Not just these emotions.
All of them.
Guilt, sadness, and the feeling that you are not “enough” are forms of loneliness.
I know a mom who had to separate from her husband. This separation has been a long time coming. Since then she has had to make so many hard decisions to create a safe place for the family while he uses every means possible to keep her feeling small and helpless. Which means she continues to struggle with guilt for her part of the marriage failing. She does have her part of responsibility, as everyone does. There is no “what if” enough for her to help heal the marriage though. It is easier for her to feel guilty with these “what ifs” than to realize the sadness that her marriage has become. Her broken marriage is a sad story. Her carrying false guilt is a way for her to try to control the outcome and not have this sadness. In her loneliness, the guilt feelings win out and keep her feeling small.
I know a young father who has recently been divorced from an unhealthy marriage. He is beginning to heal. He is pro-actively working on his own inner healing so he doesn’t repeat his mistakes and can care for his children. The inner healing is hard work but he’s committed. Even as he has many lonely nights. He chooses the loneliness for the gain of his future.
I know a young man who was in and out of foster care because his mom couldn’t take care of him and his father has never claimed him. There are lots of wounds here. As an adult he has had too many unhealthy love relationships. He is just beginning to understand that he expects every woman who says yes to a relationship to be a replacement of love that his mother never gave him. No woman wants to be a mother replacement, even a broken woman. This is a pattern he is trying to not repeat anymore. He is lonely. He has been lonely even with these women.
This is just one week in my life as a pastor walking through such stories with my people. Loneliness is always mentioned.
Are you feeling lonely?
Will you do anything to not be alone?
We are better at causing pain than sitting in our own pain.
The emotions you are feeling are real. Don’t try to numb those emotions with shopping therapy or alcohol or any other numbing behavior. You also don’t need to apologize for having emotions. We all have the privilege of feeling emotions—the whole gamut of emotions.
Don’t ignore the truth that you are lonely. Something is not wrong with you because you are lonely. This is a real emotion and you have it now. But you also don’t have to let it lead your life, especially lead you to decisions of regret.
Because emotions move us toward God. God who loves to meet us in that messy middle.
Because emotions are tunnels.
Emotions, at their most basic level, involve the release of neurochemicals in the brain, in response to some stimulus. You see the person you have a crush on across the room, your brain releases a bunch of chemicals, and that triggers a cascade of physiological changes—your heart beats faster, your hormones shift, and your stomach flutters. You take a deep breath and sigh. Your facial expression changes; maybe you blush; even the timbre of your voice becomes warmer. Your thoughts shift to memories of the crush and fantasies about the future, and you suddenly feel an urge to cross the room and say hi. Just about every system in your body responds to the chemical and electrical cascade activated by the sight of the person.
That’s emotion. It’s automatic and instantaneous. …Left to their own devices, emotions—these instantaneous, whole-body reactions to some stimulus—will end on their own. …in short, emotions are tunnels. If you go all the way through them, you get to the light at the end of the tunnel. –Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski, p. xii
Guilt starts and then guilt ends.
Loneliness starts and then loneliness ends.
Anxiety starts and then anxiety ends.
You just need to get to the end of the tunnel. (So hard at times.)
God loves to meet us in that messy middle. And at the end of the tunnel, as well as the beginning of the tunnel.
It is in that messy middle that God becomes particularly “loud” in our lives.
When your heart is so smashed… When you can’t figure out how you are going to make dinner tonight much less show your face at that meeting… You remember a song. It might be a worship song but it also very likely is a powerful lyric with an angry beat (is this just me?). Maybe you remember a scripture. Maybe you remember someone you love and admire, looking you in the eyes and telling you something that is so beautifully wise you have it written in a journal somewhere. But suddenly there is this message inside my head and it is on repeat.
This message on repeat becomes the definer of this time period of my life. Every time I hear that song I remember how loud God was speaking to me.
I find these messy middle times are when God is most personal to me.
Psalm 66:16-20 – Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
God never tells me to get over my emotions and just get past them. God meets me there in my emotional mess. Sometimes I’m so emotional I believe God has abandoned me. Until I get through that tunnel and I realize how present God always was.
My life has been through many tunnels of despair and loneliness. I’ve believed so many lies while lost in that tunnel. Yet God has never left me. God has always paid attention to me. God has never ignored me.
This reminds me of my favorite cartoon. That is me over my 40+ year faith life.
So many grooves.
God has never ignored me. God wants to hear every emotion I have. I have cried, screamed, and raged at God–and this all moves me closer to God. I have collapsed in my despair and yet I hear that song lyric over and over and over.
So now in my advanced wisdom (or is it age?!), I feel less lonely especially when the despair comes. I’m not exempt from pain. I know that pain is my beginning and pain is going to end and in that messy middle I will be making some very strong memories with God because he is the loudest then.
I am going to be okay. I always discover a bigger God and then live in a bigger braver world.