One funny thing about loneliness is that it makes you, at times, want to avoid people.
On paper, the cure for loneliness is simple: community. But something about the actual experience of lack can lead you to detach from others, avoiding communion with the Lord and hiding your feelings from those God has placed around you to help bear your burdens. You want to be supported, heard, and helped, but you don’t want to be fully surrendered to the Lord or totally transparent with others. You feel weak, but you don’t want to admit your weakness. You know you need help, but you’re uncomfortable being helped. In short, you feel a lack of something needed, but you shy away from the solution.
But it’s not just avoidance; it’s often also a pursuit of false solutions. You give your time and effort to work or to entertainment, keeping yourself busy to try to smother your feelings or outlast them, but such attempts don’t work. You may turn to others, but you look for an outlet for complaints or permission to sulk instead of embracing challenge and support, seeking echoes of your own voice rather than words of truth. You might try to use Scripture and songs to feed your self-pity rather than trusting in the Lord and taking steps by faith.
When God reveals a lack of something in my life, I know intellectually that only God will satisfy and fulfill me. I know that through his word and through his people he has provided the means to appropriately respond to need. I find myself drawn elsewhere, however, shortchanging time with the Lord as I grumble and groan at the inability of lesser things to fill me. Instead of turning to the God who can actually heal me, I keep running to temporary solutions while I postpone actually dealing with the issue.
I find this tendency at work outside of the spiritual realm too. On multiple occasions, for example, I’ve tried to fight off sinus infections with vitamin C and over the counter meds. Each time, though I knew one typically needs antibiotics to treat such problems, I suffered through extended periods of time fighting (and losing) against the infection until I eventually broke down and went to a doctor. It wasn’t fun. I would walk for days in a DayQuil/NyQuil haze, treating symptoms instead of the actual problem, until I accepted that my methods didn’t work.
Similarly, I suffer when I disbelieve Jesus. He called all those who labor and are heavy laden to come to him and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30). He united believers together into a family, a body that bears one another’s burdens and supports the health of the whole (Galatians 6:1-10). Though we do not perfectly accomplish this work, we nonetheless function best when we live and work together, even though that can be difficult. From the earliest days of the church, health came from close communion with God and with each other (Acts 2:42-47).
I don’t always like what I see when God shines light into my heart and mind. Where I think myself selfless, I often find selfishness. Where I think myself humble, I often find pride. When I pay close attention to the priorities of my life, I find much more of myself than I find of Christ, and I struggle to love him and his people well. Thankfully, God remains faithful and forgiving, as does his church. His Spirit works through the community of believers to strengthen and to equip individuals that they, in turn, may strengthen and equip the body (1 Corinthians 12). May we, then, be faithful to our Lord and to his people. May we be humble, teachable, transparent. And may we look up from our lack to the Lord who both knows us and loves us.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.