Some children love to be around lots of people, and others like to spend more time by themselves. For some, it’s harder for them not to be around their friends for prolonged periods than others, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
But there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Loneliness is a feeling of being isolated and disconnected from those around us. Sometimes when we feel lonely, we are being ignored by people, but other times it’s the fear of being rejected that keeps us from moving toward people. When that happens, often we react by isolating ourselves even more—by pulling into our shells, just like a turtle does.
How do you help your child with this common struggle? Here are some biblical truths to share with your children when they are feeling lonely.
1. Begin by sharing your own experience of loneliness.
Everyone has struggled with feeling isolated and alone. Let your child know this is a common struggle you have also experienced. Ask your children questions about why they might be feeling lonely. What happened? What might they be afraid of? Listen closely to what they have to share.
2. Loneliness started with Adam and Eve.
We learn in Genesis 3 that when we go our own way and not God’s way, the result is separation from God and from others. When Adam and Eve decided to disobey God’s one rule, they broke their relationship with God and with each other. The first thing they did was hide from God, and then they blamed others for what they had done (Genesis 3:8, 12–13). Ever since, people have lived apart from God and one another. The result is loneliness.
3. The cure for loneliness starts with a new relationship with God.
When Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden, God came to them. His first question to Adam and Eve was, “Where are you?” God wants to be in relationship with his people, but our sins separate us from God and others. God knew we couldn’t come out of hiding on our own, so he sent his Son Jesus to be with us, to love God and others, and then to die in our place so we never have to be alone again. The Bible says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV). When you ask God to forgive you for going your way and not God’s way, then Jesus becomes your best friend. Jesus promises us, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). That means he will always stay close!
4. When you see your children hiding, you can remind them that because of Jesus, God knows them and sees them.
Loneliness can make us feel invisible, like we are hiding in plain sight of those around us. Long ago there was a lonely woman named Hagar who had to leave her home. God found her in the desert, spoke to her, and promised to help her. Hagar was so amazed at God’s care for her that she gave God a name—“the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). In Psalm 139, David reminds us that God is with us wherever we go and whatever we do. He sees us in the dark. He is with us every morning. He holds us fast even when we go far away from everyone else we know. It is a wonderful passage to read all the way through with your child.
5. The only safe place to hide is in Christ.
When we hide from others, we are trying to keep ourselves safe—from rejection and the possibility of being hurt. But can we protect ourselves? We can’t, but Jesus can. He is our all-powerful God who is with us. He sees us. He sticks closer than a brother. He is the one who will protect us from all harm. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He promises to always watch out for his sheep. He will even give up his own life to keep his sheep safe (John 10:14–15). Jesus is our hiding place, who always protects us from trouble (Psalm 32:7).
6. When Jesus is our friend, we become part of his big family.
The Bible says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29). When God is your father and his Son Jesus is your brother, your family includes all those who love Jesus. You and your child can know God’s love through God’s people, from those who reach out when they see you hesitant to join the group.
7. Love others the way you have been loved.
When we know Jesus loves us, that gives us the courage to move toward others and love them too. Jesus’s friend John puts it this way: “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19). Jesus is a friend who is always with us and helps us notice others who may also be feeling lonely and afraid. Knowing God’s love brings us out of our shells and helps us to love others the way God loves us. Encourage your children to notice others who may be hiding in plain sight in their lives and to think of ways to share God’s love with them.
The above content was adapted from Tori Comes Out of Her Shell: When You Are Lonely.
TORI COMES OUT OF HER SHELL: WHEN YOU ARE LONELY
Tori the turtle feels all alone. She has just moved to a new pond and a new school with her family and it seems like everyone has a friend except her. Her teacher notices she feels alone and helps her remember Jesus is always her friend and then along the way she makes some new friends.