loneliness hurts

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the entire first chapter of Jack Zavada's paperback book, Hope for Hurting Singles. While this is copyrighted material, it is lengthy, so you may want to print it out to read later in its entirety.

Turn Your Loneliness into Solitude

Loneliness is painful, so painful sometimes it feels like a physical ache.

If you're a single person, loneliness is your constant companion. It's there when you go to bed and there when you wake up in the morning. When something wonderful happens, you wish you had someone to share it with. When something bad happens and you need someone to bare your soul to, no one is there.

While loneliness exerts a powerful influence over us, I strongly believe it can be managed, to the point that like a physical illness such as diabetes, it's always present but not controlling you. By following the right regimen, you can minimize harmful outcomes of living by yourself and enjoy a normal life. Managing loneliness is not easy, but it can be done.

There are three keys to managing loneliness: cultivating solitude in your life, reaching out to others, and developing an intimate relationship with God.

Too many of us take a passive approach to loneliness, hoping it will somehow go away on its own. It doesn't. Only by following these three steps and taking a proactive approach can we get a handle on it. For reasons I'll discuss later, I do not feel loneliness can be eliminated, but I do think it's possible to be single and happy if you view this problem with an optimistic perspective.

No matter how frustrated you have been in the past, it's time to build new hope.

This is not the kind of counterfeit hope that comes from putting on a brave front. Even nonbelievers can do that. No, this is genuine hope based on the principles of Scripture and the promises of God. If anyone lived a hope-filled life, it was our Savior, Jesus Christ. He was single, like you and me. How did he handle loneliness?

If you read the gospels closely, I think you'll find he followed the three steps outlined above. Jesus made wise use of solitude. He reached out to others and made many friends while on earth. Finally, Jesus maintained an intimate relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit.

By following Jesus' example, you and I can take on loneliness and win. In the end, all forces must bow to the power of God. When we enlist God's help in this fight, we will gain new confidence and true hope.

How to build solitude instead of loneliness

An inescapable truth of being single is you have to spend time alone. Some people identify being alone with loneliness, but that doesn’t necessarily have to follow.  It takes courage to dig into why you think that way, but learning the truth opens the way to change.

You'd be surprised to learn how much of your loneliness comes from unrealistic expectations. Our culture is obsessed with happiness and having fun. When we're not having fun, we instinctively think there's something wrong with us, and when we're feeling lonely, we panic and believe something terrible will happen if we don't put a stop to it immediately.


Being alone and hating it is loneliness.  Being alone and liking it is solitude, and there’s a world of difference.

Let's see if we can't turn that around. Let's try, in this section, to learn how to actually enjoy time alone. Enjoying it means turning it into solitude. The first requirement? You have to love yourself.  Many single people don’t.  They can’t stand being alone because their own critical thoughts attack them, and they become their own worst enemy.

Think about your life.  Do you always have to have some kind of noise going on?  Do you turn on the TV, radio, or MP3 player as soon as you get home?  Are you on your cell phone for hours during the evening?  Does silence make you nervous? When you insist on noise all the time, you're trying to drown something out. You may be running away from yourself.  If you don’t love yourself and don’t want to deal with that problem, you may be doing whatever you can to avoid confronting it.

Being alone and hating it is loneliness.  Being alone and liking it is solitude, and there’s a world of difference.

Jesus commanded his followers to love God and to "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)

Most of us miss that "love yourself" part of the command. To appreciate solitude, you simply must love yourself and look forward to spending time alone.

How do you do that when you hate yourself or, at best, find your own company barely tolerable?  It begins with knowing you are fully and unconditionally loved by God.  We’ll discuss self-esteem in Chapter Five, but for now let's concentrate on those negative thoughts you have when you're alone.

Are you like me?  Do you spend a lot of your thought-life replaying situations and thinking about what you should have done or should have said?  Do you even invent imaginary conversations where you defend yourself or make a snappy comeback to some cutting remark?  Lots of singles do that.

Or maybe you mentally beat yourself up, turning yourself into a human punching bag over some dumb thing you said or did.  That's much more common than you think too.

Many singles struggle with feelings of inferiority, going back to when they were children.  They feel they don't measure up to others' expectations and never will.  When they're alone those feelings come to the surface.

I could go on and on about painful thoughts and the way we punish ourselves with them, but the bottom line is that our mind slips into these torturous feelings whenever we're alone and understandably, we don't like it.  The most common defense is to have some sort of external distraction going that drowns those thoughts out.  Or even worse, we avoid being alone.

