Loneliness and Depression: 3 Wise Bets & 3 Pieces of Advice

A note to the person whose search for “When does loneliness turn into depression?” led to this website.

loneliness

Dear friend,

A familiar ache rose in my chest when I read your search terms.

Loneliness hurts. Lonely people have various ways to deny the loneliness or distract from the deep pervasive ache, but the loneliness remains underneath the distractions.

My own loneliness lasted for years. It felt like a gaping canyon of emptiness in my chest. Winds of loss howled through its open space, chilling me from the inside. Outwardly, I tried to hide pain behind a smile but a discerning person could have seen it behind my eyes.

Loneliness opens us up for lies

Loneliness opens us up for lies too. The lies I heard echoing in my emptiness began with the phrase

“You are not ____”

“You are not loveable. That is why you are lonely.”

“You are not special. That is why you are overlooked.”

“You are not beautiful. There is something repulsive about you. You can’t see it but it is obvious to everyone else.”

“You are not capable. You are fatally flawed and not capable of rich and satisfying relationships.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that lies echo through your thoughts during unguarded moments too.

I don’t want my words to minimize your pain or sound like I can give you 3 easy steps to climb out of it.  I spent years begging God to take my loneliness away or teach me to be fully satisfied with his love. Yet, the emptiness continued unrelieved.

I don’t want to reinforce hopelessness either because hopelessness grows like mold on a damp bed of lies.

Things I know:

I don’t know you, (I wish I did) but I do know a few things about you.

The things that echo through your thoughts in the moments when you lie half-awake in your bed probably do have a grain of truth in them, just enough to make them cut and give them power but they are twisted until they bear no resemblance to the truth.

The second thing I know is that it is possible to hang on to hope and refuse to listen to lies, even if your loneliness persists.

The worst lonely lie

The worst lonely lie of all is that God doesn’t care, has abandoned you, or that you are beyond his reach.

The truth is God does love you more than you can imagine. He loves you more than the love in the best romantic fantasy you can conjure up. As painful as it is, your loneliness is an invitation from him. You can accept his invitation to cling to him or you can continue to try to cope instead.

3 Wise Bets

Henri Nouwen said “Hope is based on the premise that the other (God) gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness where you wait for the promise to be delivered, even though you never know when, where, or how this might happen.” (With Open Hands, p. 43, parenthesis is mine)

hope for lonely people

Choose to bet everything that:

  1. God is good in spite of your feelings.
  2. God is doing something good for you.
  3. Your loneliness is a tool in that process.

3 Pieces of Advice

So, while I cannot offer an easy solution to you, I do have a little advice.

  •  Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. (Romans 12:9, The Message) Identify the lies you listen to and refuse to be deceived by them any longer. It can be very helpful to spend time with a wise Christian mentor or counselor. Most of us need someone else to help us discern the difference between truth and lies. If you don’t have a person like that in your life and you don’t have a good church that can help you find one, feel free to contact me.

 

  • Pray for God to give you a glimpse of the good he is creating through your loneliness. Keep on praying and refuse to give up hope until he shows you.

 

  • If you think you are depressed, go see a doctor. If there is a physical, chemical source of your depression medication will usually help. It won’t take away your loneliness, and it won’t replace the call to hope in God, but it might take the edge off enough for you to move forward with hope.

Love, Beth

Someday this will all be worth it. I promise.

I am available to speak about loneliness. Learn more here.

Click here for another blog post about loneliness.

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3 Responses to Loneliness and Depression: 3 Wise Bets & 3 Pieces of Advice

  1. Carrie November 1, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    Thanks, friend. You always seem to know what I need.

    • Beth Ratzlaff November 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      I’m so glad. Sounds like a God thing to me.

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