I know what it’s like to feel lonely.

The worst thing is to be in a group of people and feel alone. I used to feel this way at church, especially out on the plaza after the service. I was lost in the middle of a sea of people.

I’d see other people enjoying conversation, smiling, laughing, but didn’t know how to break in. I felt as if no one wanted to talk to me and so I’d start to feel more and more self-conscious. Before long, it seemed like people were looking at me standing there all alone!

I felt lonely, awkward, anxious, embarrassed, bad about myself. All I knew to do was to hurry to my car and drive home.

We Introverts are Especially Likely to be Lonely at Church

Lonely at church. That’s what it was like for me as an introvert at church before I got married. Introverts are drained by being with large groups of people, especially if they don’t know the people, it’s a loud environment, or it’s unstructured. They are easily overstimulated and overwhelmed when around lots of people. Of course, this is exactly the situation I kept finding myself in at church! The hardest situation that left me feeling the most lonely at church and uncomfortable was before and after Sunday services or midweek events.

As an introvert having time alone is what energizes me. I like being in relationship too, but my need and my comfort zone relationally is being with someone I know or in a focused conversation in which there is opportunity for deepening personal conversation. The social scene on the church plaza is more like chatting at a party than sharing hearts with friends over coffee!

This struggle of feeling lonely at church continued for me for many years, even after I got married. I didn’t want to be standing around in a crowd clinging to my wife for companionship! I felt I should be assertive to connect with other people, but I didn’t have the confidence and I was too anxious. Eventually I just gave up, accepting that I’d always feel lonely at church services because they just weren’t designed for soul talk.

The Psalmist Felt Lonely

Maybe you relate to my description of feeling lonely at church. The Psalmist felt lonely. He described himself as a lonely bird sitting atop the roof of house and waiting for the Lord (Psalm 102:7).

The Psalmist shows us how to pray our way out of loneliness and into the arms of the Lord. He opens his heart to share vulnerably and to reach out for God’s comfort. Time and again he cries out to God: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:6; see also Psalm 142:4-5).

The whole Bible is filled with God’s promises of Comfort for Loneliness.

I Sought out Lonely Places with Jesus

Jesus knew this lonely way of the Psalmist. We read in the Gospels, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Jesus chose to be lonely! This was a turning point.

A number of years ago I began seeking out lonely places to be in solitude with Jesus for extended hours. The emphasis was on being with Jesus. This wasn’t a time for getting work done or studying. It was a time to be. And the way to be was to do nothing, absolutely nothing — just be with Jesus and see what happens. At first I felt antsy and unproductive. Then I felt lonely and bored. But I stayed with it. I cam to experience that Jesus was with me in a very real way — I wasn’t alone! 

I Practiced the Presence of God

I learned to draw strength and nurture from the reality of the risen Christ with me in solitude and silence. I grew to know — really know, not just think or feel, but sense with a settled confidence deep within me — that Jesus was indeed with me caring for me when I was alone.

To help me stay in tune with the presence of Christ even after my time of solitude I meditated on Scripture and used it to carry on a secret conversation with my Lord. I learned to practice the presence of God.

Watch what happened after that! For the first time in my life when I was in a group situation where I found myself left out of conversation I found that I naturally turned my attention to Jesus and trusted that he was with me caring for me — I was at peace! Secure and confident in my belovedness to my Lord, despite being alone in a crowd, I was then free to pray, “Lord, show me who needs a blessing right now? Use me to be your instrument of love.”

Then I looked for someone I might encourage or I stood alone with Jesus, carrying on a secret conversation with him!

Sweet Solitude

Solitude with Jesus has become so sweet to my soul. I don’t feel lonely at church anymore or anywhere, not in that depressing sort of way like I used to. I’m so grateful to have Jesus as a Soul Friend and to share him with others!

One day hiking with Jesus in solitude and silence I watched a lonely bird. I thought about how the Lord met me when I was lonely and loved me out of my loneliness. I ended up writing a prayer poem about this:

A Lovely Bird

On the hillside

A lonely bird

Apart from the flock

Standing atop a reed

Blowing in the wind

I’m longing for a friend

~

From the heavens

A Lovely Bird

A heart for the flock

Stooping onto my reed

Dancing in the wind

We’re singing together

6 responses to “I was Lonely at Church

  • I’m always left out at my Church. I try to join to my friends’ conversation, but can’t connect with them. Even though they say I just need to be there & don’t have to open my mouth.
    I end up just to be quiet.

