I know the pain of loneliness. I truly do. The emptiness of wondering what lies ahead in life and what the future holds. The fear that uncertain times and changes bring as life changes, children grow, people move, and loss happens.
I used to think that I was the only one who felt it. But as I have grown older, I have realized that the pain of loneliness is no respecter of age, beauty, profession or lifestyle. It can strike a young child at preschool and it can hit the elderly after the loss of a spouse. It can affect the college student, who is new on campus, the graduate who is just starting out in life, the married couple growing apart and the divorcee facing life alone. It affects the rich and it even affects the famous. It affects those with one dollar and those with a billion dollars. Lonely people live in one bedroom homes and they live in mansions.
Loneliness is universal. It crosses all nationalities, and all races. It is one of the most difficult feelings to plow through and yet, if you ask someone how they are doing, the chance of them telling you how terribly lonely they feel is very slim. No one wants to admit they feel lonely. It makes us feel weak or needy.
As an empty nester and a divorcee it is lonely at times. My children are all grown and pursuing their life goals and two of the three live in other states. Would I want to change or interfere in what my children are doing? No, not by any means. I am thrilled to see them achieving their goals, living healthy and productive lives and moving closer to being the men and woman that God has designed them to be.
But, I miss them. I miss being at home with them. I am a people person. I thrive on social interaction. So, even though I am happy for my children, I have entered a new phase of life … this empty nest. Being single again definitely can complicate the empty nest syndrome. After all, no one ever plans to divorce or be widowed. I miss being married and I pray that if it’s God’s will, He will bring me a loving, Godly man to spend the rest of my life here on earth with. But, right now I am single and I want to live in a way that glorifies Him.
So, what is a working, divorced and single again mom to do? The solution is universal. And I share it because it works for our children, our elderly, and our hurting friends as well.
First off, I set two goals for the year. The first one is to be healthy mentally and physically. Because, what we think and believe about ourselves shapes how we act and what we do. Physical exercise is important because it gets our bodies moving and that releases so many good endorphins. When we feel good mentally and physically about ourselves it changes us. It just does. As much as we need to change our internal dialogues our children need to hear positive feedback from us. Replace the negative self-talk with positive statements. “I am strong. I can run this far! I am focused. I studied for 30 minutes straight. I am getting healthier. I tried something new today.”
Changing my negative thinking should be easy, right? But it isn’t if you are used to going down negativity road. You know the road I’m talking about. The one that goes like this … “Oh my gosh I over-slept! I am going to be late to the meeting and if I am late to the meeting, I am going to lose my job and if I lose my job I will have no home. Then people will think I’m a failure. Oh My Gosh! I am going to be homeless, living under the bridge, because I over-slept!”
Now maybe you don’t get that extreme, but I sometimes we do play out the worst case scenarios in our heads. When we focus on what we don’t have, we miss the blessings that are in front of us. Sometimes, it’s hard to find blessings when we feel alone and in a new place. We long for familiar faces and warm embraces.
But, God is with us. We have His very words right in front of us to read. Here is the universal truth that will change lives from young to old, rich to poor, across the globe. Allow God’s word to transform your heart. Allow Him to transform your mind.
Romans 12:2New Living Translation (NLT) says this,
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
The New International Version (NIV) says it this way, Romans12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The cure for loneliness is a relationship with Jesus Christ. As we get to know our Savior, He transforms our thinking. We need to teach our children about Him, encourage our friends to know Him and introduce our elderly to Him. As we focus on Christ, He changes our hearts and minds. He works to bring about good things, clear paths, new beginnings, full lives and service to others.
Our children need to know that there will be lonely times in life but they will be able to handle them because they are prepared. These times don’t have to be empty and unfulfilling. They can be learning, growing and seeking times with God at the helm.
As always, we can and should pray for our children and pray with them. They should know that no matter how old they get or far they might move; we are uplifting them in daily prayer.
And last of all but certainly not least, we should focus on what is good and pure and right. As we stop focusing on what we don’t have and focus on being thankful, we should shift our negatives to positives. It’s easy to dwell on what is missing in life. It is harder to look for what we have to be thankful for.
I know so many people who have lost loved ones already this year. That type of wound and loss is completely different than what I am addressing. To tell them to not focus on that missing person, would be cruel and impossible. In that situation, those of us blessed to not be dealing with that type of loss should come alongside the hurting and offer ourselves to them – maybe we cook a meal for them or clean their home, or mow their yard or just sit and listen to their feelings. And you know what? I believe it won’t be their life that is transformed. It will be ours.
Look for what is good that can fill times of emptiness. Life is hard. Life happens and life hurts. Sooner or later, we all get to the end of ourselves and find that what we are trying to fill our lives with is just fleeting and unless we have Christ at the center of it all we will never feel fulfilled long-term. Everything changes. Change is inevitable. How we handle it doesn’t have to be.
Galatians 5:22-23 says,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
So, how do we best handle change?
We handle it by being in God’s word and filling our heads and hearts with His promises. It may not change the fact that all of my children live in other states or are away at college. It may not change the fact that I am an empty nester or divorcee. It may not change the crazy situation you may be in or the difficult marriage or the addiction your loved one is fighting or the hurt your child is experiencing. What it does change however is … perspective. It changes reactions and it changes hearts.
Think of a time that you remember that was good in life. For me college came to mind. I met my children’s father there. I established life-long friendships there and earned my degree there. What fun we had just being ourselves? Being single and working towards our life goals. Grab hold to that moment when you felt strong as a person. Hang on tight to it and ask yourself, “What did I want to do, what did I want to learn, where did I want to go? What did God desire for me?” It isn’t too late to let His transforming power work in your life and change it for good. And so many times, our children learn by watching what we do and how we handle each situation.
Finally, I pray this benediction over your children.
Hebrews 13: 20-21 New International Version (NIV)
Benediction and Final Greetings
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.