Loneliness plagues everyone at some point in their lives. So the real question is, how can you help the lonely? And if you are among the lonely, how can you find hope? This article by Anne Dryburgh appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and it used by permission.
Loneliness is an emotionally painful sense of not being connected to others. The lonely person may feel unwanted, isolated, and left out.”
Feelings of loneliness are often the result of living in fear, being isolated, lacking an emotional connection with others, a lack of intimacy with God, or feeling rejected by someone significant. All of us will experience some level of loneliness at some point in our lives.
The people who are most likely to experience the biting pain of loneliness include those who are facing grief, marital problems and/or divorce, chronic illness, unfamiliar surroundings or culture, or children who are growing up in a difficult home.
Loneliness in the Bible
There are many lonely people in the Bible.
Elijah: In 1 Kings 19:10, Elijah was in a state of great distress. He believed that he was alone in serving the Lord.
David: David’s soul waited in silence for God alone (Ps. 62:5). There was no other person who took notice of him, or took care of his soul (Ps. 142:4).
Asaph: He had no one on earth or in heaven besides God (Ps. 73:25, 26).
Paul: Demas, Crescens, and Titus abandoned Paul. It was only the Lord who stood by him during his first trial (2 Tim. 4:10, 16-17).
Jesus: Those closest to Jesus deserted him (Mark 14:50); Peter denied him (John 18:15-18; 25-27), and Judas betrayed him (Matt. 26:47-50). Jesus suffered alone in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46), and was forsaken by the Father when he hung on the cross (Matt. 27:46).
Intimacy with the Lord
As we have read, the Bible speaks about loneliness, but the Lord ministers powerfully to the lonely. He has promised believers throughout the ages that he will not leave them nor forsake them, but will always be with them (Ps. 139:7-12; Isaiah 41:10; Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).
God calls himself a husband to his people, and compares his people to a “wife deserted and grieved in spirit, as a wife of youth when she is cast off” (Isa. 54:5, 6). We read in Hosea that God’s people were betrothed to Him in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness (Hos. 2:19, 20).
In the New Testament, believers are described as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:31, 32; Rev. 21:2). This speaks of a deep intimacy of the soul, which is greater than that which human beings can experience with each other.
Someone who is suffering loneliness will have the tendency to be focused on themselves; what they want and what they don’t have. When supporting the lonely person, you will need to discover what they are thinking and how they spend their time.
Are they looking at what other people are doing on social media and feeling sad because they do not have nice date nights, beautiful vacations, or fun evenings with friends? Are they watching films or programs and wishing that they were somewhere else, with other people, or had something that they don’t have at present? These thoughts can quickly progress to thinking that nobody loves them and that their lives are a waste.
What is the truth about the Lord and their situation? What are some ways they can use their time more constructively; what would be a more edifying use of time than social media? Learning about God’s providence can help them discover that the Lord is actively at work in their circumstances for his purpose and glory.
Trusting this truth and living for his glory in the midst of their difficulty can turn painful loneliness into a time of experiencing the glory of the Lord.
Importance of Community
It is important to help them come out of isolation and begin establishing relationships with other people as much as possible. Even if the person would rather stay at home, it is essential that they take steps to be with others and to seek to take an interest in what is happening around them.
The church can look for ways to care for those who are lonely by visiting or providing practical support. For example, creating connections for teens by building relationships across generations can help the lonely teen grow in their faith while living through difficult situations.
Sometimes, people who have lived in a state of loneliness for a long time will become very needy and want to hold onto any form of sincere love that they experience. Encouraging the lonely to pursue intimacy with the Lord and to seek to love others will help prevent them from developing an unhealthy dependency on those who reach out to them. In this way, genuine community and fellowship can develop.
Loneliness is painful, and all of us will experience it at some point in our lives.
Thankfully, the Lord speaks into our loneliness and ministers to us in a deeply meaningful way. When supporting the lonely, discover what they are saying to themselves and how they got to that stage. Help them focus their hearts on the providential God who is working out his glorious purpose in and through their situation. When they focus on loving others, they will emerge from their isolation and become a source of blessing.
Questions for Reflection
- As you think about the most lonely times in your life, how did the Lord minister to you?
- How did scripture speak deeply into your soul at that time, and how did that impact your life?
- Do you know someone who is lonely? How can you encourage and bless them?
Mary Somerville. “Coping with Loneliness.” National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, Annual Conference, 2005, mp3.
Ibid., Wayne Mack, “Loneliness & Self-Pity#1: How to Handle Loneliness,” The Dr. Wayne Mack Library. CDWM4191.
