You know those moments when something comes out of your mouth and you know it’s not you because that thought has never crossed your mind before? Well, that happened to me a couple of months ago. I was at a Young Single Adult fireside when a question was asked about dealing with loneliness.
Loneliness is something I’ve come to know pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, I have so many wonderful people in my life and am far from Mary Bailey as the unmarried librarian in It’s a Wonderful Life. So I don’t say this in an effort to solicit pity, but more so as a fact necessary to this story. In reality, I HAVE a wonderful life but I often think about what it would be like to watch a basketball game on a Friday night with my husband rather than by myself, or to have a forever dinner date. So when this question was asked, I felt confident answering it but I was surprised by what came out of my mouth. I heard myself saying something along the lines of, “I think sometimes we think of loneliness as a negative thing, but it is actually just a feeling. For me, loneliness has actually been one of my greatest blessings because it has taught me to rely on God in a way I don’t know that I would’ve learned otherwise.”
The craziest part about this statement? I meant it. I felt it in my soul when I said it. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve felt that before. My mind flashed back to my points of deepest loneliness and I didn’t actually think of myself as alone in those moments. Instead, I reflected on how I came to know God in those moments.
The next day, I got a text from my old young women’s leader who is now the Institute teacher in my home stake. She said, “Thought about last night: l-ONE-ly . . . the root word is ONE (instead of lone!) When we are lonely, it gives us the opportunity to be at ONE with ourselves and with our Heavenly Father. It gives us the opportunity to realign ourselves and our lives with our Heavenly Father and His plan for us. It gives us a chance to slow down and think about what we can do to better ‘follow Him!’ What a blessing that is! I will look at being lonely in a whole different way!”
It is because of loneliness and time by myself that I have learned who I am. Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” In a New York Times piece earlier this year that cautions against confusing loneliness with time alone, we read, “In a culture where we often confuse being alone for loneliness, the ability to appreciate time by ourselves prevents us from processing the experience as a negative thing. In fact, getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” This is something I’ve always believed in—developing the ability to sit with oneself.
The day after this fireside, I was telling my mom about how surprised I was to hear these words come out of my mouth and as we talked, my mom said something along the lines of, “I’m sure Satan wants us to feel like being alone is a bad thing because he knows that God best reaches us one on one.” I began to think about the best relationships in my life and how those relationships have become cherished and sacred for me. It is because of time spent one-on-one, deep conversations and working through hard things together.
It is my belief that the same is true of God. It is by spending time with Him alone in stillness, communicating with Him and going through hard times with Him that I have come to count Him as my dearest friend.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think other people can achieve this without as much time alone, but I am grateful that for me, my relationship with God has required that time spent alone. It is time I will never regret. I will never look back and wish we hadn’t spent that time together, He and I.
This morning, Elder Gerrit W. Gong addressed the many emotions people feel during this Christmas season in a Facebook post, loneliness being one of them. He said, “There are many ways and many reasons we feel uncertainty, doubt, or fear or are lonely or afraid. Sometimes these moments even come during the Christmas season. But each is an opportunity to grow . . . when you are uncertain, lonely, undecided, embarrassed, ashamed, angry, or otherwise afraid, as we may each feel at times, please remember our Savior. He is always here for us, inviting us gently, powerfully, lovingly to be not afraid, only believe.”
So this Christmas, I hope that instead of feeling the pain of loneliness, you will cherish the opportunity to spend time with Jesus alone, trusting that, even when it may feel painful, it is in those moments you are drawing closer to Jesus Christ. May loneliness become one of the greatest gifts you receive this Christmas.