Trusting God in Loneliness
Loneliness is an awful reminder that something is wrong with our world.
Many of us know that to be a personal struggle.
For some, university might not be the ‘friends-for-life’ experience we were expecting. While others may be facing tough life circumstances and are looking for a listening ear.
Whatever the case may be for you, here are some (surprising) lessons from Paul’s experiences in 2 Timothy.
1. Loneliness is outside of our control.
‘Do your best to come to me quickly’ – 2 Timothy 4:9
I always thought I could ‘move on’ from being lonely. I always believed that one day, if I worked hard enough at my friendships and relationships, I would never feel alone again.
But the truth is, loneliness is not something anyone is in control of.
Paul’s nearing the end of his life. This is a man who has – among other things – been ship-wrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake, and imprisoned. Given his zeal for the faith, it’s difficult to imagine the Apostle Paul being lonely. But for all his boldness, he begs his friend Timothy to come soon (4:9,21).
No matter how far you come in your Christian faith, you will not outgrow loneliness. It’s not a sin or weakness to overcome in God’s strength, it’s a consequence of living in this fallen world. Essentially – it’s not your fault.
2. Forgive those who leave you
‘At my first defence, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me ...May it not be held against them.’ – 2 Timothy 4:10, 16 (emphasis mine)
Of course, we cannot draw direct parallels here. As much as we might feel like martyrs sometimes, we are not Apostles standing for the gospel amid physical persecution and battling the loneliness that comes with that!
We might feel abandoned because friends (or we) move away, aren’t great at staying in touch, or just wind up being really busy.
But it might be that you have legitimate hurt and have been let down or betrayed in a very real way by people you love. The encouragement is to pray that it would not be held against them. Forgive them.
3. Give thanks for the people you do have
‘May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus… when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.’ – 2 Timothy 1:16–18
Paul is praising God for the people who have stood by him! Onesiphorus went to find him when he was in prison in Rome.
Praise God for the people who make lonely periods a little less lonely, however small. It might be a smile from the barista in a campus coffee shop or small talk with coursemates. It might be the gradual beginning of friendships with a new church family. It is a reminder of God’s care.
4. God is at your side
‘But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.’– 2 Timothy 4:17–18
You might be feeling lonely in the midst of following Jesus, or even because of following Jesus. Either way, know that He is by your side.
John 14:16–18 says, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth… I will not leave you as orphans.’
There are people who do not have this relationship with God. They are facing a greater loneliness by being without Jesus. The message we have is this: we are not alone. We have a God who walked among us to call us back to Himself. And Paul, despite his loneliness, never lost sight of sharing that truth.
I hope you find people who know and love you well. In fact, I pray that you do. It is a gift that God often loves to give us. But no matter what: He is with you by His Spirit. This should be a great comfort, and one we can pray others will know too.
Rosie is on her second year working with Christian students in East Anglia. Despite being a Londoner, she's often found talking about her love for Norfolk and Suffolk. She also enjoys chocolate, reading and laughing loudly.
The local church is one of the most tangible expressions of God’s love and welcome. That’s why this November, we’re inviting local churches to step up their welcome and host Sunday lunches, reaching out to students who may or may not already be part of their community. Find out more and ask your church leader or student worker how your church can get involved.
Sunday Lunch Sunday