An Open Letter to the Lonely

originally posted April 8, 2016

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
— Romans 8

We talk a lot about community here, about just showing up for people around us who are hurting, about what it means to trust God in the midst of suffering, looking for grace in the mundane. I love our Mundane Faithfulness team, our readers and friends, our financial supporters (without whom we wouldn’t exist!), the Facebook MFC. Some days I am downright overwhelmed with the love and encouragement around me.

But I know that there are a lot of us—and by a lot, I truly mean a lot—who are not overwhelmed by love and encouragement. Who, in fact, cannot imagine what that would even look like. Who see Kara’s pictures of her beautiful family, her Mickey, her friends, her church, and wonder what it would mean to have so many people to love.

I know that there are people who live in isolation, far away from their church, out in the country, who look out their window and hope and pray for the telephone to ring. Empty-nest mamas whose hearts are breaking from the silence of a quiet house. Spouses who will never hear the sound of their loved ones laughing again this side of Heaven. Singles who go home each night to an empty house, attempting to trust God day after day that He is sovereign and that his plan is good, even if it hurts. Parents whose children’s unborn cries haunt them in the night. Parents who wake up, listening for the sound of their child calling before remembering they will never hear that beautiful sound again. Women whose husbands abuse them and repeatedly treat them as if they are unlovable. Husbands whose wives, once thought godly, have left them for a life more exciting. People who seek solace in drugs, alcohol, pornography but only find emptiness.

I know there are military families far away from grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and who struggle to connect with each move. Or even find the energy to try again. People angry and bitter that their dreams have not come true, feeling that God has ruined their lives. People angry and bitter because they cannot heal from a loss and they can barely function day to day. People angry and bitter because they have been hurt by pastors and church leaders and people who call themselves Christians and yet have no qualms about being unkind. People who have tried their entire lives to find and build community only to be rejected again and again and again. People who are housebound because of illness—theirs or someone else’s. People whose children are different and rejected, who retreat in the pain of that injustice.

I know there are women whose husbands have died in their old age, whose sisters are gone, too, and whose friends are dying off one by one, leaving them alone and without comfort. Mamas whose children have rejected them and prevent them from seeing their grandchildren. Daughters whose mothers have mistreated them, and who don’t know the gentle touch of a loving mama. Sons whose fathers abandoned them and left them to navigate adolescence alone. People whose bitterness and anger and pride have pushed everyone else away. People who sink into their wells of depression so often, friends have given up on them. People whose anxiety prevents them from reaching out. People whose fear of man is so staggering they can’t have someone over for coffee.

I know there are many lonely people out there. And my heart goes out to you. For years, I was lonely. I isolated myself and forgot how to be gracious and kind. Once I realized I wanted community, I couldn’t find it. I felt worthless, rejected, unwanted, unknown, unseen, unnoticed. I will never forget that time in my life and the level of pain I learned to function with.

If any of this resonates with your heart, then this letter is for you.


Dear friend,

I call you friend, because if I could, I would reach out. I would see you when you think you are unnoticed at the grocery store or slipping out of church. I would see you when you have a cold and no one offers to bring you chicken noodle soup.

I am not a perfect friend. I hurt others’ feelings and stumble with my words of encouragement. I am clumsy with putting love into practice and with knowing how to pursue others in ways that make sense to them. I struggle loving my own husband and sisters, let alone friends. I am not good at being intentional, and before I know it, too much time has passed without talking to friends I love. I know that on earth, I will be imperfect, an imperfect friend. But in Heaven, I will be a perfect friend and I will know how to love you well.

I want you to be seen, and I want you to be known. I want you to be delighted in, studied, celebrated. I want friends to surround you in joy, grateful for the opportunity to love you and be loved by you. I want you to feel safe in the love of friends.

I pray for you even though I don’t know your name. I look for you at the coffee shop and when we’re out for walks. I regret that I’ve likely overlooked you many times—please know it’s not on purpose.

But please also know this: God does not overlook you. He created you in your mother’s womb with great delight and intention. He laughed when you took your first steps and said your first words. His heart ached when you fell off your bike and got bullied in school, when you were fell in love and got rejected, when your child—whom you love so much—ran out of the house in anger.

God sees everything about you. When you are hiding your tears, when you are crying in secret, when you are lamenting that no one cares…God cares. God remembers His Son suffering, His own Son crying in the Garden of Gethsemane. God remembers His Son as a baby, screaming in shock and fear as he came into this world. God remembers His Son crying when his friend Lazarus died. God always notices your tears.

God knows your heart. When you don’t even know what’s wrong or what you are feeling, God does. God knows the parts of your heart you don’t even know exist. He knows your wants and longing and aches and pains. He looks forward to the day when you will see His face, and He will wipe every last tear from your eyes. When you will dance with delight and never be sad or lonely again.

When I have overlooked you or shamefully disregarded you when I should have reached out and engaged you, God has noticed you. He has taken note of your sorrow and loneliness. And He wants to meet you in that dark, lonely place.

Here is the magical thing about the depth of the pain of loneliness: the more it hurts, the more Grace you will meet. The sweeter Grace will taste. The more intimate Grace will be.

Loneliness is an opportunity to lean into Jesus. To allow the weight of our pain to push us into His arms. To trust Him in ways we hadn’t before. To find out about His love for us when we thought ourselves unlovable. To experience His pursuit when we are unhindered by distractions. To dig deep into Scripture and finally believe the passages about His love for us.

Loneliness opens the door to vulnerability. And vulnerability opens the door to trust. And trust? Well, it opens the door to love. Big, fat love.

I am praying for you today that you will take the risk of being vulnerable with Jesus. Jesus will never reject you, He will never shame you, He will never criticize you or scoff at you. He will never tell you that you are worthless or unlovable. He will only delight in who you are. He will never push you away, but only draw you into His embrace. He will never tell you He doesn’t have time for you, but will give you His full love.

I know this may feel impossible. That trusting—especially after trusting and being rejected—is so, so hard. And I don’t know what it will look like for you. But maybe just meditating on a short passage of Scripture? Maybe praying and sharing your heart with God? Maybe having it out with Him? Maybe just crying to Him, spilling your guts.

I am praying you can take this step today, that you will take Jesus’ outreached hand. You are not alone. You are never alone. You are seen, you are noticed, you are known, you are loved.

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
— Romans 8