We had 2 sessions with this amazing panel on the topic of loneliness. We start out hearing their stories and how they got through followed by an audience who ask questions for engaging dialogue. Enjoy!
Loneliness is something we all experience in life at one time or another. Different seasons, different circumstances, but still feeling lonely. Our panel talks about their experiences with loneliness and what they did to overcome it. Great insight for all of us.
Lisa – Chose marriage as a young woman and having kids, experiencing FOMO with fellow mothers/friends.
Kasey – a journey of loneliness after college during an engagement season with friends; feeling left out at times.
Isabell – had a village back home before college that raised me, a community, close knit, but didn’t meet a lot of friends freshman year of college. Felt very alone and confused.
Maggie– recent graduate, quadruplet - only girl , navigating a 'normal life' with siblings living with disabilities, finding a life different than so many others.
Maggie – Important to have that community align with where you want to end up because you become who you hang out with.
Kasey - People are placed in our lives sometimes for seasons, but pruning can be a lonely time after sharing your life with friends and they are no longer in your life.
“The Lord showed me the difference between loneliness and solitude. What it means to be alone with Him and who He is as a friend. Jesus and I became best friends. We go to the movies together, we hang out. That’s been an area where God has been giving me a lot of grace of finding out who I am, loving myself so I can love other people. Also find other people who are feeling lonely too.” - Isabell
“Seasons of loneliness as a young mother happen because your life becomes the children in so many ways. It’s easy to neglect who you are and all the focus is on the children.” - Lisa
Lisa – Road trip with other young mothers; went deep right away since seldom see people and discovered how refreshing. Realized they all were experiencing loneliness and FOMO (fear of missing out), feeling everyone else had deep, meaningful relationships. Why? Intentionality. In every season of loneliness, we have to get outside of ourselves and think intentionally in relationships. Who do I want to be friends with? Who am I? Who has God created me to be?
Kasey – the longings that we have in our hearts that drive us to Christ. For Maggie and I, in our seasons, where’s our husbands. Wanted to be mom and wife. That longing causes us to press in to the Lord. When we want the Lord to move in an area. Remember that God can handle our heart break and out cry out to him. There’s things we can do in the lonely season.
Choose to press in to the Lord. What is the purpose for the season that I’m going through. Choose to spend time in His Word. Let Him, the Holy Spirit fill you on how to guide you in that season.
Maggie – "We all need to team up together and speak the Word, live out the Word and encourage one another... the moment competition comes in to the conversation, we have lost the vision of what it means to function united."
Lisa – Competition is isolating; setting yourself up for loneliness because you’re an island. You’re in a lane and you think everyone else is in that same lane. There’s a lane for everybody.
Maggie – As an athlete and pageant contestant, it’s very isolating; surrounded by incredible women that are well spoken, beautiful and only one person wins. Biggest lesson learned – instead of thinking of competing with these women, collaborate with them, team up to make a difference together.
Kasey – As women, it’s easy to get insecure within yourself, that can keep you from reaching out to others. What do I have to bring to this friendship vs 'there’s no room in that group for me'. Goes back to knowing our value and worth in Christ. We are all called to love. Be bold in our identity as women in sharing love with people around us and not letting those insecurities hold you back on being intentional.
Isabell – as a pastor’s kid, people didn’t know me. I didn't show them who I really am. When we draw closer to Jesus, learn who He has made me to be, know who we are, then we can present ourselves to people and say ‘look at how beautiful I am’ ‘look how amazing I am’ Now for you, I’m looking at how beautiful you are and looking for who Jesus says you are. I’m trying to find the gold in you. We are to find the gold in people.
"It comes down to having confidence in Christ and who he’s made us and letting him fulfill the needs and longings. The more we focus on Him, the more the focus comes off of us, and what we are feeling because we are feeling His presence and not our loneliness." - Lisa
Maggie – loneliness is inward; we are not called to 'me me me'. What if God is putting on your heart to reach out to someone? Maybe you take the time to be intentional and reach out to people. Branch out and ask how someone else is. Be active in taking the attention off of ourselves.
Part 2 Q & A Session with our Panel on Loneliness
Lisa Goins – Question: as believers, there's an expectation to be fine and smile. We can battle feeling lonely in a crowded room. How did you overcome - not always being okay?
Isabell – I’m a pastor’s kid. The expectation is very image based so it’s very isolating. I felt like when I was going through something, I couldn’t be genuine with the people around me. I realized… I can be myself with other people. I’m allowed to have bad days; I’m allowed to have bad feelings and I’m not ashamed of my bad days and bad feelings. It’s so helpful to share that part of myself with people but with God too. Sometimes we feel we have to present ourselves as a perfect offering – here’s all the good parts of me Lord. But intimacy is achieved in the darkness areas of our lives. Reason why David and God were so close because God was with him when he was being chased by Saul, when going through dark times, he really had opportunities to get to have intimacy with God because he drew close in those times.
Question: Did you have mentors in your life? Help you through that season.
Maggie – The key is finding a mentor that you can be totally and completely honest with and not holding anything back. Found healing and connection with mentors in my life.
Question: Natalie Kresge: As a mom, there’s a lot on your plate, but how do you fit a friend in this equation, practically how do you prioritize friendships and initiating? Typically we have to seek out friendships because others don’t initiate as we once planned. How do you through each season?
Kasey – We are not meant to live our lives alone. We do need that community of people around us so we need to find time to be intentional to reach out to a friend. Instead, of saying ‘lets get together real soon’ but let’s go to dinner next week. Make a firm plan.
Lisa – learning to invite people into those moments that are already going to happen and not make a chore. Helps to simplify, no babysitter needed nor carve out extra time somewhere. i.e., a class, hobby, fosters the ability to form those relationships.
