Postcards from the Wilderness of Loneliness

Mind if I share a confession with you? I’m living in a lonely season. And while I’ve been studying the topic of mentoring and reflecting on the beauty of doing life together in Christian community along with you here on the blog, I see that I’m doing life alone more often than with others these days. I don’t remember when I realized my feelings of homesickness had morphed into unrelenting loneliness, but one day a few months ago the word “lonely” sunk into my soul. The label scared me; it made me feel vulnerable. But God. In His goodness, He doesn’t leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8) nor does He stop pursuing us (Matt. 18:12–14). My Maker is reaching into my sorrow to teach me the value and opportunities in this season of loneliness. He doesn’t lead us down pointless paths, you know. So if you find yourself mentor-less, community-less, or even friend-less, let’s look together at all that loneliness has to teach us in its classroom for one.

Loneliness Is an Opportunity for Intimacy

Every chapter I’ve read, every podcast I’ve listened to, and every YouTube video I’ve watched discussing loneliness have all touched on this idea: Loneliness is an opportunity for deeper intimacy with God.

Loneliness is an opportunity for deeper intimacy with God.

You’d think we would catch onto this concept quickly, right? If we aren’t surrounded by people, we have more time to pray, to linger in the Word. But we most often do the opposite, don’t we? We wallow, questioning God, despising the season. The enemy can deceive us into believing that lonely darkness hurts so much it should be avoided at all costs. The truth is God often intentionally leads us into a season of aloneness and quiet with the purpose of bringing us closer into His tender arms. He draws us into the wilderness so that we can see Him more clearly, know Him more intimately, and experience His grace, love, and compassion more profoundly. I love how Jefferson Bethke describes wilderness seasons in this video. We can despise the darkness of the wilderness, or we can look up and see that the stars shine most brightly out there. Maybe God led you into loneliness so that He can show you a particular glory that shines the most gloriously in the dark. I’ve been missing this opportunity. My focus has centered around asking why (Why am I so alone, God?) and when (When will You bring a friend into my life, Lord?), instead of saying yes—yes, I will allow You to shape and teach me through Your nearness.

Maybe God led you into loneliness so that He can show you a particular glory that shines the most gloriously in the dark.

If we stop viewing loneliness as a curse, a painful thing to throw out with the garbage, we begin to experience the gift of deepening our relationship with the One who knows and loves us deeply. Our entire perspective changes. In her book Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst calls loneliness a gift that can engrave God’s compassion onto our hearts:

In addition to the blessing of compassion being developed in me, those lonely times also seem to be when Jesus lavishes His most intimate compassion on me (p. 111).

And in Erin Davis’ book Connected, she explains how God uses loneliness to teach us His character:

We need to be reminded that we can have a relationship with God and that He is willing and able to satisfy our deepest cravings to be known. Because of this, the lonely lessons will keep coming. Like an alarm clock set at regular intervals, loneliness is the reminder we need to wake up and be aware of who God is and how much we need Him (pp. 163–164, emphasis added).

Think of it like this: God doesn’t drop us into the wilderness to be totally and utterly alone. He lovingly invites us into the wilderness with Him to learn at His feet. As we say, “Yes, Lord,” and surrender, we open our hearts to see His glory.

In the Wilderness: Jesus’ Example

Jesus Himself knows exactly what the wilderness is like. He spent forty days in the desert, a place that, as Erin explains in Connected, the Jewish people called “The Devastation.” Matthew 4:1 says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Those forty lonely days weren’t brought about by Satan; they were intended by God. But during that time, Satan did come to tempt Jesus. Matthew 4 gives the account, and we see how Jesus withstood each temptation quoting Scripture. The time Jesus spent in a literal wilderness provides a pattern for us as we navigate loneliness:

  • He surrendered to the will of the Father as He fasted forty days and nights in “The Devastation.”
  • The enemy seeks to steal away the opportunity for intimacy with God and uses loneliness as a time to breathe temptation into our hearts.
  • We can be deceived, or we can, as Jesus did, resist temptation, relying on the truth of God’s Word.

Jesus truly understands loneliness. He’s our perfect example for honoring God during quiet, lonely seasons. I love how Erin captures this idea in Connected:

He has been there. He has walked a mile in your lonely shoes and as we look at how He walked, loneliness takes on a new role (p. 153).

Praying with a New Perspective

Let’s circle back to that mentor-less, community-less, friend-less talk. You might be genuinely alone. If that is you, ask God to cultivate surrender, contentment, and trust within your heart so that you can view this wilderness season as a time to go deeper with Him. But often there are many people around us, and we’re the ones missing the opportunities—usually because of our own fears and insecurities. (I have to admit, that’s me. Check back for more on this idea in my post tomorrow.) Together, let’s pray bold prayers that God would:

  • Make His perspective our perspective.
  • Bring new friends or a mentor into our lives at the right time.
  • Help us see opportunities for connection—that might be right under our noses!
  • Prepare our hearts to become a younger woman’s mentor.
  • Love the people we do interact with as Jesus would.
  • Most of all, draw us tight into His arms and shine His glory brightly in the midst of a dark wilderness.

Lord, help us to cherish wilderness seasons as a gift—something that You orchestrate for our good—and help us to experience Your nearness and Your glory, shining bright like the stars, so that with the psalmist we can say:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. . . . But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works (Ps. 73:25–26, 28).

About the Author

Samantha Keller

Samantha Keller loves lazy lake days, strong coffee, and writing about the ways Jesus transforms our everyday messes into beautiful stories. She digs the four seasons in northern Indiana, is probably wearing a Notre Dame crew neck.