As followers of Christ, we are in Christ alone, but we are not alone in Christ. God is in the business of building His Church, redeeming His Bride, assembling a Body from every tribe, tongue and nation to stand before His throne united in worship to the Lamb who was slain to take away the sins of the world. We are a part of this monumental movement, and yet many times we feel alone.
I was discussing with an unwed friend the other day the unique hardships involved with being single. With humility, she admitted her loneliness within the church. Older women seemed busy mentoring young mothers, and she quietly longed for the same sort of investment. I sympathetically listened but quietly felt surprise. As a young mother, I’ve spent many a morning sobbing on my kitchen floor longing for help as I seek to raise unto the Lord four incredibly needy little humans. It seems my friend and I silently battled with the same question: where is everyone? This admission begs a deeper question: why do so many Christian women feel alone? I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, our isolation is largely self-imposed.
We feel isolated when we fail to invest in the church. The author of Hebrews affirms the importance of believers gathering together, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (10:24,25). If you’re like me, it’s easy to dismiss this point. After all, we never miss a Sunday morning. But we also rarely fellowship on a Sunday morning. Surprising? Not really. We rush into the building to deposit four kids into age appropriate classrooms before collapsing in our seats as the adult Sunday school teacher opens in prayer. With the closing “Amen,” we pop up to collect our children before navigating the crowded auditorium with two needy toddlers. These wiggly toddlers are mercifully dismissed before the preaching begins but need immediate retrieval afterwards along with the two youngest still in nursery. At this point, four ravenous, overtired children need corralled to the van. You can guess how stopping to have a conversation might go. My point, Sunday morning is not enough. If we want to grow and know the Body, we need to be involved in all the church’s offerings whether that be the prayer service and small group meetings or baby showers and Bible studies.
Furthermore, we feel isolated when we fail to value hospitality. Consider the command of Romans 12:13, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Paul’s directive seems even more significant in light of his instruction to bless those who persecute you and to feed your enemy: how much more then should we feed our family in Christ? Incidentally, hospitality isn’t contingent upon the number of invitations you receive but rather extended as an act of obedience and worship to God. We tend to balk at hospitality. What if it’s awkward? What if their kids tear my place apart? What about their family’s food allergies? What about my family’s crazy schedule? While all valid concerns, we must remember that God doesn’t call us to comfort, He calls us to faithfulness: even better, He rewards faithfulness. On the flip side, if you receive frequent invitations but find yourself too busy to accept then you are indeed too busy. Hospitality, extended and received, is a Biblical mandate for singles, couples and families: it’s a hallmark of the Body of Christ.
We may also feel isolated when we hold others to unreal or unspoken expectations. Here’s the thing about expectations: you will always be disappointed unless your expectation rests in God and then you’ll never be disappointed. With the Psalmist, we must reorient our thinking, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation [is] from Him” (Ps. 62:5). What are expectations but hope for how others will treat us or how things will turn out? Of one thing we can be confidant: we are children of hope with an “expected end” in the eternal Kingdom of King Jesus. With such confidence, we can ride the waves of temporal disappointment with rejoicing and cover the failings of others with the grace-rich love of Jesus Christ.
While at times we hold unrealistic expectations, more often pride keeps us from voicing our expectations at all. Such pride mingled with loneliness easily leads to self-pity. People are not mind readers: they cannot intuit needs. Pride makes us hide our pain and silence our struggles, but God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Who are the humble? Those who honestly seek Him. The God who knows the contents and intents of our hearts chides his children who have not because they ask not. How much more true is that concerning our service to each other who cannot see the heart? Do you need help? Do you need counsel? Do you need discipleship? Ask for it. Ask for grace from God who gives to all men liberally and humbly ask for help from a sister in Christ.
In truth, our isolation often stems from a sinful failure to love others as God has commanded. Paul places the onus on us, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” Romans 12:10. Our love and honor are not fueled by what we receive from others but from what we have abundantly received in Christ. As Christ subjected Himself for the church, we are to be subject one to another. We are not meant to live in isolation or independence, but as one Body serving the One Lord together: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4,5).
Do you feel isolated? Do you feel alone? Call out to the God who never leaves you nor forsakes you (Duet. 31:6). Consider whether you are obeying the good commands He established for your growth and His glory. God will bless your obedience. Being a part of His family comes with great responsibility and great privilege; may we walk in a manner worthy of His calling.