I lifted my windshield wiper to retrieve a frozen pink rose on a cold Valentine’s Day years ago. A freshman in college, I stopped by my car to eat a snack after a morning class. And excitedly wondered who sent me this surprise as my heart pounded in anticipation. Starting up the engine for warmth, I rubbed my palms together and opened the attached card. The rose was from my mother and her words in the card is kind, encouraging, so why did I still feel empty inside? The truth is, I wished the rose was from a secret admirer. A young man, not my mother. My last date spaced far after a previous one I longed for romance to fill me up. My loneliness combined into a frustrating mixture like a cup with no bottom. No matter what I put inside the cup, I didn’t feel full. Roses, chocolates, books, TV shows, fantasies relationships couldn’t fill it. Loneliness seemed to be the only thing filling a bottomless space, and I am weary of its constant haunting presence. My parents divorced when I was 4 years old, the day my daddy left was a day loneliness took up permanent residence in my heart and mind; though I wished it will go away I had no power to push it out the door loneliness lingers on every time I crave love and attention from people’s love its in short supply.In high school, I developed resentment over flowers and gifts I saw lined up in the cafeteria every February 14. None of them were for me. I believed the devil’s whispered lie, None of them will ever be for you. You’ll always be lonely. About 15 years after that frozen-rose morning, I sat in a counselor’s office. Listening to my stories of constant loneliness, he said, “Relationships are very important to you, aren’t they?” It was his simple, judgment-free question that became a pivotal point in my spiritual journey. A few days after counseling session, God nudged me with a new idea: Perhaps its relationships too important to me yet I was a wife, mother of three and a friend to many, I still felt lonely. God showed me truth to learn from HIS Word: “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people” says Psalm 118:8. For far too long, I looked to people to fill me up. My husband, children, best friend, small group companions couldn’t remove my loneliness. They were never designed to completely fill my needs and I realized only God could is my refuge so my safe place and my salvation.Though people are wonderful, they are not infinite so are not always available when we need them, and none of them provide perfect understanding. God is infinite Revelation 1:8, everpresent says Deuteronomy 31:6 and all-knowing says 1 Chronicles 28:9. As we study His ways, we learn God is ready, able and willing to fill us with HIS LOVE. We learn this best by hiding in HIS place of refuge so the more time I spent in God’s presence, the less I depended on relationships to meet all my needs. My time with loved ones became bonuses on top of loving intimacy I enjoyed with Jesus. No longer required evident proof of a human love on Valentine’s Day or any other day. God is our refuge in lonely times and more than enough proof He loves us. Yet some inherit loneliness from mothers o we inherit loneliness from our parents in the same way we inherit our hair and eye colour? Two women explain how loneliness played a part in their lives and how it relates to their parents and children. “Loneliness is constant. No matter where I am, it just doesn’t go away. It’s like you can feel it in your bones, this deep feeling of wanting to fit in and wanting to be around people you know and love, but you can’t. “I do think I inherited it. It’s kind of been passed on to me. Angel Kissi and her mum Hayley, struggle with anxiety, depression and loneliness. Her mum’s spark by severe post-natal depression in Angel, it started when she was a child. “My family stood out in Peterborough. Everyone knew who we were because we look different. I’m tall and mixed race and I stood out,” says the 20-year-old. “When I went to university, things were good but I still felt like I didn’t fit in. I thought moving to London would change it but it didn’t. “I felt like I was quiet and awkward. I struggled to connect with people, make friends straight away. Some go out for drinks after class, I was never invited. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I stopped going to lectures, get up, ready to go and go back to bed. I avoid going to shared areas of my flat, I shut myself away and isolated myself. I went into the loneliness and let it take over.”Hayley struggle with anxiety depression and loneliness after Angel was born. So unable to cope, Angel left the university before first year was over. She felt a strong desire to go home and be close to her mum rented a room close-by. “It’s good we don’t live together because we bring each other up, down all the time. She helped me with some aspects of my mental health but at times I didn’t want to speak to her because I didn’t want to make her worse. “If she was different, I will be different. I don’t blame her at all, she didn’t choose to be like this, it’s not her fault. It’s something I have got from her. Personality traits or attitudes I’ve learnt from her without meaning to.”Angel Kissi struggled with loneliness from a young age According to Age UK, loneliness is defined as feeling a lack of affection, closeness or social interaction with others.The charity Mind says it is not a mental health issue but research says its associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and stress triggered by major life events of bereavement, relationship break-ups or retirement, changing jobs and moving. Dr Rebecca Nowland, who researched the subject of loneliness said it can be passed down in families. “I don’t think we will find a gene for loneliness but it’s response to an experience of loneliness that may be genetic,” she said. “There is a number of studies