Written by Neri Morris, Australia
I walked into work one day, my book on my mind as I had been editing the night before, desperately wanting to make sure that I was writing things that were biblically sound. So, to the two pastors in the room I posed this question:
“If the Garden of Eden is a representation of heaven-“
“Is it?” The senior pastor asked.
“Isn’t it?” I replied.
“Is the Garden of Eden a real thing?”
“Good question, but maybe a discussion for another time and potentially the ultimate answer to the question I’m about to ask, but let’s say Eden is real. My question is, if Eden was real and is a representation of Heaven, being in ehad—oneness with God—then will loneliness exist in heaven because it existed in Eden?”
The children’s pastors chimed in with, “No, loneliness is a sin.”
A little surprised, I asked, “Is it?”
“Well yeah, loneliness comes from a place where you have taken your eyes off God. You aren’t relying on Him,” she said. “The real question is—is there a difference between being alone and feeling lonely?” The senior pastor added.
This got me thinking.
I have been writing a book on singleness, and in it, I spend a bit of time talking about loneliness, acknowledging that this is something singles are familiar with.
But this new thought that loneliness is a sin troubled me. I could understand what the children’s pastor was saying: anything that distracts us from God, causing us to doubt and seek comfort elsewhere, is sinful.
But is the feeling of loneliness sinful or just what we do with our loneliness? And if it’s not good for man or woman to be alone, is it a sin if he or she is?
Opening my trusty Google tab, I punched in, “Is loneliness a sin?” and discovered that most entries said that loneliness wasn’t a sin. Which I agree with. Loneliness actually is a powerful propellant. It’s an emotion that can physically cause us to take action. It’s so uncomfortable, so painful, that we are moved to action. I think it’s what we do with the action that is the clincher.
If loneliness sets in, I have so many places I could take it to. The bar. The movies. A friend’s house. The TV. The club. The list goes on. At any of these places I will find something, someone, or some substance that can ease the pain of loneliness and for a little while, I won’t feel so alone.
There’s that root word though. Alone.
Are loneliness and being alone two different things?
Jesus would often choose to be alone. In Matthew 26:36-44, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus went away alone to pray, asking God to “let this cup pass from me”. There were also other moments recorded in the Bible of Jesus going away to be alone, seeking refuge and solitude in those quiet moments with God.
But was Jesus ever lonely though?
Maybe not whilst ministering, but I think the one moment He felt the deep pain of loneliness was when, as He hung on the cross, God turned His face away. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried (Matthew 27:45-46). Yet, despite God’s rejection and the immense loneliness He must have felt, Jesus still fulfilled God’s will.
“Why have you left me alone?” Jesus cried. In this one moment, we see God abandoning Jesus so that we will never know the pain of abandonment from God.
And yet, we still feel deeply lonely.
I live by myself, which for the most part is great but there are those nights, when I come home from a rough day and just want someone to sit with me and say, “It’s all going to be ok.” But living on my own means I don’t come home to that comfort when I feel I need it.
What do I do with my loneliness in those moments?
My answer, I feel, determines whether or not loneliness is a sin.
If you think about it, it is the same with any emotion we feel. For instance, “What do I do with my [anger / jealousy / frustration / sadness / rejection] in those moments I feel it most?” How you answer that question determines whether or not the outcome is sinful.
Feeling angry isn’t inherently bad, God displays anger and wrath in the Bible on multiple occasions. And whilst His anger is a righteous one, He has actually made us to feel anger. God allows us to feel angry, just as He allows us to feel love.
The point is, any emotion we feel can either propel us towards Christ, who has promised He’ll never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5), or away from Him. It’s what we do with that emotion that determines if something is sinful.
When I’m feeling that pinch of loneliness, I do something that I enjoy, turn to community or go out into nature. The latter helps me be connected to God and serves as a reminder of His goodness and His greatness and that I’m never alone. He is present in Spirit, but also in the beauty He has surrounded me with.
How about you? Where are you allowing your loneliness to propel you?
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.