That explains why millions of singles (not you, I hope) would rather be in a bad relationship than no relationship at all, because they just can't stand to be alone with themselves. For some people, putting up with abuse is preferable to loneliness.

being alone

If the prospect of being alone frightens you, remember that enjoying solitude is a learned skill. For most of us it doesn't come naturally. Most people watch television or read a book to pass time. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't overdo it.  Hobbies are also a constructive way to occupy your time because they teach you new things and give you a chance to explore something you enjoy, as opposed to your job, which you may not like.

Today, many young people spend all their spare time hanging out with their friends. Take it from a person who is 64 years old as I write this:  You will not be able to call up a gang of friends to hang out with for the rest of your life.  Circumstances change.  The friends you have now will get married (I hope you will too!), some will move away to new jobs, others will just drop out of the picture.

When you're a young person, in your twenties or even thirties, solitude seems like a punishment, but as you grow older and more confident of yourself, you will find that time alone can be some of the most valuable periods of your life.  Only by reflecting and praying do we learn important truths about ourselves, and you can't reflect and pray in a crowd. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a religious fanatic who believes you should spend all your spare time praying. I do, however, think it provides a good opportunity to get closer to God.

Learning to appreciate solitude is an invaluable skill which will serve you well the rest of your life, while keeping you out of untold trouble.  Instead of dealing with your destructive thoughts by using drugs or alcohol, it's more kind to yourself to face your problems and work them out. Sometimes singles need professional help to do that. That's all right. It's money well spent.

Solitude, rather than being a curse, can be a great source of hope for you.  One of the most important sources of hope for singles is to have something to look forward to.  If you look forward to your time alone instead of dreading it, you'll start to plan things you can do with your me-time.

pottery hobby

A new hobby started during your time alone can turn into a source of endless fascination and can also introduce you to new people who have the same interest as you.  Resources are available through public libraries, the Internet, and off-campus classes for you to become an expert in almost any area you choose.  You can learn at your own pace.  You can email authorities in the field with your questions.  You can turn being alone into a time of growth.

I have a single friend who is glad to have her home to herself in the evening.  She leaves the ringing phones of the office behind, has a leisurely dinner, then relaxes from her stressful job.  She sees plenty of people during the work day.  It's a pleasure for her to be alone.

While solitude can be helpful, isolation can be deadly.  There’s an important difference.  With isolation, you become a virtual hermit, hiding out in your house or apartment, rarely going out, shunning the company of others.  Isolating yourself is self-imposed loneliness.

Nothing creates weirdness more than spending too much time alone.  Singles have to arrive at a healthy balance.  Obsess over your pet theories in isolation and you risk becoming a crackpot, one of those frightening arguers who thinks he or she is right and everybody else is wrong.  If you don't talk with others on a regular basis and get out in the world at least a bit, your opinions become petrified.  You imagine others to be a threat.  You turn into an old curmudgeon, no matter what your age.

So what constitutes healthy solitude and what degenerates into dangerous isolation?  It varies from person to person, but balance is always the key.  "Goers" might spend at least one evening or afternoon a week at home, and "stay-at-home" types might spend at least one evening or afternoon a week out. For the shy person, going places and talking to people reduces loneliness.  It forces you to interact with others, even if you're afraid.  More on that later.

Remember, hope comes not just from praying and waiting, but from doing

Remember, hope comes not just from praying and waiting, but from doing.  Learn how to enjoy solitude and you overcome a major cause of loneliness in your life.  If this is an area that gives you trouble, you may be tempted to give up before you even try, but you are much smarter, stronger, and resilient than you give yourself credit for. And, of course, God is always willing to help you grow.  Getting the edge on solitude may take you out of your comfort zone, but I can assure you the effort and temporary anxiety will be well worth it.

Reject the prevailing belief that being alone is a bad thing.  Until and unless you get married, you will be forced to spend time alone.  If you can learn to love yourself, be comfortable in your own company and look forward to solitude, you will find those abilities invaluable assets in helping you achieve your goals.

