by Danielle Earle
Do you ever feel small?
I’m not talking about the kind of small you feel when you’re out in the desert, or on a mountain top, looking up at the night sky and all its stars and your feelings of smallness instil wonder and awe at the bigness of it all; the world, the cosmos, God.
Towards the end of last year, Trinity Central had a couple of weeks where we worked through a preaching series on friendship, (you can listen to them here), and it really got me thinking about that question:
“Do you ever feel small?”
It’s the kind of smallness you feel when you’re in a crowd, at a party, in the mall. Surrounded by so many people and yet your smallness makes you feel invisible and thoroughly alone.
Loneliness is very real. Do you feel it? Do you see it? There are so many lonely people all around us, in our schools, businesses, marketplaces, grocery stores, neighbours, church.
So much of my last two years was characterised by this feeling of smallness, loneliness and inadequacy. I kept asking myself: Why is it so exhaustingly difficult to feel connected, build meaningful relationships, not feel hurt when plans don’t work out, and not get offended when I am excluded?
Something God has been pressing on my heart lately is that we all experience seasons of loneliness. We all long to feel connected. We all need community.
Everybody needs a friend. Not just me! And not just you either.
Sadly, my initial response to those around me in my season of loneliness was far from perfect… put simply, I got offended. I hardened my heart towards some people I love because I was tired of getting hurt.
And then God convicted me: At the end of all those raw and painful feelings, it is what we do with those feelings that matters most. Was it wrong of me to feel hurt or sad or overlooked? No! My feelings were totally valid, but my offence and my actions were not.
Thankfully God is so good, merciful, kind and oh so patient! He didn’t just leave me there wallowing in my self pity: rather, He spoke to me about intent. Not just my own, but the intent of others. My mind kept drifting back to this one question: Were these people intentonally excluding me and trying to hurt me? Were they “out to get me”?? Not at all.
Here are four things God has taught me about building new friendships and navigating feelings of loneliness and neglect:
- We can’t get mad when we have unmet expectations if we never expressed those expectations in the first place (mind blown);
- No one is out to get me/you/us – we need to give others the benefit of the doubt;
- We need to look out for other people who are like us, others who might be lonely and looking for a friend;
- And that if all else fails there is One who is always there, always near, always watching, always kind and always compassionate. One who is always ready and waiting to be my/your/our friend
When we lift our gaze from ourselves – our needs, our wants, our hurts and our pains (dare I say offences?!) – to reach out to those who might feel the same then that is where our needs are met: in serving others.
If you have an unfulfilled need then serve someone, sacrifice. Our joy increases when we lighten another person’s load and walk the road alongside them and forget about ourselves.
This is a part of the answer to our loneliness: LIFT. YOUR. GAZE.
Lift your eyes from yourself, from your problems, from your loneliness. Lift your eyes and really have them open to see the needs that are around you. I guarantee your heart will ache for people around you – those who are lonely, those who are destitute, those who have had a difficult life, those who are poor, and also those who are rich.
You are not alone in your longing for relationship. Is the antidote not in our hands? Are we not able to reach out? I believe we are – but it takes intentionality, and communication, and a soft and eager heart.
And remember, even when we are truly lonely, truly isolated, there is One who knows, One who has felt utterly abandoned and alone. He not only sympathises but fully empathises with us. And when you voice your loneliness to Him, He knows exactly what it feels like, and He will meet you in that place, and He will help you lift your gaze – He is there, He is waiting, He is your Friend.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.