"I'm alone." "No you're not."

If you're a fan of badass girl bands, you probably recognized the title of this post as the lyrics to a Joseph song called "Honest" (if you don't know, treat yo self and look those gals up). Listen to their poetry:

I can't say a true thing It's hard to be that honest I know you're not asking But I told you that I promised

There's always two thoughts One after the other: I'm alone No you're not I'm alone no you're not

I know I'm pretending When I try to have an answer It's not what I intended And I don't know what comes after

There's always two thoughts One after the other: I'm alone No you're not I'm alone no you're not

These sisters put words to what most of us are scared to say. Many of us, no matter how extroverted or constantly-surrounded-by-other-humans we are, fear that we are alone. And then we get frustrated with ourselves - or other people do it for us - for feeling that way because we're supposed to be independent by now, thanks very much.

We graduate college and struggle to rebuild community. I'm alone.

No you're not. You're back in the same city as your family. Be grateful.

We start working full time and get busier than we thought we would. I'm alone.

No you're not. Being busy is a choice. Look at the Europeans. They eat dinner at 10:30. They take their sweet time. So can you. 

We watch another friend get married or engaged or find the S.O. they've always dreamed of but actually never knew they wanted/would jump off a bridge for. I'm alone.

No you're not. God's timing is perfect! Be patient. Sit down.

We move to a new city permanently or even just for a season and remember that we forget how intimidating making new friends can be. I'm alone.

No you're not. It just takes time. Friendships aren't built overnight. Just put yourself out there.

We once had deep friendships, but something has changed and we can't quite put a finger on it. We don't feel as known as we did before. I'm alone.

No you're not. Change your circumstances. You must be hanging around the wrong people.

We hear other people talk about things God "said" to them, but we haven't heard from him in quite some time. It feels like he isn't there. Is he even anywhere? I'm alone.

No you're not. Don't be ridiculous, God is always speaking. Get into the Word more. Or maybe you don't even really believe in him? Well, get to believing.

This is the sliver of the pie (or in my case, the giant delicious chocolate Costco cake that won't get out of my fridge. bye Felicia please get out). Just some examples I've heard recently or things I'm experiencing personally. This may not even begin to cover what you're going through, or what someone next to you is going through.

These thoughts and these retorts may come from other people, but oftentimes they come from ourselves. Guys, ​we are not kind to ourselves.

And, y'all, this world is lonely. So lonely that a few years ago someone wrote a book about why the stats for solo bowlers - people not part of any sort of recreational bowling league - have been shooting up. 

It's not an easy time to be anybody these days.

And while I don't pretend to know the antidote (every human bean is made different and we all need different things. be gentle now), I want to offer three arguments that I have been earnestly pushing on myself lately.

Number one: When you feel alone, get alone. With Jesus, that is.

Our minds are fickle and our thoughts unholy. Sometimes they crash like waves and destroy every semblance of reason and fact. I expect that God will interrupt this regularly scheduled programming with the absolutely encouraging and peacemaking Word of Truth without me even asking. I want him to make it all better lickety-split. But he's not an invasive kinda guy. Oftentimes the only thing that will settle my anxious toiling little brain is sitting down with a hot cup of coffee, legs crossed in front of that holy Book. I knowww, I used this earlier as an example of a potentially annoying response someone could offer. Some of you are reading this and you're frustrated because you don't want to do that, for various and totally valid reasons. The only thing I can say to you is just to try it out. You may be surprised. I have to force myself to do it sometimes, too. It is literally against our basic human nature to desire this most of the time. But think about it: Silence and stillness are pretty useful tools when you're trying to listen or watch close. Pain, failure, loneliness, struggle, whatever it is you feel trapped under - they are all teaching tools in the hands of the Good Father. Don't forget that he is the one who loves to give good gifts, who loves to put joy and light in the paths of those who are willing to dig around in the dirt a little to find them.

​Number two: Your lonely may look different from somebody else's, but we all catch it from time to time.

Comparison: The ultimate life-sucker. The devil's favorite tool of deception. If you can be convinced that you're worthy of a pity-party because you don't have what you deserve and someone else got it, you'll be totally paralyzed. You'll push crucial relationships away. You'll retreat and be rendered useless. Do not make the mistake of falling into contempt for your fellow brothers and sisters because they seem to have what you've always wanted but can't quite reach - that relationship, that job, that group of friends, that stuff, whatever. I promise you that God has gifts for you that you don't even know you need. We have to be willing to seek out what they are rather than continuing to ask for size 8.5 shoes when really we need a 9. Do you get what I'm saying here? The devil hates both joy and God-honoring relationships and he will try to ruin both with this trick. Remember that even Jesus faced loneliness. One of his best friends in the entire world betrayed him for a couple of dollars. You don't have it worse. Get on your knees and ask the Lord for what you need rather than directing your pain and anger towards others because they have what you want. This is hard. Which leads to my last tidbit of potentially unwarranted advice.

Number three: Be kind to yourself. 

Another sweet, sweet song by Andrew Peterson (Thank you times a mill, Discover Weekly. Everyone should pay for Spotify because it is one thousand percent worth it).

I get stuck in ruts of dark loneliness, frustrated because I can't find an exit door. But I'm often the one blocking it. Am I helping myself see clearly when I'm saying things - audibly or not - like, "You're being so stupid. Just stop thinking about it," or, "It's because you're acting weird. People aren't going to like you if you don't work to fit in with them"? No. I know it's become a cliche, but seriously think about this: Would you talk to your best friend, your kid, your grandma, the way you talk to yourself? If the answer is no, patterns need a-changin'. Think about the way Jesus talks to people. He says things like, "My burden is light," and, "Your faith has made you well," not, "Try harder next time, stupid."

Oh brothers and sisters, this is so hard for me to even write because I know that many of you are hurting and sad and confused and you feel like God played a trick on you. I've been there real, real recently and I just want to give you a hug.

Maybe it's not even loneliness you're facing. I could name off a thousand struggles and some of you would still feel like no one understands.

But I'm here to tell you, in the wise words of Amanda Cook,

"When [you're] misunderstood, [His] love understands [you]."

Lean into the pain. Sit down with Jesus and tell him about it. Scream and cry and punch him a little if you need to. He can take it, promise. Just don't stay alone with yourself. Because if you're alone with yourself, there's no room for him there.

And I can swear to you with all my being that this loneliness you feel does not have to be the last thing. In fact, it will not be the last thing if you place your hope in Christ. Whatever kind of season you're in, there's a better one coming. There's a God whose name means light and life and hope and joy and peace and you can trust in that name if you so choose. Hold on. Keep going. Search for what's good. Loneliness is a lie unless you decide it's not. 

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." --1 John 1:5

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)."  --Matthew 1:23

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you."  --2 Corinthians 4:7-12