"Macklyn. You're so popular! You know everyone! That's cool that you're so connected. You're a cool guy!"
These are all the different things I have heard from people. People see me talking with everyone and doing stuff in the community and the instant assumption is that I have tons of friends and am so popular and cool. Little do they know that sometimes I feel like one of the loneliest people.
In two blogs I wrote I discussed what people get to see when the cape comes off as well as affirmation. Sometimes people see only the outside, yet have no idea what's going on inside. Friendships have been one of the hardest things for me since being back from college. I remember the first year I got back I was blessed with solid bible-believing friends. But as time changed people moved, we fell out of touch, and things changed. I didn't realize the value of friendships until my two best friends moved from the city. I've tried connecting with others but I find it hard to have solid, consistent connections. And I know I'm not alone in this. Things like meetup and other group apps exist for connection and community, all because it's so hard to connect.
Don't get me wrong, being alone at times has been such a blessing. It's given me a little more freedom when needed and opportunities to serve and be available to minister to others. Yet, there are times when I want to get together and things fall through. Those are moments when it really hurts. One of the things I've had to assess in my heart and take to the Lord is that loneliness hurts. Recently I had a friend say they wanted to connect, only to change plans and tell me last minute. I was frustrated about it, but I had to look at two things: 1) It's totally okay for people to cancel out or change plans. 2) Is my heart placing unrealistic expectations on the person that I feel let me down? The second question has brought me to the Lord in repentance several times, as I noticed my sin kick in on some of those moments. I've battled a series of emotions like hurt, anger, impatience, the feeling of neglect even. I get bothered at times when I don't hear from a person for a while, yet all of a sudden they need a prayer request or a favor, and sometimes that's frustrating. Sometimes I wanna just catch up or hang out, but it doesn't happen that way all the time...and that's okay. It has to be.
I say all that to say that loneliness is hard and when it comes up in your heart it sucks. Finding good community outside my church is hard and it sucks. No matter how cool I may seem or how popular I may be, it doesn't change the loneliness in my heart. That's where yet another blessing of the Gospel comes in. Though I am a sinner, and in my loneliness, God is still faithful. I am reminded multiple times that even if I'm alone I don't have to be lonely because I'm never alone. The word of God says that he will never leave me or forsake me. I can stand firm on my relationship with him and with the finished work of Jesus, knowing that his faithfulness that led him to the cross for a sinner like me is also the same faithfulness that keeps me and gives me comfort.
God has given me a gift of reaching out to people and being an encouragement, and I am also reminded that God has also given us desires for affirmation, love, security, etc. The issue with us sometimes is that our sin leads us to idolize or long for those things, and many times from the wrong source. Not that affirmation from friendships is necessarily wrong, but it can be when our clinging to these friendships supersedes what God has affirmed us with through his word, and our security in him. This can also apply to relationships and many other things. Romans 1 speaks clearly on this, in that we elevate the gifts to be greater than the giver. Friendships are a blessing, and the affirmation I receive from them can remind me of my identity in Christ and the Gospel, and can point me more to joy in and trusting in him more. Ultimately, there's no friend like Jesus and he is enough, but he also provides us with good things that prove more of how glorious and wonderful he is. We just need to be mindful of how much we depend on these friendships, especially if they’re greater to us than Christ is.
So, I pray that God would provide me with good friendships, yet at the same time be humbled in the moments when things fall through or I'm not as connected. I pray to confess my struggles and how these situations make me feel, but each time lay them at the feet of Christ, trusting that he is the best friend I could have. And I pray to have joy in the midst of being lonely, because the Good Shepherd is right there with me, and I’m never alone.
Have you ever dealt with this before? Please share.