"No one understands me or what I'm going through."
"People's struggles are nothing like mine."
"I just can't open up anymore."
I know what it's like to feel isolated and alone. These are some of the same thoughts I use to have, and sometimes still do but in a different form. It feels like there's no one there to understand your pain, how you think, or what you're experiencing. Your heart is practically breaking. Your mind is under attack. You thought the church was a place you could run to but instead it slid you deeper and deeper into your struggle.
You've become bitter and angry at those closest to you. They tell you that they'll pray for you. All they do is sympathize, but all you really want is empathy. You have some sort of community, but you feel like it's full of people who don't understand. Your screaming on the inside, yet people on the outside think you have it all together. All you want is someone to say "me too."
The problem is, there's a lot of people who won't say they that have the similar struggle as you. Although all of our struggles are different and impact us in different ways, the source of those struggles can often be the same.
But it's when we choose to view ourselves as different from those around us is when we put ourselves into a box, into isolation. We not only isolate ourselves from others, but from God-the very person who wants to heal and restore us from our brokenness, from our feeling of loneliness.
We become prideful in the fact that we eventually think we can heal ourselves. That choosing to step away from the church and everything that it encompasses will be the solution to our answer.
Instead what we should do is draw near (Hebrews 4:16). We have to be vulnerable. We have to know that we'll be hurt, even by people in the church. After all, the poor response to expression of hurt and pain is often a lacking of something missing in the other person's life. They can't make sense of their pain or struggle or how to respond to it, and because of that, they don't know how to respond to yours.
And now you're probably thinking "You expect me to open up to those that are hurting me the most? The ones that are making me feel completely alone?"
Yes that's exactly what I'm saying (Matthew 18:21-22).
Vulnerability attracts receptivity. When we choose to be vulnerable with others, we allow for a community of people within the church to continually open up to one another, to be comfortable in sharing their deepest struggles and be receptive to those that are hurting (Ephesians 4:15-16). It's the way we learn from one another and see the power that God has to work through and overcome these struggles. It encourages us to surrender our pain to Him and believe in God's healing power.
It allows to be more empathetic versus sympathetic because the community within the church is strengthened by it's understanding of it's people's sins, struggles, and pain. Instead of responding with a some "churchy" answer, we respond in honest understanding of the other.
It is then that we learn and grow in the habit of extending grace to others and ourselves, just as Christ does for his people (John 1:16).
I know it's not easy. It won't be easy at first either. I still struggle with opening up to people, especially those that are closest to me. But I can reflect and look back on my life and see that when I opened up when it was most difficult, that I felt the Spirit break down all the walls that I had built up in my life. When I shared my struggles with people, even the people that didn't respond the way that I needed to, I trusted that God would take care of my brokenness. That he could restore the brokenness of others. It gave me hope in seeing a church community not only fully surrender to God, but to be so intimate with God and his people that it strengthened the people within it and the church's ability to reach out to others that are lonely and broken in this world.
That includes me and it can include you too.
I truly hope you're able to let go of your isolation, fear, doubts, and pain, and let God overwhelm you with his presence because he is always with you (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10). You are never alone and God can move this mountain of loneliness in your life. But a mountain is made of rocks, and to move it, you might have to take the first step in moving one rock at a time. After all, a mountain is made up of many rocks.
So take a chance; learn to fall in love with surrounding yourself with people again and letting go of this season you've been stuck in for so long. Things won't be easy, but with God, anything is possible. And the more you surrender, the more opportunities you'll have for God to move in your life and in the lives of those around you.