    People at my church always go somewhere in groups. Sometimes I don’t get invitation by any of them.

    From then, I always go home after services.

  • I’m glad to come across this page and discussion, having googled “loneliness in church”. I think it would be valuable to share it with our churches… I think many times pastors try to reach out to the individuals, but cannot successfully fill the needs for friendships. Better would be to teach the congregation to tune in to the other people around them with the heart of a friend. I wonder if there are resources that might help teach these things to congregations.

  • I’m a single mum of two children, everyone is married or very elderly at my usual church, and I seem to be the odd one out. I tried a new church, 3rd time going but this time on my own, and today was horrendous, as my 12 year old son has autism and can sometimes display unusual behaviour. I have got used to people staring and thinking entertainment has arrived. this does not bother me…. but today I felt so alone, The wilderness feeling. not only did we get strange stares no one offered a word or a sympathetic smile. Needless to say we left early, sat in our car replaying the whole thing in my mind, kidding myself that everything is okay, when in fact it’s not. We had to return back to the church to pick up my daughter who was in the creche facilities, we had to wait 10 long minutes for her to come out. I would love to say that someone did come up to us and talk but no. My son went into a people free room and played with the baby toys and I sat there looking at my watch every few seconds, thinking why did I bother to come here, I should of gone to my usual church where they very kindly do a rotor for someone to come to my house to look after him, so me and my daughter can worship in peace, yes I’m very blessed that they do that. But it is my prayer for us to worship as a family including my beautiful autistic son, who is also a child of God. I will one day look back and have a giggle to myself, as I’m getting a rather good Collection to keep me going for when I get old. Will this put me off from trying again, no, I will have a little break and let my wounds heal before I set out to another church.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Lisa. I hear your loneliness and your courage. May Jesus heal your heart, and may you feel his loving, tender presence. His love for you is vast!

  • Karen Mire, I hope you read this. If it goes through, I will be very happy and surprised; I don’t have email.

    I, too, used to lead worship but was not often included. I am older now, and I sit alone all the time. It seems that people want things FROM me but not TO me–in other words, I am worth something if I am doing something for them.

    I don’t know the solution; however, it seems that you are just in the wrong place. In the other church, things were working a lot better for you. I don’t know why God does not break in. Maybe I am wrong to expect Him to make opportunities available for us–maybe He has enough confidence in His Spirit within us to know that we are equipped to make the right, healthy choices for ourselves.

    That’s about all that I have to say. Don’t stay in a place that is so painful for you. I believe that God does say that He is concerned with the needs that we have; otherwise, why would He tell us to trust Him for them.

    Please make a healthy decision for yourself. It is not good to be so sad and so depressed for so long. You are worth more than what you do.

  • Thank you for your testimony here. I am experiencing loneliness at a church that I’ve been a part of for 12 years. I lead worship with the Pastor’s sister at a small church. Every Sunday I get dressed up and go and sing and enjoy the anointed service that my Pastor so lovingly prepares. After service I reach out and say “Hi” to the clusters of people talking. Although they are polite and express genuine caring for me, they chat for a brief moment and then go to each other and then go make plans to go here or there as a big family. I love them and don’t want to go anywhere else, but I just wish that I were included to go with them. The problem is that I’m single and they all are married with their spouses, children and grandchildren and I don’t fit in. The only real friend I have one lady who is a true friend to me. They don’t invite either of us anywhere. She is a minister of the gospel and they love how she enjoys the presence of God . I am so grateful for her but if she wasn’t there, the ones I want to ask me don’t ask me to go with them, so I’d be really lonely. It wasn’t always this way. At two other ministries I was a part of , I was very plugged in and had lots of interaction. At both ministries, i was very close to the Pastors of the church and did things with them. But although the services are great, where I go now, my social life is lacking. I will at least try the spiritual application you spoke about here in this article. At the very least, it will help me in my loneliness to draw closer to God. God bless you.

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