Loneliness: Toothache of the Soul!
Loneliness is one of life's most miserable experiences. Everyone feels lonely at times, but is there a message for us in loneliness? Is there a way we can turn it into something positive?
Sometimes loneliness is a temporary condition that departs in a few hours or a couple days. But when you're burdened with this emotion for weeks, months, or even years, it's definitely telling you something.
In a sense, loneliness is like a toothache: It's a warning signal that something is wrong. And like a toothache, if left unattended, it usually gets worse. Your first response to loneliness may be to self-medicate - to try home remedies to make it go away.
Busyness is a common treatment.
You may think that if you fill your life with so many activities that you don't have time to think about your loneliness, you'll be cured. But busyness misses the message. It's like trying to heal a toothache by taking your mind off it. Busyness is only a distraction, not a cure.
Buying is another favorite therapy.
Maybe if you purchase something new, if you "reward" yourself, you'll feel better. And surprisingly, you do feel better - but only for a short while. Buying things to fix your loneliness is like an anesthetic. Sooner or later the numbing effect wears off. Then the pain comes back as strong as ever. Buying can also compound your problems with a mountain of credit card debt.
Bed is a third response to loneliness.
You may believe that intimacy is what you need, so you make an unwise choice with sex. Like the prodigal son, after you come to your senses, you're horrified to discover that this attempt at a cure not only makes loneliness worse, it also makes you feel desperate and cheap. This is the false cure of our modern culture, which promotes sex as a game, as recreation. This response to loneliness always ends in feelings of alienation and regret.
The real message, the real cure.
If all of these approaches don't work, what does? Is there a cure for loneliness? Is there some secret elixir that will fix this toothache of the soul?
We need to begin with a correct interpretation of this warning signal. Loneliness is God's way of telling you that you have a relationship problem. While that may seem obvious, there's more to it than just surrounding yourself with people. Doing that is the same as busyness, but using crowds instead of activities.
God's answer to loneliness is not the quantity of your relationships, but the quality.
Going back to the Old Testament, we discover that the first four of the Ten Commandments are about our relationship with God. The last six commandments are about our relationships with other people.
How is your relationship with God? Is it close and intimate, like that of a loving, caring father and his child? Or is your relationship with God cold and distant, only superficial?
As you reconnect with God and your prayers become more conversational and less formal, you'll actually feel God's presence. His reassurance is not just your imagination. We worship a God who lives among his people through the Holy Spirit. Loneliness is God's way, first, of drawing us closer to him, then forcing us to reach out to other people.
For many of us, improving our relationships with others and letting them get close to us is a distasteful cure, as dreaded as taking your toothache to a dentist. But satisfying, meaningful relationships take time and work. We're afraid to open up. We're afraid to let another person open up to us.
Past hurts have made us distrustful.
Friendship requires giving, but it also requires taking, and many of us would rather be independent. Yet the persistence of your loneliness should tell you that your past stubbornness hasn't worked either.
If you muster the courage to restore your relationship with God, then with others, you'll find your loneliness lifting. This is not a spiritual Band-Aid, but a real cure that works.
Your risks toward others will be rewarded. You'll find someone who understands and cares, and you'll find others whom you understand and care about as well. Like a visit to the dentist, this cure turns out to be not only final, but much less painful than you feared.
Written by Jack Zavada, contributor for About.com. To see more, click here