You Ask, I Answer – Is it Wrong to Feel Lonely as a Christian?

To best serve this community I recently posed the following question to a very engaged and loyal member:

What topics would you find encouraging for me to address on my blog?

She responded with three amazing topics. 

Topic 1 was – You Ask, I Answer – What books and steps might help to build a consistent Bible study life?

Topic 2 was – You Ask, I Answer – How Do I Know God is Speaking to Me?

Today we are addressing topic number 3:

Is it Wrong to Feel Lonely as a Christian?

Friend, I love this question, because to be human means at some point we have felt lonely.   Loneliness is simply an emotion.  Emotions aren’t wrong or bad in and of themselves.  Emotions are indicators.

The problem comes when we allow our emotions to become dictators.  Just like hunger is a cue to eat, loneliness is a cue that we need a relationship where we feel safe and seen.  If we took the cue of hunger and decided to eat non-stop so we could never feel hunger again, that would not be healthy.  Conversely if we decide we enjoy the feeling of hunger and therefore stop eating altogether to feel hunger all the time, that would not be healthy either.  In the same way, when we feel lonely it is not healthy to fail to act on the cue and ruminate on feeling loneliness.  Loneliness is our cue that we need to be engaging or building more healthy relationships in our life. 

But to the heart of the question – is unchristian to feel lonely?  To answer this, we can go straight to Jesus himself.  Jesus felt lonely at times.  The prophet Isaiah described Jesus this way:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3 ESV

While Isaiah doesn’t say outright Jesus was lonely, it is strongly implied.  After all, being despised and rejected implies a lack of connection with others and that is the essence of loneliness. 

Jesus came to experience life as a human in all its constraints, limitations, and emotions, and to show us it is possible to navigate them without sinning:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15 ESV

Through Jesus we see that it is possible to navigate the entire spectrum of emotions without sinning: joy, anger, rejection, love, grief, sorrow, happiness, compassion, even loneliness.

If you want some specific examples of Jesus feeling lonely, there are two that come to my mind immediately.  The first is in the garden of Gethsemane and the second is the cross.  At Gethsemane Jesus asked his three closest friends to pray with him before he walked on to pray alone.  In his darkest hour he was asking for their support, yet they kept falling asleep.  Can you imagine how alone he felt at that moment?  Loneliness is not the absence of people; it is the absence of connection.  Jesus was begging his friends to connect and support him, and they couldn’t stay awake! 

The second is on the cross.  When Jesus was arrested most of his disciples dispersed or went into hiding.  This means his closest group of friends weren’t there to support him in his most difficult hours.  His rock, Peter, went as far as to deny knowing him 3 times.  

But the ultimate loneliness came the moment Jesus took on the sins of the world on the cross and thus experienced separation from God himself.  Jesus even cried out in that moment:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46 ESV

Jesus, who had been in perfect relationship with God since, well forever, was in that moment alone.  

Even in our loneliest moments, we are not truly alone, God is always with us.  But Jesus in that moment was literally completely alone.  God could not be with him when he was in that state of imperfection.  And that is why the ultimate punishment is an absence of God’s presence, the absence of all good, in eternity.  

So dear friends, when we feel lonely, we will remember loneliness is just an emotion.  Emotions are not bad.  Emotions are indicators.  We will embrace the freedom that as God’s creation we were created to feel the spectrum of emotions.  However, we will not wallow in our loneliness.  Rather, we will use loneliness as cue to seek out healthy relationships where we feel safe and seen.  And we will remind ourselves we are never alone.  We have a savior who was willing to endure loneliness to the extreme so he could spend eternity with us because he loves us more than we can truly comprehend.