‘Tis the Season to Be… Lonely?

‘Tis the Season to Be… Lonely?Deck the halls! Be merry! Come on, ring them bells! After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or, is it? Tinsel and lights, carols and mistletoe don’t always usher in a feeling of good cheer. For many people, the holiday season invites the most unwanted of visitors — loneliness. Christmastime, with its unspoken pressures to be jolly, the expectations of family togetherness, and year-end reflections have a tendency to intensify the heavy, dull ache of loneliness.

Look at all the lonely people
An interesting aspect of loneliness is its universal nature — ironically, lonely people aren’t alone in feeling lonely. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.” However, loneliness transcends being physically alone. Loneliness is a feeling or perception, and perception is one’s reality. Regardless of a person’s age or gender, marital or social status, this state of mind is no respecter of persons. American novelist Thomas Wolfe went as far as to suggest that to be human is to be lonely. In his essay, God’s Lonely Man, Wolfe wrote, “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence. When we examine the moments, acts, and statements of all kinds of people — not only the grief and ecstasy of the greatest poets, but also the huge unhappiness of the average soul…we find, I think, that they are all suffering from the same thing. The final cause of their complaint is loneliness.”

So, here’s the first bit of good news: if you are lonely during the holidays, you are normal. If your life doesn’t look like those portrayed in Publix commercials, you’re not the only one. If Christmas carols make you feel like you’re dying a slow death, there are others who share the sentiment. And if the idea of decorating a tree makes you nauseous, you are not necessarily a Grinch or a Scrooge — you have much more in common with those around you than you think.

Loneliness can manifest itself for a variety of reasons, at a variety of depths — especially at Christmas. Situational loneliness exists as a result of a personal loss or other major life event, such as a death or divorce, a move or military deployment. While some are singing “Fa la la la la,” there are empty seats at tables, parents having to share their children, a new mom home alone while daddy defends his country in another part of the world, and college students who cannot afford to make the trip home. Certain personality types are also more prone to loneliness and melancholy, whether that be from environmental or genetic influences. Furthermore, since loneliness is related to a strong sense of disconnectedness, being different from others in any way can cause loneliness as well — this is why it is not uncommon to be in a room full of people and still feel completely alone.

While it may seem like the best idea would be to crawl into bed and not get up until the new year has arrived, there are some things that can be helpful in alleviating holiday loneliness. Here are a few suggestions:

Be festive —
— at least a little. Whether you put lights and ornaments on a houseplant, buy a fun Christmas coffee mug, or make a silly photo into Christmas cards to send to friends, you can choose to make the season a little brighter by making it simple and personal—something that will make you smile.

Be a friend —
— to those you know, or those you don’t. Offer to babysit for parents while they shop for gifts, watch a holiday movie with someone who lives alone, bake cookies to deliver to the nearest fire or police station, or make crafts with children who are less fortunate than others. Although we should not make light of the fact that it is difficult to look beyond the pain of loneliness, once that step is taken, giving of self always takes eyes off of self.

Be faithful —
— wherever you can. Regardless of what many may think, a church service can actually be the loneliest place on earth for someone who already is or feels alone. During the holidays, don’t feel pressured to attend special events or services if it makes you feel worse, but do keep pressing into Jesus. C.S. Lewis also said, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” One of the best ways to keep the mind and heart focused on Christ during the holidays is by observing and meditating upon Advent. New believers, mature believers, and unbelievers can all benefit from reading and praying through an Advent devotional. Several Advent resources are available, although Watch for the Light: Reading for Advent and Christmas is a favorite — a deep, spiritual journey into what it means to look for, wait for, and long for the Reason for the Season.

We are soul beings, suffering from soul aches — like loneliness — therefore, we require a soul solution. The solution is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ — “good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). The God in the manger is not a distant, apathetic deity. He is “Immanuel…God with us” (Matthew 1:23). God not only became a man, but a man who suffered as an outcast, misunderstood, and abandoned—the loneliest of the lonely. He sees and he knows. He himself was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Look for Jesus this holiday season. Seek him in your loneliness. Ask God to reveal himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. His gift of grace is the best Christmas gift you could ever receive.

Dawn blogs regularly at dawncoates.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @thedawncoates.

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