When my husband and I started dating, I braced myself for the well-known difficulties of a long-distance relationship. I expected to feel sorrow about our separation and longing for the next visit. I expected to feel frustrated with our communication and uncertain about our future.
But I never expected to feel so lonely.
Perhaps it was because I was a freshman in college and most of my friends were single. Perhaps it was because the closer I grew to my boyfriend, the more I realized that my best friend in life lived several states away.
Many of us, though, feel loneliness because we don’t know anyone else in a long-distance relationship.
This loneliness is normal, even when you have wonderful, supportive friends. Loneliness itself is not a sin, but this sense of separation from others can become dangerous. When we allow loneliness to tell us lies, we can lose sight of the reality of suffering and our hope in the midst of it.
Lie 1: I’m alone in this struggle
When you don’t know anyone else who’s in a long-distance relationship, it’s easy to feel alone in your struggle.
One fact that may encourage you is that long-distance relationships are more common than you think. If anything, the existence of Dating at a Distance proves you’re not the only ones struggling to survive the distance.
Still, this knowledge can’t quench the loneliness of everyday life. The only truth that completely destroys the lie that you’re alone in your struggle is the truth that God is right there with you.
We cannot underestimate the power of God’s presence or the strength of His empathy. As our Creator, God is deeply aware that our hearts are broken. As our Savior, Jesus is personally familiar with the sorrows of the human experience. And as our Comforter, the Holy Spirit is intimately acquainted with our emotions.
In this way, loneliness can be an unforeseen gift. God satisfies all of our needs — even the need for friendship. When we have no one else to turn to for comfort, loneliness forces us to lean into the companionship of Christ and depend on Him for comfort.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…”2 Corinthians 1:3
Lie 2: Lack of experience equals lack of empathy
Have you ever said, “You just don’t understand” to someone? Most of us are too polite to say it out loud, but it’s what we’re usually thinking as we secretly disregard all of their encouragement and advice.
In our post-modern culture, we tend to emphasize that experiencing something is the only way to understand it. As a result, we extend the authority to give advice only to those with personal experience.
While our past experiences do inform our encouragement, 2 Corinthians 1:4 counters the claim of experience directly. Paul says that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” — not just the same affliction.
A person doesn’t need to have gone through a long-distance relationship to console and counsel you. The only experience they need is a relationship with Christ.
“…who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…”2 Corinthians 1:4
Lie 3: Suffering isn’t usually lonely
Shedding tears in isolation, it’s easy to believe your suffering is lonelier than other types of suffering. But as I reflect on the stories of women in the Bible, I realize most of them probably felt very alone.
After all, who related to Ruth when she entered a new culture as a widow? Who held hands with Hannah when she wept over her infertility? And who commiserated with Mary when no one believed she was carrying the Son of God? I doubt any of these women had a group of girlfriends who understood exactly what they were going through.
By nature, suffering is often lonely. The night he was betrayed, Jesus’ disciples were ignorant of his pain, falling asleep as he prayed in anguish. Three days later, Jesus experienced a loneliness beyond comprehension on the cross, crying out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
In fact, it’s Jesus’ suffering on the cross that reveals a greater purpose in our loneliness. As we “share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings,” we become more like Him, and we receive His comfort in overflowing measure.
“…for as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”2 Corinthians 1:5
The more painful experiences that I endure, the more I am amazed by how much Christ suffered for me. Jesus was forsaken by God — for me. For you.
Because of Him, I will never be forsaken by God. He will always be with me in the sorrow, in the heartache, in the suffering.