 Mary Somerville, “Coping with Loneliness,” National Association of Nouthetic Counselors; Caroline Newheiser, “Helping Women who are Married but Lonely,” The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship.
About the author: Anne is an IABC and ACBC certified biblical counselor who has been a mission worker in Flemish-speaking Belgium since the early 1990s. She is also a guest lecturer at Tilsley College in Scotland, an external reader for doctoral candidates at the Masters International University of Divinity, an author, a frequent contributor to the blog Biblical Counseling for Women, and coordinates the European hub of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,
What is the ultimate goal of biblical counseling?
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The ultimate goal of biblical counseling is to bring about change in a counselee’s heart so that the counselee lives fruitfully for Jesus Christ and God is glorified. Now let’s break that down a bit, okay?
Let’s define two words: heart and fruit.
Heart is a word the Bible uses to mean the inner person: who a person truly is—his or her desires and motivations. From these desires and motivations come one’s thoughts, emotions, behavior, and speech.
From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
Fruit is the “visible manifestation,” even proof, of change. An apple tree brings forth apples, and a cherry tree brings forth cherries. Their fruit proves the kind of tree.
Someone who has a self-centered heart exhibits the fruit of things like fear, lying, anger, immorality, selfishness, jealousy, and so on. See Galatians 5:19-21. But someone with a Christ-centered heart shows patience, joy, hope, trust, submission to authority, as well as the fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
So which type of heart usually describes your thoughts, actions, emotions, and desires?
Better Than Relief
The ultimate goal of biblical counseling goes far beyond most counselees’ desires for temporary relief. Indeed it is fruitful living for God’s glory. But often people who seek counseling, biblical or secular (such as state-licensed psychotherapy), just want a better life, perhaps just a less painful life. Sadly, when the goal of counseling is simply pain relief, then changes they make usually fail to endure.
What are a few reasons that you want lasting heart change over temporary relief?
A Christian couple I’ll call Bob and Katie sought counseling for their teen daughter’s angry outbursts. In a few sessions, it became clear that the primary underlying counseling issue what Bob’s drinking and disconnection from the family.
The girl’s anger was, in part, directed toward the dad’s choosing alcohol over a loving relationship with her. When counseled to love God most of all, Bob admitted he preferred the temporary numbing relief of alcohol over making lasting heart change. Katie is patiently waiting for him to give up booze while the daughter learns how to express her anger in ways that honor God.
Lasting Heart Change
Biblical counseling aims for lasting heart change. A heart bent on despicable sin can transform into a heart fixed on loving God and others. Love is the opposite of sin. Since the very first sin, when Adam and Even chose to disobey God’s command and disbelieve God’s goodness, you and I have struggled with sin. We inherited a sin nature. As believers in Jesus, we are made new, thanks to Jesus’ redeeming love.
Biblical counseling’s goal of changing hearts means rejecting sin and embracing love, divinely inspired love. First Timothy 1:5 says:
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
The goal of instruction, or the method of biblical counseling, is love. Many verses in the Bible emphasize that people who love God obey his commands. This “obey” is not a have-to in a counselee whose heart is fruitful; it is a want-to.
God Gives Everything You Need
Scripture is reliable and comprehensive, speaking to every sort of problem a person encounters.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
A biblical counselor encourages hurting Christians to set their heart on glorifying God. A counselee glorifies God when she choose to switch the focus of her life from living for her own pleasure to living for God’s pleasure and glory.
Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a Christian can change at the heart level.
Isn’t is reassuring that God has the power to help you handle your problems? Do you struggle with bitterness, immorality, gossip, or worry? Are you overwhelmed with financial stress or relational difficulties?
These problems, in God’s hands, seem miniature in comparison to God’s greatness. As a grain of sand is to Florida beach, your trials are to God’s provision. For the biblical counselor, there are no truly unsolvable problems—abuse of every kind, addictions, depression, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, rebellion, marital problems are recorded in biblical case histories.
3 Essentials of Heart Change
God gives us everything we need to change and to have the abundant life he promises in John 10:10. Yes, making this change requires you to submit to God’s plan for your life. It takes work, but God leads you to the ultimate goal of biblical counseling.
1. Confess and repent. These go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whenever your thoughts, emotions, and actions are against God’s command to love him and love your neighbor, you agree with God (i.e., confess) that you messed up, confessing it to him in prayer and to the wronged persons, and you repent (i.e., commit to turn away from sin and turn to God).
2. Renew your mind. As you cooperate with God, you’ll begin choosing your thoughts and learn to keep every thought captive.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought t make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
This is a battle fought in the mind, and it is a war. Your old sin nature battles with your new spiritual nature. See Galatians 5:17.
