A few months ago, I struggled with deep loneliness for one of the first times in my life. My husband has been working intently on completing his PhD, and it has been a long, ongoing season of buckling down, strict focus, and discipline. It has even meant saying “no” to friends, family, and things we enjoy doing.
In the midst of a crazy season of life, I was also feeling disconnected from my church community. Rather than leading, I felt like hiding. But deep in the center of the loneliness, God in His complete love and faithfulness was at work. He was graciously leading me into this hard season for a deeper relationship with Him and His Church.
You may be in a similar season when circumstances are creating the ache of loneliness, and you wonder, How do I continue to lead when feeling completely empty with nothing to give and no one to pour into me? I’ve wrestled with the same questions. Here’s what God is teaching me . . .
Stand in His Strength
When we feel alone and disconnected, there’s a strong temptation to throw in the towel and run in the opposite direction. I understand the pull to isolate yourself, but I implore you to stay with it. It will be worth it. Be faithful. God is working! And He will bring the fruit as we stand in His strength.
Habakkuk couldn’t see how God was working in the rebellion of Israel, but He was. His plan was beyond Habakkuk’s understanding. God answered the prophet’s complaint with, “Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told” (Hab. 1:5).
God’s plan for the people of Israel involved using Babylon, an evil empire, to bring them to repentance. It was a long road ahead, and Habakkuk was confounded that God would bring such destruction on Israel as a way of restoring them. Sometimes God is doing the same thing in our lives by using what feels like destruction to bring us into deeper fellowship with Him.
Take Command of Your Emotions
When the struggle of loneliness is real, it’s easy to succumb to feelings of being forgotten, unwanted, and not valued. We may feel let down by those closest to us. It is in these moments we must remember that the heart is deceiving.
The writers of Psalms knew this full well, as many of them portray the inner turmoil of emotion against what we know to be true. We must learn to take command of our hearts and preach Truth to ourselves, just as the psalmist did.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation" (Ps. 42:5, emphasis added).
Seek Out Community
In seasons of loneliness, the natural tendency is to pursue isolation and wait for others to pursue us. It’s easy to push the responsibility onto someone else instead of making ourselves go outside our comfort zone. However, the Bible often calls believers to respond in counterintuitive ways.
We are called to run this race with other believers, not alone. As women in leadership, it’s more comfortable to isolate ourselves from fear of letting those we lead see our struggles. But we need community—women who will run alongside us, encourage us, and who we can mutually build up. Ask God to direct you to women with whom you can be vulnerable. Pray for the wisdom to know which relationships need to stay at a leader-to-follower level and which ones can cross over into deeper friendship and accountability.
Remember the image of faithfully running the race together toward Christ in Hebrews 10:24–25:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Focus on Serving Others
“See a need, fill a need” is a recurring motto in the 2005 movie Robots. It may sound silly, but I’ve been thinking about this phrase lately and how it relates to the Church. One simple way to combat loneliness is to serve. Look for the gaps in your church, small group, or organization where no one else is serving. These are usually the behind-the-scenes small tasks. They are not “glamorous” or attention-gaining, which is ideal because being a servant leader is not about those things.
When we serve, God changes our hearts from an inward focus to an outward focus and reminds us of His mission. He shows us how we can be a part of that mission, and He often brings other believers alongside to serve with us. During periods of loneliness, we can become so focused on our own needs that we often forget the needs of others.
The apostle Paul challenges this thinking:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:4–7).
Remember That Loneliness Is Just a Season
As the famous passage from Ecclesiastes says, there is a time and a season for everything, including loneliness. In life’s highs and lows when our feelings mislead us or we are tempted to doubt God, He is still working . . .
- He never stops. He is forever faithful.
- He reminds us of Truth to combat our emotions.
- He brings us into deeper fellowship with Himself.
- He loves us by caring for our hearts and entering into our loneliness.
God accomplishes an amazing work when we are worn thin and lonely, for He is a gracious Father. Stay the course. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ. Find joy in Christ even when it is difficult to be joyful. In time, God promises to renew your spirit and refresh your soul:
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, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Hab. 3:17–19).