If you don't have goals right now, you need to get some! Goals give you a reason to get up in the morning.  They help you focus your energy instead of wasting it on worthless pursuits. They fill your time with worthwhile activities. Goals can also help you move into a better job where you'll earn more money and feel more fulfilled.  Solitude gives you time to work on your goals.  During that me-time, you'll be able to increase your knowledge base and develop your talents.  In addition, you can monitor your progress and make adjustments.

lonely tree

Without a spouse, we singles have a tendency to drift.  It can be hard to motivate yourself.  Achieving your goals will make you feel better about yourself, which in turn makes you more attractive to the opposite sex.

As you work to turn your alone time into solitude--and it is hard work at first--you may be tempted to slip back into your old ways of coping, like drowning out the silence or phoning your friends. It's easy to rationalize that you need a "break." Try to resist. Whenever you do something difficult, a little voice inside you says, This is too hard. You can't do this. Just give up and move on to something more fun.

Remember that solitude pays precious rewards. You know you're going to be faced with alone time. No single can avoid that. Don't fall for the cultural message that you have to be staring at a screen or tuned into something all the time. You're learning a new skill. You're building for your future. You're training yourself to be a more independent person.

One of the hallmarks of maturity is not being a herd animal. The more you think for yourself, the less you mindlessly follow the crowd, the richer your life will be. We say we value independence yet worry about what our friends think of us. We try to impress complete strangers. Part of the pleasure of being your own person comes from the support God gives you. God wants you to make wise decisions, and those don't always agree with the latest trends. As someone who has been around a long time, I can tell you with conviction you can't always trust what is popular, but you can always trust God.

We rarely stand still in life. We are either moving closer to God or backsliding away from him.

Yes, you may not be doing anything sinful in your spare time, but is it leading closer to the greatest power and love in your life? Solitude doesn't necessarily have to be about God every time you're alone, but it does give you an opportunity to draw near to him.

The Christian life is about choices. Should I do this or that? When you look at the big picture, every action influences who you are becoming. Whether you understand it or not, you are building character.

What type of character you have twenty or thirty years from now depends on what you do today, tomorrow, and every day. Build good habits and you build good character. Follow Christ and you become more Christlike. Making wise use of solitude puts you on the path as a person God can teach. As I said earlier, we can rarely pray or meditate in the middle of a crowd, and the same goes for hearing from God.

God doesn't shout. He won't try to compete with your iPod or television. It's only when you make yourself available to him that you'll hear from him. He decides how he talks to you, whether through the pages of the Bible or through that inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, but know this: You stand a better chance of hearing from God in your solitude. Don't spoil that opportunity. Be receptive to his voice. He has important things to tell you.

Reaching out to others

Reaching out to others is one of the surest ways to manage loneliness. When you are genuinely kind and caring, people can't help but be attracted to you. God's wisdom shines through in the command to love others as you love yourself. If you love others and are consistent about it, you will find a lot less loneliness in your life.

You can shuffle through life putting up your own personal force field around you, a barrier that keeps other people from getting through, but you close off opportunities when you do that. Certainly it's smart to protect yourself from the predators of this world, but it's just as smart not to become overprotective.

When Jesus gave the command to love others as ourselves, he knew it would be hard. Instead of loving others, we have a natural tendency to pick at them. While that may temporarily make us feel superior, it devalues the other person. In our own pain, we push away the very people who could help us. And we could help them, too.

To love others, you have to be aware of your own faults. When you rightfully recognize your own sinful nature, you can understand why others behave the way they do. If you're honest, you have to admit you have enough flaws of your own to work on first before you point out the faults of others. That's what Jesus meant when he said to take the plank out of your own eye before trying to get the speck out of your neighbor's eye. A kind person tries to live by the Golden Rule:  Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)

One of the good things about Millennials is they are not as xenophobic as earlier generations, that is, afraid of people who are different. Today's young people tend to take others as they are, not judging because a person has unfamiliar customs or tastes. 

Sometimes this tolerance goes too far when it overlooks sin, but it has also eliminated a lot of prejudice.


To have friends who will relieve your loneliness, you simply must be willing to accept their faults. But let's be clear. You can't do that as an act of condescension, as if you're a superior person doing a favor for an inferior.  No, we're all struggling.  You are obligated to accept others because Christ has accepted you, warts and all.

One of the causes of loneliness has always been fear:  fear of getting involved, fear the other person will turn out to be clingy or controlling, fear of stepping out of your comfortable routine.  As singles, we tend to get into a rut.  We prefer the familiar misery of loneliness to the unfamiliar misery of reaching out.

