Ah, the holiday season. It can be the most wonderful time of the year – full of Christmas trees, holiday shopping, and eating way too much pie. But as much as we may enjoy the holidays, this time of year also has a unique way of surfacing feelings of loneliness. Maybe it’s the Christmas songs (“All I Want for Christmas Is You,” “Please Come Home for Christmas,” and “I’ll have a Blue Christmas Without You…” just to name a few) or the pictures of happy couples filling your news feed … but whatever the source, loneliness can significantly affect our spiritual, physical and emotional health.
Loneliness also doesn’t discriminate – you can be single or married, a teenager or an empty nester, home alone or surrounded by friends and still feel disconnected from those around you.
You find families for those who are lonely.
Psalm 68:6 CEV
God doesn’t want any of us to have to feel lonely. No matter who we are, he wants each of us to experience the closeness, warmth, and love of family. Read below to find out how God can help you beat loneliness during the holidays and the rest of the year too.
1. Recognize the symptoms
You can’t beat loneliness if you won’t admit you’re lonely. I think you can be surrounded by people and yet still live life “alone,” like the guy in this scripture:
I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. 8 This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
From this man, we learn that self-reliance, selfish ambition, and greed are all sins that make us ultimately function alone, even if we have loving family and friends around us. We can also see from the scripture above that loneliness has some key symptoms:
- Craving pleasure – Of course, pleasure is not a bad thing in and of itself. But when we live for pleasure, we can make some bad spiritual decisions. When you feel sad or alone, it gets harder to say no to sensual temptations – in whatever form they come in for you.
- Dissatisfaction – Ever feel discontent in your job or in your current life situation? Maybe the problem is not your job or your circumstances, but that you are lacking the closeness in relationships that you need. No matter how successful you are, your job can’t meet the need that relationships are supposed to meet. Instead of trying to jump into a career change, consider if there’s something else missing in your life.
- Feeling depressed – A recent Time magazine article focused on how loneliness can be dangerous to your emotional and physical health. From elevated cortisol levels to making you less likely to exercise, loneliness can have a significant impact on your emotional health, whether you have a diagnosis of depression or not.
Do you see any of these symptoms in your life? Recognizing your symptoms is vital if you want to beat loneliness – otherwise, you’ll end up trying to treat the wrong problem.
2. Be real in relationships
But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin.
1 John 1:7 (GW)
The way the Bible says we will have close relationships with each other if we live in the light. That means letting your friends know everything about you and not holding back any details or emotions. Sometimes we feel lonely because we’re not really honest in about who we are.
One of the ways I can hold back from “living in the light” is by mentioning a situation, but not expressing how much I actually feel about it because I don’t want to look weak or like I can’t handle it. But then I feel lonely because I feel like I’m carrying my burdens alone and no one really knows what’s going on inside me. But, when I choose to share everything, I feel relieved and usually realize others can relate to me more than I would have thought.
How easy is it for you to expose your weaknesses and ask for help? Try making a small decision to be honest with a friend each day about something vulnerable. You’ll find that each time you decide to live in the light you’ll feel less alone.
3. Rely on God
I keep the Lord before me always.
Because he is close by my side,
I will not be hurt.
Psalm 16:8 (NCV)
One of the most incredible things about having a relationship with God is that he is always there, no matter where you go. I remember being on a trip one time far away from my friends and family. I felt lonely, but I decided to go out for a walk and pray. I remember suddenly realizing that even if I couldn’t reach my friends or family, I could go on a walk and talk to God anytime and he could help me know what to do and what to say. It was such an empowering and comforting feeling – I never needed to feel alone.
Unfortunately, it’s far too easy for me now to replace God with people and not feel like my relationship with God is enough to meet my needs. Do you have a relationship with God that comforts and encourages you even if people aren’t around? Is God enough for you?
Holidays are a great time to really work on your relationship with God. If you have some extra time off work or school, go to a special spot to pray or spend extra time reading the Bible and getting to know God.
4. Refresh someone else
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:4 (MSG)
Holidays are also a great time to give to those in need. One of the best ways to beat loneliness is to stop thinking about yourself and lend a helping hand to someone in need. One Christmas my husband and I decided to volunteer at a local food bank, giving out food to families in need. On the way there, we got into some kind of silly fight and I was really upset that I felt my needs weren’t being considered. We were still trying to resolve it as we walked up to the food bank. But then, we saw the families arrive. They were so happy and grateful for the food and for those of us volunteering. Suddenly, that fight and my unmet needs didn’t seem so important. Seeing the needs of the families helped me get my focus off myself.
This year, who can you refresh? Here are some ideas for how you can serve someone:
- Volunteer at a shelter or food bank
- Host a dinner at your place for those who don’t have family in the area over Christmas
- Babysit or make a care package for a single parent
- Adopt a family in need of Christmas presents or a Christmas meal
- Make cards or baked goods for neighbors, friends or coworkers
5. Reach out for help
I am lonely and troubled. Show that you care and have pity on me.
Psalm 25:16 CEV
If you want to beat loneliness, you have to be willing to reach out for help. Think through your holiday season and notice evenings or weekends when you don’t have anything planned. It’s not a bad thing to stay home and take care of things every once in awhile, but being home by yourself and scrolling through pictures of other people having fun is a guaranteed way to feel lonely.
Be proactive and think through the next month. What fun holiday-related things do you want to do? Who have you been wanting to spend time with? Reach out to some of your friends and plan ahead for at least a few things that sound like fun to you. It makes a big difference to have some things to look forward to!