A woman is walking alone in the desert

3 Ways God Used Loneliness to Nourish My Faith

Written by JT Chen, Singapore


If the clear, cloudless sky could turn itself into a flower, it would look like the Himalayan blue poppy.

Native to the Himalayan mountains, the blue poppy is regarded by some as “the holy grail” of flowers because of its beauty and rarity, and it is notorious for its precise and demanding conditions for growth. 

A unique bloom that can only be found in a few places with the right environment, the blue poppy cuts a lonely figure in its uncommon loveliness.

Like the blue poppy, there is a beauty in loneliness if we know where to look. Because of God’s sovereignty and goodness, loneliness need not just be a burden. God can turn loneliness into a blessing too. 

However, it is often only in hindsight that we realise that God was working out His good plan for us in and through our loneliness.

Here are three ways God turned the lonely seasons of my life into fertile soil that nourished my faith.


Loneliness clarified my allegiance 

I am the only Christian in my family. My parents and older sister practise ancestor worship and seek the blessings of Buddhist monks during special occasions. I stopped joining them at these activities when I became a Christian as a teenager.

Though my parents and sister respected my decision to convert to Christianity, I felt (and continue to feel) separated from them in my beliefs and schedule, such as attending church service every weekend while they did other things together as a family. 

Such separation had other consequences, such as the awkwardness of eschewing social gambling during festive gatherings, and the pressure of knowing that my words and actions could affect my family’s impression of Christ and the Gospel.

For most people born into Asian households where values of filial piety and family harmony reign, their allegiance is first and foremost to their family. However, for those who want to follow Jesus as their Saviour and Lord, allegiance to Jesus comes before blood ties and familial bonds (Matthew 10:37).

Lonely times became opportunities to clarify where my ultimate loyalty lies. I was comforted and challenged by Jesus’s experience with His earthly family. He knew what it felt like to be an outsider, since His mother and brothers initially did not understand His devotion to God (Mark 3:20-21). Despite His family’s misgivings, Jesus chose to be faithful to God. Would I choose the same?

Each time I chose to follow Jesus’s example, my allegiance to Him deepened. I still felt the sting of being an outsider, but I also experienced the privilege of solidarity with Jesus. If even Jesus’s family thought He was out of His mind (Mark 3:20-21), why was I surprised that my family might not understand my decisions to live according to God’s will?  

Instead of hiding my faith, I showed my family that my allegiance to Christ was not a teenage phase but a lifelong commitment. I invited my family members to church services, married a Christian man, signed up for theological studies, and worked full-time at a church office for almost nine years. 

As I depend on God’s grace to live out my allegiance to Christ, I draw comfort from God’s word that I am never truly alone for I have a place in His family as His beloved child (John 1:12-13). 


Loneliness prepared the ground for my vocation

Still, being part of God’s household does not fully shelter me from loneliness.

During my days as a younger Christian, I wrestled with questions about God and the faith. For example, I was disturbed by accounts of incest, polygamy, and violence in the Old Testament, especially the record of God testing Abraham by commanding him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:2). Although God stopped Abraham from knifing his son and provided a ram in place of Isaac (Genesis 22:10-14), I could not help but think, “How could God put Abraham through such a cruel test of faith?”

I had no doubt that God was real, but I balked at His unexpected and incomprehensible workings. Weighed down by confusion about God’s puzzling ways, I could not keep up with my friends’ enthusiasm in church events and activities. 

I would voice my questions to others, only to be met with silence most of the time. It was disheartening to feel like the odd one out who was constantly troubled by her questions.

Some may feel so lonely in their doubts that they respond in one of two ways: they either settle for superficial answers such as “Don’t think so much, just trust God,” or they leave God to silence the jarring dissonance between how He acts and how they think He should act. Both responses are spiritually unprofitable.

There is a third way: loneliness can lead us to spiritual richness if we turn to God even in the midst of confusion.

My desire for deeper answers or explanations drove me to study the Word of God. I enrolled into a Bible college, devoting my time and energy to classes, assignments and examinations that helped me to examine my beliefs and apply them to my daily life. I served in the teaching ministry at church, sharing with other believers what I had learnt from the Word. 

As I look back, those isolating moments plagued by questions prepared the ground for my vocation as a teacher of the Word. God harnessed my inquisitive and critical mind to compel me to study His Word and eventually, to teach it to His people. God used the loneliness I experienced to grow my empathy for believers who might be feeling alone like I did, struggling with difficult questions about the faith. 

Accepting the reality that I can never fully comprehend God’s thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), I now find confidence not in my ability to understand what God is doing, but in God knowing what He is doing (Jeremiah 29:11). True confidence does not come from knowing all the answers, but from knowing the One with the answers. 


Loneliness strengthened my conviction 

I’ve never felt less confident than when I had my first child at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was constantly anxious that I would damage my child because of my inexperience or ignorance. Covid-19 sent my nerves into overdrive as I strategised incessantly about protecting my child from the virus. 

I felt alone in my fear and frailty. I was also struggling to get the hang of breastfeeding while recovering from the trauma of postpartum haemorrhage. Even though I had loving support from my husband and the grandparents, I did not believe they could fully understand how weak and helpless I felt.

God used those lonely, humbling moments to draw me towards His sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When I did not know how to get my baby to latch or how to help my baby who was in pain, I would make desperate, inelegant prayers like “Help me, God!” that somehow, were always answered either through moments of epiphany or timely advice from others. At night when my husband and my baby drifted off to dreamland and I was alone with my anxieties, I found assurance in God’s presence as I listened to praise and worship songs. 

It was humbling to realise how I was so out of my depth; many times, I could only wing it and pray that I did not screw up too badly! But God saw my terrors and inadequacies, and He acted on my behalf.  

I always had the conviction that the Holy Spirit could empower me in any situation, but my struggles in motherhood strengthened that conviction. I might falter and make countless mistakes as a mother, but God’s strength would always be enough to enable me to love my children beyond my limits.


Looking to God the gardener

We may think that all flowering plants need plenty of warmth and light to thrive. But not so for the Himalayan blue poppy. For the azure bloom to thrive, light needs to be bright but indirect. Temperature needs to be cool but not too cold. 

Though lonely seasons can be lacking in warmth and light, these unlikely conditions may be exactly what we need to grow in our walk with God. God, the expert gardener, knows exactly how to care for us till we flourish in Christlikeness. 

The next time we find ourselves lonely and blue, we can look to God who may be pruning us so that, in His time, we will blossom in unexpected but beautiful ways. 

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