Overcoming any type of fear calls for trust in God.  You have to be dependent on his strength, his power, and his wisdom.  Even at that, you're going to make mistakes and suffer rejection because other people have free will and God doesn’t control them like robots.  When you reach out to others, you always risk getting hurt.

Unfortunately, those of us who are the most sensitive worry the most about being hurt. Thick-skinned singles who go charging through life pay as much attention to rejection as a rhinoceros shot by a BB gun.

Completely changing your personality so nothing bothers you is hardly a more desirable option.  Again, you have to trust God for the courage to reach out then trust him for healing if things don’t go the way you hoped.  The other choice, however, doing nothing, is simply more of the same.

trusting God

We pick up some bad habits along the way that are hard to break.  High schools are notorious for fostering cliques that snub others.  It seems cute and fun when you're 16 years old, but if you're 35, it's time to grow up and stop it.  If you happen to be among the fortunate few who are physically attractive, then people who are plain, overweight, or not model-like in their appearance become easy targets.

You may think you've escaped a high school mentality as you grow older, but thanks to those formative years, it's easy to hold onto habits that should have been chucked when you tossed your mortarboard.

Once you get over the misbelief that God is going to answer your prayers by dropping the perfect spouse or friend on your doorstep, you're ready to make some real progress. If you ask God for courage, you can be sure you'll receive it, because courage is needed to reach out in friendship.

When it comes to friendships, new challenges and stepping out in faith, we all need some help.  Jesus reminds you that with his love behind you, you can be yourself.  You don't need to put on a front, because no matter what happens, his love for you is honest and constant. He loves you for who you are and continues to love you whether you're up or down.

You long for the kind of intimacy and sharing only marriage can bring, but until that spouse comes along, you need friends.  Often your relatives--siblings  or cousins--can be trusted friends, but if you live away from your family, you need to reach out, carefully, and build a couple close relationships.  Without them, you risk viewing the world through your own out-of-focus glasses.  You can get too used to seeing things from your own limited perspective. 

A good friend provides balance. He or she can gently tell you when you're overreacting in a situation.  We singles tend to replay conversations from work over and over until we obsess about them.  Then we view everything from our own perspective, rarely conceding we might have been wrong.  A friend provides needed objectivity.

It's no secret that it's harder to make friends and keep them today.  As adults, we've all been hurt, so we become defensive. We don't share too much. We withhold our trust.  We exercise caution in what has become a sometimes dangerous society, and that's wise.  I don't want to become pals with a stalker any more than you do.

best buddies

As a man, I realize men don't confide in each other as openly as women do.  It's not considered masculine to talk about your feelings. Even when it's done in a joking manner, the other guy can become uncomfortable. I have been fortunate to have some female friends I can confide in. I'm always amazed at their intuition and how well they're able to read people. They give me a perspective I need.

As you're traveling along in life, trying to find that special someone along the way, your friends are oases on your journey.  They sustain you and keep you sane.  You may expect too much from them and at the same time don't want to give them too much of yourself, but at the end of the day, a kindred spirit, whether a male or female friend, can be invaluable in rescuing you from loneliness. In gratitude you can only do your best to give them the support they need as well.  An unequal friendship is doomed to resentment, just like a marriage in which one partner contributes too much and the other hardly anything.

Most women have such a friend.  We men, well, we're still too stuck in the world of macho to realize how important such a relationship is.  Many men, even when they get married, still hold back, as if revealing their hurts and desires will give their wife a weapon to stab them in the back.  As a man, I know it's crazy, but that's the way many of us are.  So if you're a man reading this, even if you're not going to tell your best buddy all your deepest, darkest secrets, do use him for a sounding board from time to time.  It will help with your loneliness and keep you sane.

Developing intimacy with God

Deep inside, we each feel out of place here because earth is not our true home.  We are aliens in the truest sense of the word. We don't belong here. We belong with God, in heaven.

The wise church father Augustine expressed it well when he said of God, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

A spouse can't solve that problem. You can't solve it yourself, even if you do recognize what's wrong. To bank on your loneliness being cured on earth is hoping for too much.  You can do much to relieve the condition, but it never truly departs from you.  Loneliness is always in the background, ready to surface to remind you that this life is not final.  This place is not ideal.  This earth is not your home.

lonely Jesus

It is both discouraging and encouraging that Jesus Christ often knew loneliness.  A close reading of the gospels reveals Jesus often felt like an outsider in the world he co-created. We can speculate whether his loneliness came from being homesick for heaven or as an inescapable part of the human condition, but the truth is probably some of both. 