Proverbs 18:24 Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. (Message version)
Isabell – great example of that but bring Jesus into your social media feed. Social media is isolating sometimes because it’s very image based… me me me, look at me, this is my life, look what happened to me this weekend, but when we invite Jesus to have control over our social media and take the focus off of ourselves, on to our friends, on to the messy parts of our life, even onto Jesus himself. Social media is a platform where we can be honest, and we don’t often use it for honesty because we see everybody else post the highlights. We want to say ‘look at my highlights’, but when we have opportunities to be honest and vulnerable on social media, this is incredible for friends and self.
Lisa – We are constantly surrounded by devices and technology; it’s a replacement for authentic relationships with one another. It invites loneliness. We are getting these dopamine’s by posting a picture and getting likes whereas not that long ago we would go to people to have that feeling. Loneliness more than ever cause it use to be we’d show an actual picture, now it’s ‘hey world, here’s this picture’.
Maggie now we are tying our worth to how many likes we get or how many people engage with our social media or how many comments we get, what the comments are, that fosters loneliness. Maybe you don’t have cool things to share, not the perfectly edited photos with the pre-sets and all the technologies, that’s lonely too. When I see my friends’ posts, I immediately feel depressed. Why aren’t I doing fun things like they are. I have to intentionally pull back from social media vs scroll for hours, its like my battery is fully charged, but it depletes to zero faster than otherwise.
if anyone is struggling with loneliness, my advise is to take a detox from social media, a dopamine detox cause it invites loneliness when you see what everyone else is doing. - Lisa
Ann Hatton Question: When going through seasons of loneliness, did you know that is what you were going through. If you did, did you reach out to someone or did you hold it inside?
Lisa – as a cancer survivor, it was a lonely season though surrounded by people who loved and encouraged me. Everything I was going through, everything I was feeling, it was just me and God. No one else can go through it with you. One thing that helped me was connecting with other cancer survivors through social media, helping her through lonely feelings with others who related in that season.
Isabell – epilepsy diagnose – afraid to go out in case of seizure; so unexpected. Learning I wasn’t going to get better, I would had to live with my whole life, I receded into myself and refused to acknowledge as part of my story. I don’t like this part of me. It makes me feel alone because it makes me different. It made me come face to face with Jesus and him saying, ‘you have epilepsy. You take medicine for epilepsy. It’s okay. I know you have epilepsy. You know we have to be together and not alone in these times.’
Lisa Did you recognize you were feeling lonely at that time?
Isabell – absolutely not because I refused to acknowledge I had epilepsy.
Maggie – you said you went inside; you didn’t reach out to someone until your friend came along and had Crohn’s disease. If she hadn’t been diagnosed, do you think you would have reached out?
Isabell – no, I don’t think I would have. It’s takin a lot for me. I did a podcast (iRefresh Season 1 Episode 37) about chronic disease and that was the first time I had ever talked about it at all. That was 5 years after the diagnosis.
Lisa – Did you find it freeing to talk about?
Isabell – absolutely yeah, and it gave me the opportunity to include it in my testimony which is such a huge deal cause of your testimony has power. If you have parts of yourself, you don’t like that you are trying to hide, push away, that part needs to be a part of your testimony because the Lord can do a good thing with that.
Maggie – small traumas caused various self-harming tactics to punish self for feeling a certain way. As an adult, it became an addiction to a substance. I did it (drinking) because I felt lonely. It was a way to escape from that. Addiction is a comfort zone.
The way you grow in friendship – instead of thinking: ‘they want to hear from me or they don’t care about who I am or what I have to say,’ this isolates ourselves and disqualifies oneself from being worthy of friendship. We have to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to people to invite or complement them - start a conversation.
Kasey – Remember Jesus experienced a lonely season. He went through the wilderness for 40 days which he was all alone. The Holy Spirit was intentional to lead him to that place because it was the battleground for his future. The wilderness season for him, he stepped out of that and into his ministry. Recognizing those seasons we go through, but being intentional to ask the Lord what he is wanting to teach us, to speak to us and to use that season cause God has a plan for all of us. Having the wisdom in those moments to lean in to the Lord and see how He wants to grow us… we overcome with our testimony. How many people can you help?
Maggie – stop painting a picture that everyone in the church is perfect because we are not; we’re human, it’s impossible to be perfect. It’s okay to not be okay. God can use anybody. God used every day people and they were willing to listen to him. Every Bible character had a qualm, a short coming, addictions, but God still used them. They were every day people who said ‘yes’. They went through their seasons of loneliness. We have to go in to the wilderness like they did (people in the Bible) and Jesus did to be ready for what He has for us.
Lisa – Finding your confidence in the Lord and in turn, your confidence to form those friendships or confident when you don’t have those relationships, that you still know who you are and God has a plan and purpose. And those seasons can be purposeful. He’s preparing you and helping you find what makes your heart sing instead of just going along with all of the things happening because they are happening.
Proverbs says blessed is she who knows her season. Recognizing those season we are in, whether it’s loneliness or mountaintop season, bring it back to Christ, press in to Him, spend time in His presence, pray, read the Bible and let Him fill you, carry you, and sustain you in the season you are walking through. – Kasey
Maggie’s - Jesus is the ultimate companion. Anytime we try to put our companionship into something else, whether its escape by a substance or some way to escape as a companion or friend, you’ll be let down. But the person who will never let you down is God.
Isabell - Ask Jesus who are the people that he’s placed in your life. We talked about women coming together, killing competition, joining together in unity. Jesus puts people in your life for a reason. He wants people to be a part of your life. He created us for relationship. As you get to know Jesus, its sometimes scary to move out of seasons of loneliness, but being intentional, setting things up with people, moving forward and asking Jesus to give you bravery.