"The answer to our loneliness is love--not our finding someone to love us, but our surrendering to the God who has always loved us with an everlasting love." Elisabeth Elliot

What if Your Loneliness is an Invitation from God?

Soon I will discover what it is like to be alone in the house after my husband leaves for work. There will be no sleepy teenager glued to his bed and in need of resurrection. For the first time in twenty-one years, there will be no homeschooling routine to wrestle with–a change I welcome, but in the back of my mind, there is the real possibility that my unfamiliar alone time might turn out to be a season of loneliness.

Passing the halfway mark of 2020, loneliness is all around us. Flirting with emergence from COVID-19 isolation, we crave the sight and sound of friends and family–even from a social distance. My own small day-time solitude will be interspersed with times of connection and will end every day with the blessed return of my husband.

However, when Elisabeth Elliot wrote about loneliness, she shared a perspective unique to a widow, a cross-cultural missionary, a single parent, a care-giver to a dying man–all deeply isolating roles with very little comfort in sight. Even so, she persevered in the belief that loneliness can be a “pathway to holiness,” and offered timeless insight:

The answer to our loneliness is love–not our finding someone to love us, but our surrendering to the God who has always loved us with an everlasting love.”

The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot

Jason Gaboury echoes this challenge in Wait with Me: Meeting God in Loneliness. Asking the question, “What if your loneliness is an invitation to friendship with God?” frames God as the pursuer of my heart and reframes the wilderness, not as a place of abandonment, but rather as an occasion for intimacy with the God who meets me there.

Gaboury invites readers into an imaginative reading of Scripture–not as a replacement for inductive study, but as an enhancement to the relationship God extends to us whenever we meet him over the feast of his Word. Rejecting the isolation of anxiety and ambition, the believer finds inspired words, crafted by a lonely psalmist or an angry prophet to demonstrate that God is neither surprised nor repelled by the raw emotion that travels alongside our loneliness.

The goal (and the great challenge) for 21st century believers is to pay attention in the grip of loneliness. With our average attention span plummeting in ten years from 20 seconds down to 9 seconds, we have become masters of distraction, plugging into Netflix or a phone app whenever we’re threatened with the mere twinge of unpleasantness.

Since God does not avoid complexity, it should come as no surprise to us that his invitation embedded in our times of loneliness is multi-layered. Gaboury shared a question posed by his mentor that has changed my thinking forever:

What if the loneliness that drives you to seek consolation was meant to expand your heart in compassion for Jesus? You can’t love someone you don’t know, and you only know someone whose experience you’re willing to enter into with empathy and compassion.”

Entering into a true friendship with Jesus involves staying awake to his suffering, waiting with him as he asked his first-century disciples to do. We are called to pay attention to the patient and persistent call of God to pray with our fellow-worshipers, to expand the boundaries of our heart in order to make room for those who feel that just maybe they’ve done things that exempt them from invitation to the feast around God’s table.

Are you willing to acknowledge your own sense of loneliness if it means entering into a greater understanding of others and a deeper life with God?

Do you sense that God is inviting you to be present to someone today in a demonstration of his love?

May we experience God’s transforming work,

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Wait with Me: Meeting God in Loneliness or The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God by Elisabeth Elliot simply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo by Conrad Ziebland on Unsplash

43 thoughts on “What if Your Loneliness is an Invitation from God?”

  1. Hey Michele,

    Gosh! YOu’ve finally reached that school free state!!! How AMAZING! I wondered if you would ever get out … and here you are … wondering if that’s all there was to it. Bless you!!!

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    1. This most definitely got me thinking about loneliness. As of now, I am not going through a season of loneliness as far as I always have people at home with me. But sometimes, I still miss connections that I used to have as far as a social life. Chronic illness journey, you do face a certain amount of loneliness in that sense. I most definitely agree that growing that deeper connection with God, is so vital. “Wait With Me” seems like a great book that encourages what we all need!

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  2. I never thought I would say it but I have come to treasure those days when I am “alone”. Truly those are the days I draw nearer to Him. They also have been the means by which I have come to treasure my time with my family ever so deeply.

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  3. When my youngest son left for college, I was sad for about 10 minutes! 🙂 Of course, I was still teaching full time then and therefore not subject to loneliness. This time of COVID is different. I do feel the sadness of loneliness creeping in at times. Looking that loneliness as an invitation for a deeper relationship with Christ is something I never would have thought of on my own. Thank you for these thoughts!

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    1. I was captivated by the idea that we are invited to have compassion for Christ in his loneliness and rejection. That was a new thought for me.
      And I hope I transition as quickly and as well as you have!

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  4. 2020 is definitely going to be an odd time for you to begin the empty-nest season. But I have a hunch you won’t be lonely, Michele. I look forward to seeing what you’ll be getting into next! 🙂

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  5. Michele, I am in a similar boat. Our youngest graduates in December. While we have three still living at home, they all work (the youngest will be full time after graduation) so I will be alone for the first time in my life. It is a weird feeling. Knowing I won’t be homeschooling, knowing I’ll be alone. Thank you for your sharing your words and heart. ♥

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    1. Jenifer, it’s so good to hear from another mum, teetering on the edge of that empty nest. Today, it dawned on me that I don’t even know what to call myself right now. Stay-at-home parent, homeschooling mum… I’m really neither now.
      I’d love to hear more from you as you continue to process.

