When you're feeling lonely, you can regain control of your thoughts

Feeling lonely may be the toughest problem singles have to face.

In many ways, today's culture increases loneliness. We're each tuned in to our electronic devices, but a point comes when you long for the companionship and caring of another human being. Plastic and steel are no substitute for love.

When you're alone and depressed, there's a real danger of a snowball effect. Before you know it, one sad thought leads to another, and soon you're pessmistic about yourself and your prospects in life.

Don't go down that road

Depression is an enemy we've all faced. It creeps up on you slowly, without warning. It may begin with feeling lonely, then progress to the conclusion that you have no hope. Before you know it, you're completely miserable.

This unhealthy chain reaction can happen so naturally that you're convinced it's right. You find yourself agreeing with this gloomy outlook, as if it's inevitable.

Deep inside, you know you shouldn't let yourself go down that self-critical road, but you don't make any serious effort to stop it.

Avoidance as a way of life

Feeling lonely is a fact we'd rather not deal with--at least in any meaningful way. We see it as a sign of weakness. You would never admit your loneliness to anyone else, especially if you're a man. The sad truth is that in some way, every human being, married or single, knows some form of loneliness. It's the epidemic of our times, and everybody has caught it.

So we look for distractions. Clubs are popular, with loud music and lots of other lonely souls, acting as if they've got it all together. Most of them take the edge off with alcohol, or even cocaine, trying to convince others they're having fun instead of trying to escape the pain. Beneath the glitter, it's a sickening charade.

Then there are careers. If we can't get the love and attention we long for, we may pour our energies into our career, looking for affirmation from our boss or relatives and friends. But eventually that rings hollow too.

Materialism has become the "respectable" solution to feeling lonely. It's not illegal, like drugs, and it's not immoral, like alcohol. Or is it?

With the average American household owing $9,659 in credit card debt, I'd say that comes pretty close to immoral.

WWJD about loneliness?

What would Jesus do about loneliness? We don't have to speculate, because the Bible tells us.

Feeling lonely was a temptation he faced many times, and yet he didn't fall into sin when that emotion seized him.

Most often, Jesus prayed, seeking intimate fellowship with his heavenly Father and guidance from the Holy Spirit. He understood, better than we do, that feely lonely is not a sin, but an inescapable part of the human condition.

Jesus also nurtured his relationships with his friends. Besides the apostles, he had friends like Lazarus, and Lazarus' two sisters, Martha and Mary. Their relationship was not marked by trying to avoid reality, but by genuine love and compassion for each other.

We can bring our friendships to that deeper level too, rising above shallow acquaintances to an authentic desire to help the other person.

Getting past dread and panic

Feeling lonely is not an invitation to beat yourself up. When you recognize that, you'll be able to catch yourself before that happens.

Don't believe that you're powerless when loneliness strikes. Remember that you do have control over your emotions, if you're objective enough to see what's happening.

Don't catastrophize. Thinking that your life and situation are hopeless is a skewed assumption based on emotion, not facts. Remember that your feelings may be strong, but they can't always be trusted.

Finally, when you're feeling lonely, go to God in prayer, and ask him to show you the situation realistically. Ask him to show you effective solutions, and also ask him for the courage to act.

Often we know what we need to do, but we're afraid to do it. When that action agrees with God's ways, believe that he will give you the strength to do the right thing.

Feeling lonely may be inevitable, but it doesn't have to unsolvable.

How to beat loneliness

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