3. Break ungodly habits. You’ve struggled with sin a long time, but a Christian no longer is a slave to sin and can escape temptations and glorify God.
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A comforting verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13:
But remember that the temptations that come into your life and no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
As you embrace the ultimate goal in biblical counseling, you will see improvement. Change takes time. Remain hopeful. God never wastes anything, not even our failures. Through the cross, Jesus has already won the war for you.
Friend, are you thinking about biblical counseling? Please poke around my site. I have nearly 1,000 articles and other resources for you to read and listen to. If you’d like to make an appointment for Skype counseling worldwide or for in-person counseling at my DeKalb IL or Winfield IL office, please contact me and leave a message and your email or cell number.
Also, I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation so you can talk with me and see if it’s a good fit before you make an appointment. Just let me know.
Counseling heart to hope,
Marriage: Is it too late for mine? In this frank article, Julie Ganschow says when God’s involved, nothing is impossible. . even when husbands move on or wives check out. Julie is listed here on our Heart2Heart Counseling Directory. Her article appeared first here and is reprinted with permision.
“Is it too late to save my marriage?”
I have been asked this question over and over in the counseling office. And I hesitate to say that “too late” applies to a marriage that involves a Christian, and especially two Christians. I also hesitate because that implies that God is not able to change them.
When God is involved, nothing is impossible!
There’s Hope. . .Always
When troubles persist even in a “Christian” marriage, damage continues to mount and love grows cold. The actions of love cease to exist as withholding of affection, attention, and serving each other become commonplace. Bitterness and resentment often grow between the couple. And distance becomes preferable.
This is where things usually are by the time the couple comes for biblical counseling.
I want to encourage you by reminding you nothing is impossible when God is involved. This is true even if your husband has left you, moved out, or moved on. When people are willing to do what God asks of them in spite of how they feel great things happen!
Maybe You’ve Checked Out
That being said, some women reach that certain point emotionally where they just give up and refuse to believe anything will ever change. I call it “rounding the corner.” When this happens it is very rare for her to return to the marriage. Her heart hardens. She refuses to cooperate anymore in counseling, or to give her husband another opportunity to change and get it right.
Sometimes it is because he has promised for months or years to change and nothing lasting has happened. Sometimes she finds someone else. And other times she is just without hope anymore.
All of these are sad, and even sinful responses a person can have to someone else’s sin. That may sound harsh to you, but I speak from the perspective that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His will.
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It is not God’s will that two people who make a covenant before Him to be husband and wife . . .decide they don’t want to be married anymore.
Change Begins in the Heart
Christian woman, if you want to save your marriage, begin by becoming husband-oriented.
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Eph. 5:22-24 gives us some instructions about our role in the marriage with respect to submission.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
But how many women have ceased complaining and arguing but are unsubmissive in their hearts? Many I fear!
Women who are not husband-oriented are as much a problem as husbands who are not wife-oriented! Many women have become so supremely selfish! In counseling I hear about “my career”, “my private time”, “my time for the spa” (or shopping or fill in the blank). With this attitude, soon the couple leads separate lives.
Make a New Commitment
If this describes you totally or even remotely, then it is time to make a new commitment to become a “new person.” Yes. . .1 + 1 = 1
If you have lived for years or even months independently as a couple, it is going to take some work from both of you to change this. You will need to commit to change, change of the heart. But there is hope.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Perfectionists have a pride problem. Are you surprised? You may think perfectionists are insecure, not prideful. Thankfully, there is hope for perfectionists! This post, originally titled “Perfectionism Is Pride,” first appeared here on Julie Glanschow’s blog and is used with her permission.
Julie’s page on our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory appears here.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. 1 John 2:1-3
Perfectionists Deal with Anger
Perfectionists are frequently angry. You do not like to make a mistake. Even when you know that you don’t know what you are doing, and by all rights shouldn’t know what you are doing, you become angry at yourself for making errors.
Perfectionists have a hard time with people who don’t appear to care about being perfect. They are judgmental and self-righteous, comparing others to themselves on every possible level, and usually find other people to be lacking.
This is one tough way to live! We are commanded to be holy, which implies perfection, but we are not commanded to be perfect. In fact, as sinful beings we cannot be “perfect” in this life.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-3
There is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job or with wanting to excel at something. It is even all right to want to do an excellent or superior job! However, constantly having to be the best is nothing more than pride. When being the best causes me to sin in my anger, it is not a righteous goal any longer. When wanting to be better than others means I tear them down, it is sinful.
