Loneliness is something that I think isn’t discussed enough. It’s something that hits all of us, whether in passing or perpetually, and it’s tough to deal with.
As I was prepping to write this post, I looked over several articles on loneliness, and they all say similar things, like:
- Loneliness is common and widespread.
- The number of people experiencing loneliness has increased dramatically over the last several years.
- Loneliness adversely affects your health if it lasts for a long time.
- If you’re experiencing loneliness, something needs to change.
These articles recommended doing things like nurturing close relationships, meeting new people, participating in your community, serving others, and doing things that you enjoy to get out of loneliness.
It’s all good advice. I do suggest you follow it.
But as I read over these articles, I felt that one thing, probably the most helpful thing, wasn’t included in the advice. That’s not surprising, given that these articles were fairly scientific, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the best things you can do when you’re lonely is turn to God.
Every Step of the Way
Moses grew up in a unique situation. He was never actually supposed to grow up. As a Hebrew male, he was supposed to be killed as soon as he was born.
Luckily, he had a pretty gutsy mom who protected him until he wound up adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. More or less.
And even if he wasn’t supposed to be killed as a baby, he should have been destined for life as a slave. Enter again, Pharaoh’s daughter.
Anyway, Moses grew up as a Hebrew in a royal Egyptian household. That alone could be pretty lonely. We don’t know how much he knew about his past and his biological culture as he grew, but we know that he saw things differently than the Egyptians did.
That’s why he ended up killing an Egyptian to protect a Hebrew slave. And why he had to run for his life not long after.
At this point, you can imagine the loneliness that would have hit Moses. Not only did he grow up out of place in his home, he was forced to leave it and flee into the wilderness, knowing that if he went back, there was a good chance he’d be killed.
And he had nowhere to go. No place where anyone wanted him.
But it’s pretty clear that God looked out for Moses from the time he was born. And when Moses ended up alone in the wilderness, God led him to Midian, where he met Zipporah, the woman who became his wife.
It was also during this time that Moses met God and learned about Him. It seems that, even though Moses was a Hebrew, he wasn’t raised knowing God.
But once Moses had been called by God, he found a Companion to guide him through his life.
After doing as God asked and leading Israel out of Egypt, Moses found himself as the leader of a massive group of people.
Leadership is lonely. People can expect a lot from you without giving anything back in return. You have to deal with a lot of problems that aren’t your own.
And with a group like the Israelites, this leadership thing was no cakewalk.
Moses had complaints about food, water, his leadership, and God’s commandments. He even had people saying that it would have been better to stay in Egypt as slaves than be freed by the power of God.
How frustrating would that be?
But again, though Moses surely felt lonely during the 40 years in the wilderness, leading these people, God lifted him out of loneliness. He helped Moses feed and water the people. He guided them and protected them.
21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.Exodus 13:21-22
Never once, in all those 40+ years, did God leave His children alone. Not once did He abandon Moses and make him take care of all those people alone.
The Israelites at that time may have had a lot of physical evidence that God was with them. They could even see His presence guiding them.
We don’t have it quite like that. But our situation isn’t so different.
We are still God’s children, and we’ve been given a prophet to teach and guide us like Moses did the Israelites.
We can pray and talk to God, follow His commandments, and make covenants with Him. His Spirit, the Holy Ghost, is with us 100% of the time when we do these things.
The Israelites didn’t sit back and do nothing to receive God’s help. Moses didn’t either. Both Moses and the Israelites prayed to God for aid when they needed it. They worshipped Him, imperfectly at times, but they continued in their efforts.
We can do the same thing, and by doing those things we can be sure of God’s companionship in our lives.
In Desperate Moments
Even knowing that the Holy Ghost is with us constantly and that God loves us and cares for us, we still hit low moments of intense loneliness at times.
That’s life. Life has rock bottom moments, and loneliness hits hard in those moments. It’s so easy to feel like God isn’t there, that He doesn’t hear us, and that there’s no hope.
But that’s the devil talking. His whole goal is to make us feel further from God than we are so we forget who we are and how much God loves us. The devil would love nothing more than for us to lose our divine identity.
Loneliness is a powerful tool in the devil’s fight.
Joseph Smith experienced this firsthand in Liberty Jail where he’d been a prisoner for months. It was winter, he and his companions were freezing, and the news they heard from their families was mostly of attacks against the members of the church.
When you lead people, take responsibility for them, and find that they, and you, are suffering because of it, not much will make you more sad or lonely.
Finally, in complete sorrow, Joseph turned to God and asked,
1 O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
2 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?Doctrine and Covenants 121:1-2
Joseph felt just as lost and alone and separated from God as we do in our rock bottom moments. But by turning to God, he received a response that can comfort us as much as it comforted Joseph.
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8
Did God fix everything right then? No. Did Joseph suffer more after this experience? Absolutely.
But God reminded Joseph that he wasn’t alone. That even though things looked like they couldn’t get worse, eventually life would get better.
Joseph wasn’t alone in his pain; God felt it too. He feels it every time He sees His children suffering and crying out to him.
And He doesn’t leave us alone in our suffering. He understands it better than anyone else ever could. God is our best and most understanding friend in times of loneliness.
If you feel lost and lonely, if you are in a rock bottom moment and don’t see a way out, turn to God. Trust Him to lift you out of that loneliness and to support you along the way.
His love will always be there when you need it.