that loneliness is hereditary so runs in families and there might be associations between parent’s loneliness and a child’s loneliness. The parented who has been in a lonely state for some time might transmit some of the negative feelings of negativity might be happening than their experience of loneliness itself.”Kirsty McGrath fears passing feelings of loneliness to her children. Kirsty McGrath thinks loneliness was problem for her after her son was born five years ago. She tried going to mother and baby groups to make new friends but a struggle to organise play dates so found herself increasingly isolated. Although her husband supports her in evening, she finds daytimes difficult because she is alone and has no-one to talk to. The 33-year-old teacher, lives in Eltham, south London says she is worried of not being able to socialise her children will have an effect on them. She might pass own feelings of loneliness, described as a “grey cloud.“I am paranoid of passing it on to the kids, I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. I am aware of so I want them to feel comfortable around others and not feel like they don’t fit in. “My son came home from school and said to me he did not have friends and he hasn’t played with anyone. I’m worried he is like this because of me didn’t put him in enough social situations to know how to mix with others.” Loneliness is the common experience among new parents finding groups with shared interests to focus on new parenting skill way to cope says Dr Nowland. Dr Faruq Fazal a GP worked in mental health services on loneliness sats people lack a support network and believes teaching coping skills in school could help. “Nobody really teaches you how to cope through life’s challenges. For those suffering from loneliness, it’s not just about physically having people around you, it’s when you feel you’re not able to talk to people and you don’t have any emotional support,” he says. “I see people don’t have a support network so their coping strategy is gone.” Do not isolate yourself from family or friends.Mind suggests a number of ways to manage loneliness, includes peer support talking therapies. Dr Nowland says seeking professional advice can help those stuck in a cycle of behaviour brought about by loneliness. “Loneliness leaves you with emotional feeling quite painful and distressing. If someone is lonely and they felt it for a long time but realising it’s not ok helps overcome developed negative thought patterns. “You need help with cognitive behaviour therapy to help you think and reframe things.” Angel’s counselling helped with anxiety but not helped with her feelings of loneliness. She returned to university but decided to focus on her mental health, work, and learning to drive. “Loneliness is different from anxiety and it’s different from not being able to make friends,” she says. “Anxiety isolates but loneliness felt at university separate from people in your own little world. “I’m in a relationship and close to my family but loneliness is still there. Overall, things improve a lot, but I don’t know if it’s ever going to go.” A Mayor inundated with lonely citizens appoints specialist councillor says, ‘Bureaucracy dehumanises so we are becoming living robots,’ is mayor of a small Italian town.The mayor of a small town in northern Italy appointed a loneliness councillor being overwhelmed by citizens calling to discuss their problems. So Antonella Argenti elected mayor of Villa del Conte, town of 5,400 people in Veneto region, in May last year noted some inhabitants struggling to cope “You wouldn’t believe it,” she told La Stampa. “In the first few months of my mandate, so many people came to see me. All, young, old, wo/men, complained about problems of the same type of loneliness, the lack of a support network. “Alone with phone take care of bills talk to the automated switchboard refers you to yet other recorded voices. Relationships are missing. Bureaucracy dehumanise all becoming living robots. The Pescueza village in Spain with 130 people with two thirds over 65 years old is adapted to care and provide for their needs. Rails attached to walls to hold on to while walking out and about, slipfree floor to ensure the don’t slip and fall. Its said they are given phones to press red button for emergency needs urgently attended to. They are fed, their clothes are washed for them and transport sent to those who find walking challenging. They have a daycentre where they meet to socialise and a gym tailored to their needs to exercise daily.
Lord, thank You for never abandoning me in my lonely times. I confess I have tried too hard to fill up my lonely spaces with relationships or things that can never fill me up. Remind me when I hide away in my safe place with You, I will experience Your perfect peace. Meet me in my loneliness with Your loving presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 118:8-9 Its better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people so put your CONFIDENCE IN GOD.
Jeremiah 17:5-8, Thus says the LORD God, Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength so he heart departs from the LORD God.
Psalm 59:17, “O God my Strength, to you I sing praises, O God, my refuge, shows me unfailing love”
Psalm 142:5, “I pray to you, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life above all things”
If you need help to overcome lies satan whispers to you? Grab a copy of Sarah Geringer’s book, Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus.
Sarah writes about loneliness, healing, and finding peace in God’s Word at sarahgeringer.com.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Which days cause loneliness to haunt you most? How can you turn to God as your refuge in those lonely times? Share your ideas in our comments section.
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© 2020 by Sarah Geringer.