From eternity he had enjoyed a loving union with his Father and the Holy Spirt.  On earth, confined to the limitations of a human body, away from the perfection of heaven, he was the only sinless being on an entire planet of sinners.  In that way he could not relate to his fellow men, yet when he died on the cross, all humanity's sin, past, present and future, was heaped on him with the additional burden of being cut off from his Father for the first time in eternity.  None of us can imagine the loneliness of that awful moment. Some theologians believe Christ died not from the punishment of crucifixion as much as from a broken heart.

Jesus learned from personal experience that people like to be together.  He made human beings for relationships, and he may have been shocked when he became a human himself to know those feelings of longing for others. So Jesus knows firsthand how your loneliness feels.  He gets how miserable it can be, along with the kind of emptiness that accompanies it.  Hebrews 4:5 tells us how much Jesus is like us:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:5)

Let's be clear that loneliness is not sin. Christ is able to empathize with your weakness of being lonely.  That means he knows what it's like and that loving you deeply, he wants to relieve your pain.  Even better, as God, Jesus has the omnipotent power to heal you of this condition.  He knows something must be done, he knows exactly what to do, and he has the capability to do it.

Christ stands ready to help you on two fronts.  He can guide you as you reach out to others, and he can supply you with the inner strength to cope with loneliness.  It's not exaggerating that some of us need divine intervention when it comes to making friends.  Many singles are naturally shy and need the confidence God can supply when it's time to reach out.

In the battle against loneliness, you can do lots of things you thought you couldn't when Christ stands with you. One of Jesus' most-repeated commands was "Don't be afraid."  That raises two interesting points:  First, he understands that you are afraid of many circumstances, and second, he knows something you don't know, namely that you don't have any reason to be afraid.  When you start to reach out toward new relationships, you imagine you have a hundred things to be afraid of, the chief one being, "What if they don't like me?"

Christ's sustaining power in you gives you the courage to try and the strength to survive if, in fact, they don't like you.  The thing about suffering a lot of rejection is that it eventually hits you that you're still alive and it wasn't the end of the world.  You actually build up something of a tolerance toward it, as you do toward hot weather. 

When you get on a conversational level with Jesus, you might even reach the point where you can tell him, "Well, that wasn't much fun, Lord, but bring on the next one.  I'm not gonna let it get me down."

When you pray for God's help on those lonely nights, you can rest assured that Jesus is the Master of realistic thinking.  Go back to the gospels and see how he always cut right through to the truth of a situation.  Yes, loneliness is an unpleasant condition and it's something you'd like to avoid, but the truth, despite your emotions and however Satan tries to convince you otherwise, is Christ is your constant companion, whether you can feel him with you or not. 

Building intimacy with God will give you hope. Recognize loneliness as a problem that will be with you all your life, but be confident it doesn't have to be paralyzing.  When you experience intimacy with Christ in your lonely times and his support when you're reaching out to others, you'll grasp that loneliness can't defeat you unless you let it.  You have learned to control your anger, your impulsiveness, and your fear.  With God's help, you can get a handle on loneliness too.

God's presence cuts your troubles down to size.  Every problem is puny in the face of his power.  That power is yours to receive.  If loneliness has crippled you in the past, confront it with new resolve.  Remember God is on your side.  He stands ready to help, as close as a prayer.

Solitude gives you the chance to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus, and when you do, you have a loving friend you can go to night or day with anything that's bothering you.  We singles desperately need Jesus.  You don't get to know a human being without spending time with him or her, and the same is true with Jesus.  Intimacy with Christ is a gift that must be cultivated slowly, carefully. The way to do that is through prayer, Bible reading, and Christian meditation.

praying on beach

Praying is tough. Most of us don't like to do it. I find it hard because so many of my prayers have not been answered the way I would have liked. In fact, that's among my excuses for not praying: 

  • I don't know what to say or how to say it.
  • My mind wanders.
  • I don't hear anything back from God.
  • I have other things to think about.
  • I find prayer boring.
  • I never get what I ask for, so it's a waste of time.

Prayer, in its essence, is talking with God. The key to that definition is the preposition "with." With, instead of "to" implies a two-way street. We talk, but we also must listen. I have often been guilty of leaving out the listening part. We all want to hear from God but are discouraged when we don't get that booming voice with a clearly understandable answer.

