the Kingdom of God.
Key No. 2: Find Fulfillment in Christ Alone
Leslie Ludy: Secondly, I learned that loneliness teaches complete fulfillment in Christ. When we’re single we often think we’ll be happy once we finally get married. And when we’re married we think we’ll be happy once our husband finally changes and becomes more sensitive to us — or even more dangerous, that we’ll only be happy if we marry someone different. Or maybe we fall into the trap of thinking that we’ll be happy once our circumstances change. But one thing that God had to teach me in that season of loneliness is that I had everything I needed for perfect happiness right now because I had Him.
I remember reading the story of a young American soldier who was captured during World War II by the Japanese. He was placed in a very filthy, horrible prison for years of his life, and he really thought he was going to die there. But one day someone slipped him a Bible, and he gave his life to Christ in that prison cell. Once he had Jesus in that cell with him, he realized that there was no place in the world he would rather be. He knew that if he was released from prison he would have all sorts of distractions and all sorts of other things he needed to do, but in this time of his life — in a prison cell — he was able to truly rest and be completely fulfilled in the presence of Jesus Christ.
That is such an incredible reminder that we have everything we need for Jesus Christ right now. Even if every relationship, or comfort, or pursuit that we have in our life right now was stripped away, we do have everything we need in Him. And He needs to bring us to that place where He is enough for us no matter what other things are in our life, or not in our life, He is always enough.
Why does God allow loneliness in our life? Well, often it’s to refine us, and purify us, and make us more like Him. If you’re going through a season of loneliness, He is very likely preparing you for something great to have an influence over others for His glory and to stand firm in your convictions. So don’t resist this season of loneliness; learn to embrace it as an amazing gift from Him.
Key No. 3: Turn to Jesus First
Leslie Ludy: The third thing I learned in that season of my life was that loneliness teaches us to go to the right source for strength. The example of Jesus is very convicting. When He was here on this earth He carried so much weight, He had so much to do in His ministry, and yet where He went for strength was to be alone with the Father. He went alone to a mountain to pray. He rose up early in the morning to find that strength that He needed.
We so often think that we have to vent our emotions to someone and share all of our hopes, and struggles, and fears with our girlfriends, or get advice from the experts — like that’s the only way we’re going to have strength to face what we’re going through. In our culture we so often exalt community, and friendships, and social activities above everything else. But we need to ask ourselves if we’re making the habit of going to Jesus first.
What if every other relationship was stripped out of our life? What if we were in a prison cell for years of our life? Would Jesus Christ truly be enough for us? The advice, encouragement, and friendship of others, yes, it is important, but it should never replace our intimate walk with Christ. It should only be an accent or a confirmation to what God is already doing in our soul.
Living Uprightly When Others Don’t Understand
Leslie Ludy: Here are a few things I want to share with you when other people don’t understand the choices and the convictions that you have in your life as you seek to live a set apart life for Christ. I remember one time being in a situation where I felt very alone. Eric and I were together at a relative’s house, and they wanted to show us their family’s favorite movie. We should have, in hinds’ sight, asked what movie it was before we let them put that DVD in, but instead we agreed to watch it with them. They wanted us to see this movie, and laugh they way they laughed at this movie. As they began to play this movie, Eric and I both realized it was the type of movie we shouldn’t be watching. It was full of crudeness and profanity, and it was very dishonoring to the name of Christ. Yet because of social pressure — because we didn’t want to offend — we stayed and watched that movie. And the rest of the evening we felt so alone, so isolated, so different from everyone around us thinking, “No one understands our convictions. How could we ever hope to explain them to anyone?” And yet we realized that we had compromised because of feeling alone and isolated. Because of feeling that social pressure, we had made the wrong decision. We had compromised our relationship with Christ, and that was something that we had to repent of.
1: Don’t Bend to Social Pressure
Leslie Ludy: I would encourage you, first and foremost, if you are around people who are asking you to lower your standards, always put your relationship with Jesus Christ first — even if it puts a strain in your relationship with other people. This doesn’t mean you need to be rude to them, or be haughty or prideful in how you react. You can be loving and consistent, and respond in the nature of Christ while still standing firm in your convictions, even if it makes you isolated and alone.
1 Peter 3:15-16, says, “..always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” Meekness here means a mildness of disposition, a gentleness of spirit. Fear means a reverence and a fear of God. So it’s the opposite of pride and arrogance. So be loving and consistent, and yet stand strong in your convictions and in the standard of set apart living that God has called you to.
2: Don’t Compromise to Keep the Peace
Leslie Ludy: Secondly, don’t compromise your standards just to keep the peace in your relationships. Always put Christ first, and remember that the Gospel and following Christ’s call on your life will sometimes bring division. Christ said, “If anyone…does not hate his father and mother, brothers and sisters … he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26). He didn’t mean that you need to feel hatred towards those people. In fact, that would be wrong! But He does mean that your commitment to Him should be so strong that every other relationship in your life pales in comparison to how important your relationship with Him is, and it has to be guarded above all else.
3: Don’t Criticize
Leslie Ludy: I would also encourage you to have the right attitude toward those who don’t agree with you. Oswald Chambers wrote, “God never gives us discernment that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” Oftentimes you may see something in someone’s life, or you may see the fact that they disagree with your standards. It’s not so that you can criticize them, or be prideful towards them. It’s so that you can intercede for them, and pray that God would draw their heart to Himself. 1 Peter 3:9, says, “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead;” (NASB) So don’t respond towards them the same way they are acting towards you. Respond with blessing. Respond with love. Resist the urge to get up and storm out of the room when someone is doing something that you don’t agree with. Often your quiet non-participation, instead of that in-your-face arguing, will have far more of an impact.
4: Don’t Forget to Pray
Leslie Ludy: And lastly, I would encourage you not to underestimate the power of prayer. My husband Eric did not grow up as a very strong Christian, and his older sister was a strong Christian. She saw so much compromise in his life, and it would have been very easy for her to just give up praying for him thinking, He’s never going to truly become serious about his walk with Christ. But she diligently prayed for him every single day, and when he was in college he radically gave his life to Jesus. The first person that he called was his sister, and he told her, “I’ve given my life to Christ, I’ve surrendered everything to Him.” All she could do was cry for joy because she had spent so many years faithfully praying for him. Often the people in your life that seem the least likely to change are the ones that God wants to rescue, so don’t give up praying for them!
Leslie Ludy: So some final thoughts I want to share with you about loneliness. Loneliness is part of the set apart life. Instead of seeing it as a problem that needs to be avoided at all costs, we need to see it for what it really is. It’s an opportunity to grow closer to Christ than we ever thought possible. It’s a chance to learn how to stand firm in our convictions no matter what others think. So if you want to be an effective leader or minister of the Gospel, loneliness is a required course.
I hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Set Apart Girl Podcast. I pray you have a blessed and Christ-centered week.