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  6. “God does not avoid complexity,” – Need to remember this. Sometimes we think we need to understand something before taking it to God, but we don’t, and he can handle and does welcome the complexity.

    Michele, right now with hubby and son at home for the past how many months, I am missing being alone part of the day. And yes, I love the invitation to spend time with God. A recent podcast reminded me that time with God is not just quiet time (studying his word and praying), but actually spending time with him, like we do our friends. Just hanging out together. And that many of us are missing this.

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    1. I have been processing this as well–both the “invasion” of my alone time 😁 and the need for fellowship with God. When my mind wanders in prayer, I have tended to get frustrated, but isn’t that the nature of conversation?

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  7. That’s one book of Elisabeth’s that I have never read. For many years, my husband had to travel much more than either of us liked. Though I chafed and prayed (and sometimes wailed) to the Lord that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, that I didn’t get married just to sit home alone so much, those were times of drawing close to Him.

    Now, as I tend toward more alone time than some would be comfortable with (and I’m struggling with not having as much with husband and son working from home), it’s easy for me to forget to reach out to others who might not be wired the same way.

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  8. Oh, thank you for this today, this very day, for yesterday, I was thinking that I might be “depressed.” Now that is not anything I want nor feel proud to be. I pray and depend upon God, but you know where I am falling down? I am not in His Word near what I need to be, near what He wants of me. How can I know His love and not feel alone when I am not in the Word that my current blog post is about? Oh my! Thank You, Lord Jesus, for speaking through Michelle.

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    1. I am honored beyond words, and so appreciate your sharing this struggle, and your wise conclusion. Isn’t it Just incredible that we can enter God’s presence and know him through His word?

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  9. Hi Michele – there’s a huge difference between being “alone” and being “lonely” and I think our attitude is the key. If we find our identity in others, then their absence will cause us a lot of distress. Alternatively if we find our self worth and identity in God and in our own sense of self, we can find alone time to be really rewarding. I think you’re going to enjoy all that extra time you have on your hands – it can be the start of a whole new life direction.

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  10. I love spending alone time with my Lord, which in chronic health conditions is a lot! But seeing Him in the light of His suffering brings such a new depth to our relationship.
    Bless you,
    Jennifer

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  11. Michele,
    Wow! I think it’s time for YOU to write that book for which you’ve been doing a lifetime of research!! I love this post. We are created to be in relationship with our heavenly Father and His love is the ultimate comfort in our loneliness. Human love cannot be a substitute. May we be less distracted and more tuned into His loving call to our hearts.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  12. Your posts indicate an introspective side to your personality, Michele. As such, you’ll undoubtedly find this next chapter of your life, with its new experience of alone time, to be a delightful blessing. The extra hours will fill themselves as you read reflect, and write. You’ll also have more time to minister to others. And before long you’ll be relishing your new routine and the freedom of the empty nest, even while looking forward to every homecoming or visit to your sons!

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  13. I seem to find that God likes to keep me on my toes and that as one chapter of my life concludes, I find there is something new to keep me busy. I am sure that you will find that God will fill your time with a new challenge! #DreamTeam

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  14. Church is a place I could see myself drawn to in later years for the companionship and kindness it offers also. Thanks for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back later this week

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  15. Change is always so challenging, especially when it is a part of the seasons in our lives changing. Although I was lonely when my son grew up and left home, I did find that things evolved so the time was quickly filled with new activities and contacts. I am sure this will be the case for you too. I am so grateful you shared this post, Michelle as I am sure it will help a lot of people in similar circumstances, particularly now when loneliness is so rife with the pandemic. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party Community!

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  16. I know many people wrestle with loneliness. I have been blessed to only have one time that I remember ever really feeling lonely and I know now that it was a spiritual attack.
    Lovely and relevant post, as always!!

    I’m so happy to see your link at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!! Thanks for linking up with us.

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  17. You’ll never be lonely Michele, for you are so full of joy and optimism, and you are content. It radiates out of your blog posts like sunshine sparkling across the ocean. Plus… you’ll always have us to chatter to! Enjoy your new time which will bring space to grow in all sorts of directions. As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts with the #DreamTeamLinky

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  18. I’m actually the opposite Michele, these days my time is so unbelievably occupied with my baby twins and two other daughters that I rarely have time to think, let alone do anything for myself. It’s a struggle. Sometimes I want to be selfish and have some time to myself but that doesn’t happen too often these days. When I feel like this and yearn for some alone time I remind myself of how lucky I am to have this family. My heart goes out to anyone who is alone. When we have people around us who love us we are very blessed indeed. Thank you as always for sharing your words of wisdom with us at #globalblogging

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  19. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

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  20. I think that lockdown has made many people re-evaluate their lives and increased loneliness for some. I hope that those feeling lonely can reach out to those in their community who may feel the same for the benefit of both. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

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