While I sit here and write this, it’s Sunday. My wife of a little over 6 months has been gone for a couple days. She went back to her hometown to spend some time with her folks. So, for a couple of days, it’s been just me at the house. I have taken this time to eat the type of food my wife doesn’t like– Chinese food. And I have watched movies she wouldn’t like. Sounds like a great time, right?
Call it sappy, call it whatever you want, I really miss my wife. I feel lonely. There are so many things in marriage that you simply don’t know till you’ve experienced them. One of those things I have experienced is missing someone so much. I miss my family a lot. They don’t live near me. I miss my grandmother, who passed a few years ago. I miss good friends and people I loved from past times. But man… I really miss my wife in a different way when she’s gone.
In my youth group, we have been talking about a lot of things lately that have really resonated with me. One of these things has been creation. Creation is so cool. Furthermore, each and every person was made in God’s image. That’s a big deal. But one of the even more fascinating things I have learned through reading the Bible and studying God’s creation of us and everything around us, I read something that I have read over and over again in my life. But it means something to me now because I have a wife.
God designed us to feel lonely.
Maybe I should back up and explain what I mean. In Genesis 1, we get a detailed account of the creation of the world. It’s awesome. I mean, God creates time, and then he creates the sun so we can tell time. That’s spectacular. In Genesis 2, we get a zoomed-in view on day 6, the day that God created man in his image. One of the more fascinating parts of that event is that God decides Adam needs a helper– he needs a companion. In his case, he needed a wife:
18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”Genesis 2:18 (ESV)
This is fascinating, and truly makes all of the sense in the world. Before sin enters the world, before Cain kills Abel, before all things, God looks at Adam and decides that he needs someone to live his life with. And this is one of the most profound truths of our reality because intuitively, we all know this is true. God created us for each other. God decided almost immediately upon creating humanity that humanity needed a communal part to be fulfilled. Therefore, God created us for someone else. We are all just as Adam was when God looked at him and said, “It is not good that man should be alone.”
God designed us to feel lonely because he designed us to have companionship. And when we don’t have it… loneliness sets in.
The truth of the matter
No one likes to feel lonely. Right now, in this moment, I miss my wife. We miss people all of the time. No one likes to be lonely. Sure, plenty of people like to be alone sometimes. I do this often. I like my space. I like to fish by myself sometimes, or I like to hike by myself sometimes. We all could use a little alone time, but no one likes to be lonely. Loneliness is not simply just feeling alone. Loneliness is feeling alone with the anticipation that no one will ever show up. It’s endemic to a sin-stained planet. To give you a practical example of this, recent studies have shown and continue to show the decline in mental health across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic due to so many practices that created isolation. I’m not here to say lockdowns are bad or masks are good. I’m simply pointing out that we have experienced a lot of isolation in the last two years. And that has been an overwhelming net-negative. It’s created loneliness.
The truth of the matter is that our human experience was designed to have other people in it. There are so many negative outcomes of this desire. Countless people chase this companionship either platonically, through friends, through family, or even romantically. Some of these endeavors are bad. Peer pressure creeps in or sexual impurities. But at the heart of it all is the desire not to be lonely. There are many positive things that come from this desire. I married my wonderful wife on this premise, that we felt incomplete without committing to one another for a lifetime. It makes local church fruitful, for we all come together to grow in Christ– together. The truth is that we all know we want people in our lives. Sure, you may not all want someone breathing down your neck 24/7, but no one likes to feel lonely. God designed us for relationships. So the fact that we feel out of place when those relationships are inadequate makes total sense.
The harder truth of the matter
But in all reality, the remedy to loneliness is not simply just to find people to fill that void in your life. If loneliness were purely about simply having relationships, almost no one would be lonely. Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves trapped in the vice of loneliness, even in a room full of people, a house full of family, or a life full of friends. God looked at Adam in Genesis 2 and decided that Adam didn’t need to be alone. But if you look at that story a little closer, you also see what the harder truth was. God designed Adam for Eve and Eve for Adam. But Adam and Eve were designed for each other in perfect relationship to God himself.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve commit the first sin. It’s Eve who eats the fruit first, but it’s Adam who lets her do it to begin with. Adam and Eve were created for one another, yet they were also created as a family to enjoy God perfectly for a lifetime. When they chose sin over God’s Word, their relationship with God himself was fractured. Really, their relationship with each other was also broken. They are kicked out of God’s holy presence. They are separate from God because of their sins. They were designed for one another and to have relationship with God. They lost out on this formula through sin. The harder truth of the matter is that, though you are created to spend life alongside other people, that still will never be truly fulfilling. For God designed you to have relationship with himself, as well. But you can’t. Sin has separated you.
Here’s the point
Loneliness is the worst. I used missing my wife as a bit of an example, but it pales in comparison to missing a loved one who has died, a child who was stillborn, an estranged friend, etc. My wife will come home, and we will enjoy time with each other. There are many people who never have someone come home to them. You may have no one to call friend. You may have every friend in the world. You may love the workplace because of its people. You make work with no one. Whatever your plight or blessing, you know intuitively that you just don’t want to be lonely. You may know, as well, that people simply aren’t the real solution. I love my wife, but she doesn’t always prevent the loneliness. I love my parents, but I have felt lonely in their house before. I have a abundance of true friends, but they don’t insulate me from loneliness. I was made for people, yes. But I was made for more. You were made for more. We were made for each other. We were to made to laugh with others, cry with others, live with others. We were also made to know God.
You may feel lonely, and honestly, sometimes I do, too. God designed us for relationships. When those aren’t within reach, our hands are so empty. And our hearts are so hollow. But the remedy is not to take hold of people alone. People leave. People die. People sin. People hurt you. Love them while they are here, but when they are gone, what do you do? What happens when you have everyone or no one, and you’re still lonely?
You cling to, grab on to, never let go of the one who will “never leave you, nor forsake you.” You rest in the one who is “with you always until the end of the age.” You hide behind the walls of the one who is your “fortress.” And they call him Jesus.
Loneliness is what we feel because we were made to be in relationships. If you are lonely, and you don’t know Christ, he can fix that issue. If you are lonely and you do know Christ, rest in his promises that he will never abandon you.
Habakkuk writes in the third chapter of his book:
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.Habkkuk 3:17-19a
Is he talking about loneliness? No, probably not. He’s talking of destruction, of loss. Feeling lonely is not the same as having your livelihood taken from you. But the truth remains the same: though people may leave us, though friends may never truly satisfy, though waking may be arduous, though marriage may be beautiful, though family passes, though I may feel lonely on the sunniest of days in the fullest of rooms, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD…
… I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”