woman standing alone

A few weeks before my 30th birthday I attended a 30th birthday celebration for another woman. My family and I moved to town just a few months before the party. We knew a few people in town, but no one very well.

Instead of being thankful for the invite, all I could think of was that no one would be gathering to celebrate my milestone in just a few weeks. Instead of using the evening as a chance to make new connections, all my heart could hold was bitterness in the fact that everyone there seemed to be such amazing friends. All I could see were the circles I was not in. All I could hear were the inside jokes I didn’t understand. All I could feel was loneliness and bitterness, even though I was surrounded by warmth and happiness.

Around the same time, at a mom’s group I attended, a game was played involving a ball of yarn. About twenty ladies stood in a circle and we were instructed to, once we received the ball of yarn, to toss it back out to another woman. The tosser was supposed to tell of a fun memory or of something they loved about the person they chose to throw to. For ten minutes I watched that red ball of yarn cross the gap between each smiling, giggling young momma. The threads connected them all in a web of intimacy and history and being known, while I stood, holding back tears and the urge to run away and never come back, until the ball of yarn finally came to me with a generic platitude.

Loneliness is no joke. Moving and making new friends is not often fun. Yet, even if you’ve not moved around much, like I have, feelings of isolation can strike, even when you are surrounded by people you’ve known for decades. It all comes down to our relationship with lies.

I was giving in to lies and listening to those lies is what brought me down. Not the many moves. Not all the change. There are many lies which exist around deep connections. And a failure to manage our expectations when it comes to these connections is a great way to allow them to consume our hearts and leave us miserable.

If you give into the following you’ll find yourself in the pity party in no time:

  • Believing that deep connections happen overnight.
  • Expecting and waiting for others to initiate with you.
  • Overanalyzing what people say and how they say it.
  • Being easily offended.
  • Holding on to resentment.
  • Assuming that everyone else around you are BFFs and have no need for additional friendships.
  • Believing the lie that friendships come easy and stay easy.
  • Expecting people to read your mind.
  • Refusing to believe the best about people.
  • Depending too much on your feelings of being included.

I’m sure there is more we could add to this list. But whether the lies you’re believing are on this list or not, the longer we hold on to these lies, the longer we will walk around lonely and feeling on the outside. The reality is, most of us feel at least some sort of loneliness and feelings of being on the outside. It is one of Satan’s favorite tactics, especially within the church. Instead of spending our time reaching out to the lost, we stay huddled in the corner, obsessed with being included and being wounded by the inactions of others.

Here’s the deal: when we stand before God in heaven, the webs of yarn, the dinner parties, and the circles of friends will all be gone. It’s not that we shouldn’t seek out deep friendships. It’s that we ought not to be paralyzed if we feel we don’t have those deep friendships. Because while we wallow in self-pity and sorrow, we waste our time and emotions on ourselves. Better use of that emotional energy and time would be to befriend someone who needs Jesus.

I finally realized that no one person can meet all my friendship needs. The search for the BFF needed to stop. I don’t exist primarily to stay in safe places. Being included and known is not the end goal of my life. My heart will never be satisfied through any earthly relationship. No matter how many great friends I have, my heart will always ache for more.

A decade later, as I embraced another milestone birthday, I found myself months after another big move. Once again, I was in a new town surrounded by new people, yet not truly known by any of them. And while a piece of my heart wanted to be surrounded by friends who knew the best way to help me celebrate, I was content. I was able to see that my worth is not tied up in who is throwing me a party or how many BFFs I have in town. I was no longer all tied up in needing to be included in everything.

In those ten years, many things changed in my heart, especially my view of God. He has become more and more dear to me. He is nearer and clearer. His love now fills in the spaces that once teemed with insecurity and loneliness. His presence satisfies the places that were desperate to be seen and known and recognized by others.

I certainly don’t go without any struggle, but as I lean into the Lord, I find a friend in Him and I’m able to resist the feelings of loneliness. They no longer consume me.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

– Joseph Scriven

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.