"Be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, nor be afraid of them, for the Lord your God, it is He who goes with you. He will not fail you, nor forsake you." - Deuteronomy 31:6 (MEV)
Loneliness is a common human feeling. Everybody gets to feel lonely sometimes, most especially when they're physically alone or don't feel like they have a close friend to share life with. Should a Christian feel this way, too? Is it normal for a Christian to feel lonely even when God has promised to never leave us?
Dissecting the lonely heart
Loneliness is felt by all people from all walks of life. And loneliness or the feeling of being alone isn't only felt when a person is actually by themselves. It can also be felt by people even when they are surrounded by many.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being lonely as being "sad from being alone." To be alone means being "isolated from others." These definitions, when taken together, mean loneliness is felt when we are or at least feel like we are isolated or separated from others, especially emotionally.
Everybody knows something of that feeling. But actually, Christians should know it better. Why is that? Let me give one reason.
I'm pretty sure some Christians out there feel lonely because the friends they used to hang out with before they met Jesus aren't there anymore. Why is that?
Born again Christians know the feeling of being separated from non-Christians. According to the Lord Jesus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Those born of the Spirit should live a life led by the Spirit.
The new birth often results in a change of lifestyle that means saying goodbye to the things of the flesh. This will also mean not joining old friends when they do what isn't of God. This is best explained by Peter in 1 Peter 4:2-4, saying,
"You won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy ... Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you." (see 1 Peter 4:2-4 NLT)
Following Christ may sometimes mean saying goodbye to old friends. While we are commanded to reach out to them with the love of God in the Gospel of Christ (see Mark 16:15), we are told to separate ourselves unto God (see 2 Corinthians 6:17).
Fellowship with the Lord
Then there is the loneliness that comes from not feeling like you have someone you are really close to - perhaps a spouse or a close friend. Perhaps circumstances have changed or you struggle to make friends. Whatever the reason, it's easy to be surrounded by people and yet have a feeling in our heart of disconnect from the people in our lives. It's natural to long for deep spiritual fellowship. But the good news is that this is possible for all people, whether we have a close friend or not. Because the answer to that lies in close and intimate fellowship with God. There is a uniqueness to the Christian experience of loneliness in that we can fully experience Jesus in that place and discover that, with Him, there is even blessing to be experienced - no seasons or difficult emotions are wasted with the Lord, but rather all can be worked for our good in bringing us into a closer and more fully dependent relationship with Him. As we learn to fellowship with the Lord, we in turn learn what it is to fellowship with others in need of a friend.
It is normal
So is it normal for a Christian to feel lonely? Yes, it's pretty normal. But when we stand on the promise of God to never leave us nor forsake us, we can fight the lonely feeling – because we have God walking with us through and through (see Psalm 23; Matthew 28:20).