As you pray to build intimacy with God, you will stumble and fumble. I don't know about you, but the older I get, the shorter my attention span. I'm inarticulate. I can't find the right words to express how I feel. I'm confident, though, that God already knows. He knows you and me better than we know ourselves, which is comforting.

Give God credit for immense patience when you pray.  The One who created you doesn't get angry when your mind wanders or you can't communicate what's bothering you.  Scripture assures us the Holy Spirit takes our clumsy prayers and makes them acceptable to our heavenly Father.  I think God looks more on the desires of our hearts  than he does on our vocabulary. Radio preachers may be able to fashion beautiful, emotional prayers, but that doesn't mean God values them more than a simple, "Help me" or "Jesus, I need you."

To build an intimate relationship with God through prayer demands you be more forgiving of yourself. Over the years, I've realized I can't view God as a cosmic critic, holding up number cards like judges at the Olympics, scoring my prayers like they're some kind of athletic performance.  At best, prayer is a struggle. We try to organize our thoughts.  We try not to be selfish, but we do have problems and we do need to ask for help. We fight to stay focused.  A hundred distractions intrude, interrupting our fragile train of thought.  We start again a dozen times.

Does this sound familiar?  I hope it's a relief for you to know it's not just you.  We all battle an overactive mind when we try to pray. The important thing is to not give up. It's especially important not to quit when you don't get the answer you want. I know it's discouraging, but God wants you to persevere. And remember, since he can see the future and he loves you unconditionally, he will always give you what's best for you, even if it doesn't seem that way at the time.

open Bible

The second way to build intimacy with God is reading the Bible. Some preachers, and many Christian lay people say, "God said to me..." I don't doubt their sincerity, but that has happened to me only once or twice in my life, and when it did, God did not speak in an audible voice; what he said was so short that it was only a word or two of reassurance or guidance, not a long, divine explanation of my circumstances. I think when we're in an emotional state, we can easily imagine God speaking to us. I look for my answers from God in the pages of the Bible, and I think it's wise for you to do that too.

For years I struggled to understand the Bible until I bought a good study Bible with extensive footnotes. I started with the Life Application Study Bible. The footnotes tell you how to apply biblical principles to your everyday life. To me, that was priceless. For the first time, the Bible came alive. The Holy Spirit continues to speak to you and me individually through Scripture. He uses Bible stories to give us new insight into our own situation. When I read the Bible thoughtfully, God gives me understanding I couldn't get on my own. It's almost like a light bulb going on when I grasp what's happening. That's the Holy Spirit working, not me.

What makes the Bible a timeless book is the characters in it are no different from us. Sure, the incidents may have happened thousands of years ago, but human nature hasn't really changed. People had the same problems then that you and I have today. We don't always pick up on that in our first reading, though. The wonder of the Bible is that while the words stay the same, our understanding of them can change, thanks to the Spirit working within us.

Many kinds of Bible reading plans are available. In the back of your Bible you may find a concordance with topics or a suggested reading for various problems. You can find applicable verses to your situation on many web sites.

I am not a fan of sticking your finger in the Bible at random and expecting the verse to "speak" to you. That's a gimmick, not God's will for your life. Some books have more to say to you than others, but those featuring strong characters, such as Joseph in Genesis or Moses in Exodus, Peter and Paul in Acts remind you God takes a personal interest in your life. Even if you don't see mind-blowing miracles happening around you, God is working surely, silently, behind the scenes to provide the people and situation you need to help you.

Read your Bible regularly, if only for a few minutes a day. Be sure to do it in silence, with the TV, radio, and MP3 player off! God will not shout to compete with the noise in your life, but he will speak softly when you give him the chance. He rewards those who seek him. Read your Bible with the purpose of developing an intimate relationship with him and he will seek you out.


Lastly, the third way to build an intimate relationship with God is through Christian meditation. We tend to make meditation harder than it should be. I like to think of it as quiet time with God. You can reflect on some specific aspect of God's character, such as his mercy or grace, or you can remind yourself that Jesus loves you so much he died on the cross for you. Maybe you can think about some passage you read in the Bible, or something your pastor said in a sermon.

Meditation is a way to focus on truth. Too often our thoughts are wrapped up in demands like "I've got to have that..." or "It'll be awful if..." or "They'll think I'm..." Notice each of those thoughts is centered around "I." True Christian meditation is focused on God, not yourself.

