Can I be honest? I don’t really feel that lonely. I am not in a solitary living situation. I have enjoyed working from home, learning new recipes, and actually reading books. I have connected with out-of-state friends more frequently over the last few months. This pandemic season has been teaching me, quite literally, to slow down. I am experiencing life at a whole new pace, and I like it.
I do experience loneliness too but not always because of an absence of people.
When I Feel Lonely
I feel most lonely when I feel most insecure.
I’ve dealt with second-guesses and doubts about myself for as long as I can remember. Whether my size, skin color, skill set, or the shame of my own sin, there has always been some self-perceived (or real) flaw that makes me wonder, “Will this thing be the thing that they will see first? Is this what they are judging me for?” “They” could be anyone: a friend, coworker, enemy, stranger—anyone.
In recent years I’ve realized just how dangerous my own inner dialogue can be. Thoughts like:
- “Did she say that to me because I’m single?”
- “Did I do that wrong?”
- “They got quiet when I walked in.”
- “I wonder if they were talking about me?”
My mind is the place where feelings of isolation and loneliness are born: giving way to pride, suspicion, and fear in my interactions with others.
As a Christian, “I’m not perfect” is one of those phrases I have trained myself to say. While absolutely true, it can roll off the tongue without a second thought. “I’m insecure” is a whole different ball game. For me, it carries much more weight. It is a difficult thing to admit.
Jesus Meets Us in Our Insecurities
My all-time favorite Bible story highlights the beautiful way that Jesus interacted with a woman who was definitely insecure. The woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:1-42) had every reason to self-isolate. She made a point to go to the well during a time of day when no one else would be there.
John’s Gospel says Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). Any self-respecting Jewish person in those days would beg to differ. You didn’t go through Samaria unless you wanted to risk your reputation. But Jesus didn’t care. He had to go because she was there, walking toward the well, each step reminding her of her loneliness. I can only imagine what her inner dialogue was like as Jesus spoke to her. Thoughts like:
- “Who put him up to this?”
- “What has he heard about me?”
- “Ugh, he’s a Jew. Who knows what his real motives are?”
- “I knew it. I should just stop coming to this well.”
Little did she know that this encounter was going to change the way she saw herself forever.
During their conversation it seems like she is suspicious of Jesus, trying to “feel him out” as he enters the painful, below-the-surface parts of her life. I can relate. Insecurity tends to limit meaningful connections with others, adding to the weight of loneliness.
Jesus Offers Freedom From Insecurities
But he had to pass through Samaria. The woman’s testimony after her talk with Jesus is my favorite part: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). When Jesus looked into her eyes, he saw all the reasons for her insecurity: rational and irrational, self-perceived and self-inflicted. He reminded her of them, not to exacerbate her loneliness, but to break the chains of self-doubt and insecurity that had kept her from fully living.
Jesus offered her the fulfillment of “living water,” promising that after him she would no longer thirst for the approval and acceptance of others (John 4:10-15). She drops her water jar and goes joyfully into a town full of people who likely know everything she has done. But Jesus just told her everything she’s ever done. He spoke her insecurities out loud, and released her from their power. She is free!
Jesus Knows Our Insecurities
One other thing that I notice in this story is that this woman’s name is never spoken. We learn about her life and cultural background, but we never get to associate her with a specific person by name. I wonder if that is because God is protecting her, letting us know that her identity is not wrapped in her struggles. And neither is ours.
Even though I am not experiencing loneliness at this present time, I am well acquainted with it. I know what it’s like to be with others while feeling completely isolated. I’m thankful that Jesus knows it too. And in the moment where I find myself overwhelmed with whatever is causing me to feel insecure, I’m grateful that he doesn’t shy away from meeting me there. He has to come.