by Amanda Cox
I’m an introvert. Time alone is essential for me to recharge physically and mentally.
But I was not made to do life alone. My longing to be known by others tells me I was designed to be in relationship with others. Scripture confirms this. The Bible is essentially a how-to book about being in relationship with God and each other. It turns out, I was not designed to love myself most and then maybe others, if I felt like it.
I tried to ignore this for a long time. When you add people in your life things can get messy and inconvenient. It’s also really hard to control other people. Being alone seems easier.
Going alone is lonely. Solitude is only refreshing for a finite time.
For a long time I tried to present myself as someone who is immune to things like emotions and feelings, especially feelings of loneliness. I would rate me 9/10 on this skill. Turns out, I’m actually what one Buzzfeed quiz termed an Empath. Basically, if you’re going through something terrible and you tell me about it, I essentially feel as though that also happened to me. This can become overwhelming very quickly, so often it’s easier to just shut down that part of my brain and wall myself off from people.
However, after the birth of my daughter, I suddenly felt so exposed. Like when Toto pulls back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz, I kept trying to tell myself to “pay no attention to the [emotions] behind the curtain”. But they were out and I had to confront this overwhelming feeling of being alone.
The ironic thing was I was FAR from being physically alone at the time. I mean, I had a baby with me 24/7 for crying out loud (pun intended). Kenneth was there. Family and friends were there.
For a hot second (okay, like 3 days), I honestly believed that NO ONE cared about me and that I was destined to be miserable forever and no one would ever understand me. (This, I might add, was all while I had people coming to my house bringing me meals, doing my laundry, and myriad of other things.) I could blame hormones, but it was more than that. I was being fed a lie and I had been eating it all up. It was easier to blame others for making me feel alone and feel pity for myself than to feed myself actual truth.
I remember sitting in the dark, feeding my baby for the millionth time that day, desperate for her to fall asleep when the Holy Spirit slipped in.
“Have I ever left you?” He asked, not audibly, not confrontationally. Gulp.
Half of James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” I knew this part from a song but I didn’t know the rest of the verse. It says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Yeah, so that’s not the most encouraging thing to read when you’re already feeling down. But..BUT. It actually is. This was more than a bequest of a tidy little prayer. This was an invitation to bare my soul to its Creator in desperation and absolute desire for closeness.
For me, this looked like sobbing my eyes out in a dark room as I listened to worship music while asking Jesus to help me feel seen. This looked like turning off the TV and listening to sermons on podcast. This looked like taking a walk outside and looking at the intricate masterpieces of a Heavenly designer. It looked like going to church and GROW group and intentionally being around other people.
It also looked like reaching out to others, especially other moms, who I knew were probably having the same feelings as me. I physically couldn’t do much for anyone, but I could show up for coffee and a chat. I could make someone else feel seen and remembered with a text or a call.
God showed up for me everywhere I turned. It was impossible to feel invisible to Him.
He showed me just a fraction of His love by reminding me that the immense, overwhelming love I felt for my tiny human was just an iota of the love He has for me.
He used the people and things around me to show how intricately I was known by Him.
One particularly hard day, a friend stopped by my apartment with my favorite drink from Starbucks. I wasn’t expecting it. I don’t know if we even talked, but I’ll never forget how incredibly known I felt at that moment.
If you’re a human being, like me, there have probably been times in your life that you’ve felt alone. Maybe that’s right now. Moving to a new place, break-ups, changing jobs, losing a loved one (or a pet), taking a bold stand alone, and so many other things can leave us feeling like we are an island.
Here’s what I learned through my journey that I’d submit for you to try:
Cry to Jesus. Cry early; cry often.
Sit in the dark, put on worship music, and let yourself be vulnerable. Put your face on the ground or lift your hands in the air. Dance before the Lord al la King David who said, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6: 21-22) It is so worth feeling silly or uncomfortable to allow the Holy Spirit to draw you close. These postures leave no room for pride.
Don’t turn to things that temporarily numb your feeling like social media or TV or whatever. No “like” or comment or is going to give you anything lasting. It’s just going to keep dragging you back into focusing on yourself. Find a way to get into God’s Word. If you’ve never experienced the ways it can satisfy you, get ready for something wild. If reading the Bible on your own seems daunting, there’s like a million resources to help you get started. Just ask someone!
And finally, a round-up for practical next steps:
Meet with a pastor. Show up to a GROW Group. Volunteer. Serve a friend. Make intentional plans to be with other people. Go outside.
You are NOT alone.