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Banishing Spiritual Loneliness

Three practices for leaders (or anyone)

Spend Time in Solitude

It may seem counterintuitive, but the antidote for loneliness can sometimes be found in solitude—especially when we define solitude as not simply time alone, but time alone with God. God can fill our spiritual tank. But just as you can't fill a car while driving it down the road, spiritual filling requires us to slow down and connect with the source.

Be sure to understand the distinction between time alone being with God and time spent alone doing tasks for God. There's a big difference.

Leaders are people who get things done. We're task-oriented. While that's helpful, it can fuel an underlying belief that God's approval is related to our accomplishments, even contingent upon them. That's another way of saying we believe God's love is conditional.

When we simply take time to be alone, and to be with God, without tasks or even an agenda (such as study, memorization, lesson prep), we affirm our faith in God's unconditional love. Does he really love me when I'm not doing something for him? The only way to find out, and thereby truly experience that deep, unconditional love, is to stop doing for a while. Just be with God and know him (See Psalm 46).

Seek Community

This may seem like the opposite of the previous strategy. But if you look, for example, at the life of Jesus, you'll see that he engaged in both solitude and community. We need time alone with God, but we also need others to minister to us, to encourage us. God designed us to live in community with others. He can speak to us through others and in the quiet of our hearts.

If you find this challenging, you may need to ask yourself, Am I keeping people at a distance? Am I willing to risk revealing my need for support or encouragement? Am I valuing tasks over people?

Seek out other leaders, or friends who have some emotional distance from your leadership position. (In other words, people who are in another organization or are not your direct reports.) Look for friends who will support you but also be willing to tell you the truth when it's not pretty.

Be willing to seek spiritual friendship in which you can both be honest, where you can take off the leadership hat and just be yourself. Jesus did ministry in community, and we'd do well to follow his example.

Other people who lead in other environments often can provide the understanding and support you need. But you have to be brave enough to ask.

Loneliness is inevitable at times. Rather than avoid it by getting busy, let that quiet ache in your heart push you toward God. Use these three practices—slowing down, solitude, and community—to experience his presence and to create some space for God in your life.

Keri Wyatt Kent teaches and writes about spiritual formation, leadership, and discipleship. Connect with her at KeriWyattKent.com.

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March28, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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