Last week, I received an email from an "old" friend. Something she wrote triggered painful memories of the seasons of loneliness I have experienced in my life. Part of her message read: Hi Cathy, I so much enjoyed watching your slide shows that you sent me!!! I must admit I cried! It has been a really lonely season here for me recently, and I am praying God will send a friend and some encouragers my way.
My dear friend is a missionary overseas. She and her husband left for the mission field the same week of my wedding nearly thirty years ago. We have stayed in touch via letters, during their visits to the states and, more recently, with email. As our families grew and our schedules filled we connected less and less. But even after all these years, the distance between us and the changes in our lives we still try to keep in touch. And when we do, we always find that the bonds of our friendship remain strong and intact.
After I answered her email, I thought of my own seasons of loneliness. Of course, there were many times I was lonely as a child and teenager. But the first time I remember a season of loneliness was after I committed my life to Jesus when I was nineteen. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Because I had been keeping "bad company" I had also been making "bad decisions." After I surrendered my life to God and chose to sincerely follow Christ, I knew I had to stop spending time with the "bad company." And for the next six months I was very lonely. I spent a lot of time at home where I read my new favorite book---the Bible. Plus, I started to attend church and participate in small groups where I finally began to make new friends. Overtime, I grew in my new faith, made wiser God-honoring decisions and kept better company. Eventually, I was even able to reconnect with some of my old friends without falling back into my old depraved ways.
Several years later, happily married and the mommy of four young children, I went through my second season of loneliness. We moved our little family from Phoenix where we had a large community of friends and family to San Diego where I knew practically no one. Suddenly, the relationships I had taken for granted were far away. My husband worked, attended law school and studied. I tried my best to parent our small children, support my husband and manage our household. But, I missed my family and friends "back home." And to my surprise, I discovered what I missed the most were women to be my mentors.
Titus 2:4-5 says, These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. As I held on to my friends back in Phoenix and searched for new friends in San Diego, I also prayed for God to send me older women who could teach and model to me how to be a godly woman, wife, mother and friend.And a year and a half later God answered my prayers for friends and mentors when we found and became part of a new church family.
Our church community became a lifeline for me while my husband finished law school. But I kept myself from putting down roots there because I wanted to move back to Phoenix. Much to my dismay, God had other plans for our family. And I found myself in my third season of loneliness. After his graduation from law school, God provided my husband with a wonderful job in San Diego. We bought a house we could afford that was far away from our church, our friends and my mentors. Although we continued to attend the same church, my heart was torn (again) between my church relationships and developing new ones in our new community.
I was a blessed woman with a loving husband, four amazing children and friends but I was still lonely. I realized what I was looking for was an "Anne of Green Gables" type of friendship. I longed for a David and Jonathan kind of connection. But for nearly five years, my heart was divided between my community of faith and the community where I lived. Once again I felt alone and once again I prayed!
As our children became teenagers and the commute to church activities intensified, I began to wear down. We decided either to move or change churches. So, with deep roots and affection for our church family, we moved. Finally, I was able to pour my heart into one community. My last season of loneliness ended slowly as I was able to better invest in friendships that had been there all along.
Looking back, I believe God allowed me to go through those seasons of loneliness to teach me several things. In the first season, God taught me to get to know Him---through the Bible, through the church and eventually through His people. In my second season, God taught me to "run to Him" with my questions and for my needs instead of only and always looking to family and friends. And in my third season, God taught me many things about myself, others and the misconceptions and expectations I had of what I thought friendships were supposed to be like. (So many things in fact, that it will be a post for another day.)
My heart aches for my friend overseas in her season of loneliness. There have been times when I cried tears of anguish because someone I cared for was going through their own season of loneliness. I pray, for my precious missionary friend and for you, if you are in a season of loneliness, that God will provide wonderful friends and mentors. And while you wait, in your season of loneliness, I pray you will come to know more and more what a true, faithful and forever friend you have in the the very One who knows you best and loves you most!