When done properly, Christian meditation not only breaks the worry cycle, it gently forces your mind to accept an eternal perspective. There are big questions in life, and God has the answers to them. While you may not get a life-changing theophany during this quiet time, gradually you will understand God is in control, he knows what he's doing, and things are going to turn out all right, even though it may seem exactly the opposite.

Christian meditation, opposed to Eastern meditation, does not rely on mantras or repeated words or phrases. Beware of techniques that recommend that; they're only substituting the name of Jesus or "peace" or "love" for Buddhist or Hindu words. In Christian meditation, you don't try to put yourself in a trance.  What you are trying to do is get a greater understanding and appreciation for God and the things of God. This may seem the same as prayer, but you're not specifically asking for anything or praising or worshipping. You're putting pieces together. Gradually, with the Holy Spirit's help, you're making sense of the puzzle that is your life so you can be a more authentic follower of Jesus.

Christian meditation is God-centered. While some schools advocated "emptying" your mind or heart, that can also lead to your imagination running wild or even demonic influences masquerading as God's voice. The acid test with information gleaned during meditation is: Does it conform to Scripture? A demon isn't going to reinforce your Bible studies. That gets him nowhere. The path to spiritual maturity is illuminated by understanding, and that understanding is supplied only by the Holy Spirit.

Don't feel you have to sit in a chair a certain way or assume some sort of physical position. There is no required posture for Christian meditation, just as there is none for prayer. I meditate while I take walks. Sometimes I think about God's plan for my life. Other times I consider the complexity of God and how he was able to create the Universe by speaking it into existence. I may reflect on the compassion of Christ or his ability to make powerful truths understandable in the simplest of language.

When you meditate on God and the things of God, he steps in and increases your knowledge of him. Sometimes this knowledge is explicit; other times it is just a sense of God's presence and love.

These three ways to build an intimate relationship with God--prayer, Bible reading and Christian meditation--all have one thing in common. They increase your trust in your heavenly Father.

As your trust in God increases, your loneliness diminishes. No longer do you feel cursed or picked upon. When you truly trust God, you realize he is the greatest friend you could ever have. His friendship goes beyond love to safekeeping. When you understand you are safe in his hands, life takes on new meaning.

Jesus loves singles

Feeling safe in God's presence isn't just reassuring; it's energizing. It gives you the strength to go on. Think about it. God loves you. He is for you, on your side more than any human being could ever be. With that kind of reassurance, loneliness loses its power over you. When God is your Guardian, you know deep in your heart everything is going to be all right--maybe not in this life, but certainly in heaven. It's a great comfort to know you'll be vindicated some day.

All of us feel we have been wronged, especially singles. If you have followed God's commands and tried to live a godly life, you have had to make many sacrifices. The Christian life is not an easy one. You have known mockery, injustice, frustration. For the most part, you have struggled through in a world that does not appreciate you.

But God does.

Ahead of you lies vindication. The gift of heaven, of course, will be to spend eternity with Christ, but you will receive other rewards. One of those will be vindication. Vindication means Jesus himself will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." That will be enough. Those words from his lips will erase all the hurt. They will prove you right. You will know, without doubt, that you did the right thing.

In the meantime, you and I have to manage our loneliness. To understand that it can be managed is half the battle. Knowing that takes much of the intimidation out of it. Like the rest of the Christian life, we can't do it on our own. We need God's help, every minute of the day.

Make no mistake. This is a battle, an ongoing battle you will have to wage for the rest of your life. The good news? You get better at it over time. You learn to depend on God more, drawing on his power as you need it. Eventually every unmarried person learns--or should learn--that beating yourself up is not an option. When you choose that route, you play directly into Satan's hands. Recognize that beating yourself up is a choice; it's either that or turning to God for his help.

Loneliness is a two-sided coin. The other side is solitude. A coin can buy positive things or negative things, but the choice is up to the spender. Spend your alone time with God, on the things of God, in ways that will refresh you and make you more Christlike, and you invest wisely.

Cultivate the solitude in your life. Keep working at it until you turn it from something you dread into something you look forward to.

Next we will look at a trait that causes loneliness, ironically a quality of some of the nicest people on Earth.

You have just read Chapter One in Jack Zavada's paperback book, Hope for Hurting Singles.

To order the paperback ($10.99) or Kindle version ($3.99), go to amazon.com.

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