And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” Luke 16:15
Hope for Perfectionists
To get a handle on this life-dominating sin you must be willing to be honest with yourself and to evaluate your actions. And most of all, evaluate your heart through the grid of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
You must ask yourself some tough questions to get to the heart of the matter!
- Must you always look good to other people?
- Are you judgmental toward people who do not live up to your standards?
- Is it true that nothing is ever good enough for you? Is the glass always half empty?
- Have you become a grumbler?
- Are you ungrateful to God for all His blessings because they are not “perfect” in your judgment?
Answering questions like these is only the beginning of addressing this heart issue. Once you understand that your perfectionism is truly a visible display of the pride in your heart you must take steps to overcome it by God’s grace and power.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)
Mind Renewal Matters
Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed or changed completely by the renewing of our minds. Our minds are renewed through reading and meditation on the Bible. Your thoughts will also be impacted by those precious words of God’s as they weave their way into your heart.
And this means your desires will change as your heart changes. Your actions will also change as your desires change and your thoughts change.
This is not going to be an easy area to address in your life. You most likely have years of ingrained habits that you will have to overcome and address one at a time. You may find discouragement right around the corner as you desire to change. Please let me encourage you by reminding you that Jesus Christ died for your sins, including pride and perfectionism.
There is no sin that by His power and grace you cannot overcome.
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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Resources for YOU!
DOWNLOAD: Here is a complimentary download for you. Click to download: Anger Help and Solutions
COUNSELING: Stuck in perfectionism, fear, or anger? Meet with me in person (in the greater Chicago area) or by Skype.
FREE WEBINAR REPLAY: Watch the webinar on healing through biblical counseling now. Click here.
Counseling Hearts to Hope!
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 27:3
Unwelcome change! Does it mess up your life too? What’s the best way to respond?
As crazy as it sounds, when Mars changed the color lineup of its meltinyourmouth, notinyourhand candies many years ago, my safe little world got messy. My problem with the new and not improved M‘n’Ms had little to do with food dyes but what the color switch-a-roo symbolized: the aforementioned unwelcome change.
Does unwelcome change upend you too? Perhaps you love new things: you’re a roll-with-it chill kind of person. But most most people have a problem with change. Everything from a lost job or a new job to broken marriages, illness, and rebellious children — these and other unwelcome change create stress, negative thinking, and messy emotions.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4, ESV
2 Step to Handling Unwelcome Change
Pausing is the first step in handling unwelcome change. If you’re a whirling dervish or you have racing thoughts, you cannot think straight.
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a, ESV
Once you’ve paused, ask yourself two questions. The first is, What is the unwelcome change? You’d think this would be easy to identify. Sometimes it is. Sometimes you’ll need to stay still and hear God’s gentle voice in your heart.
Here are a few examples of unwelcome change. Which ones have touched your life? What would you add?
A parents’ divorce — “Who do I live with? Is it okay to miss my dad? Am I to blame?”
The new kid at school — “Will the other kids like me? I feel lonely. I feel excluded? Should I run away?”
A new baby — “I love my baby but why does she cry so much? Am I a horrible mom? The other moms make this look easy. What’s wrong with me?”
Depression or anxiety unravels a loved one — “I don’t how to help or what to say. Should I get help from a counselor? Will things get better?
A difficult memory resurfaces — “Did that really happen? Why I’m I feeling so bad?”
Your Emotions Flow from Your Beliefs
The second step is asking yourself, What emotion am I experiencing? Fear and anger typically head the list, but you may feel sad or numb or confused. Identifying your emotion(s) helps you understand your thoughts and your beliefs.
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 27:3a, AMP
Whatever your emotions, jot yours thoughts in a paper or electronic journal at or near the time your emotion surfaced. An example: Let’s say you feel anxious. Jotting your thoughts reveal that you are concerned about your car’s brakes and how you’ll pay for the repair. Your jotted thoughts may read,
“The repair had better be cheap. Why did I buy that car in the first place? It’s nickeled and dimed us to death! I don’t have the money to repair it.”
Did you know that before you felt anxious, anxious thoughts ping-ponged in your brain?
Now that you’ve paused, identified the unwelcome change as well as your emotions and thoughts concerning it, it’s time to renew your thinking and line them up with God’s thoughts.
Resources for You!
DOWNLOAD: Here’s a free download from Biblical Counseling Center, where I’m on staff, to help you analyze your anger.
EBOOK: Order Transform Your Thoughts Journal. This ebook helps you change your thoughts and experience life change. Easy, fast download.
Counseling Your Heart to Hope,