In my mid-teens, I was active in every way. I loved sports, was always busy at work and was very involved in activities at my church. I knew that I loved God and that I wanted to be a disciple but still, in the midst of all of this, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lonely inside.
I felt like I had no friends. I would think, “Why me? Everyone has one friend that’s always there; why won’t God allow that for me?” A smile or laugh often played at my lips, so even though I felt hollow inside, nobody really knew I was so lonely.
I realized after time that my self-esteem had fallen, my confidence was low, and I was dangerously occupied with myself and how awful my life seemed. I was building a wall of internal resentment that made me blind to the needs of anybody but my own. And, even though I recognized that this wall was there, I didn’t really know what to do about it.
“You need to stop living for yourself”
One weekend, the youth group from my church gathered together for some activities and I had dragged my feet and gone. But, it wasn’t too long before I found myself sitting alone. One of the older youth workers I knew and loved saw the sadness behind my smile and sat down beside me. I opened the door of my heart to tell him what had me so troubled. He listened to me intently and softly smiled at my story of “I have no friends.”
What he replied hit me hard, and are words I will always carry with me and be thankful for: ‘’Lucy, you need to stop living for yourself, and give your life for the others. Just watch and see how happy God will make you.’’
Deep down, I knew that he was right; I knew that I needed to change, not anybody else. James 1:14 says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lusts. That means that the problem is me; it is my own lusts and desires, my demands and feelings of dissatisfaction that cause unrest and need to be dealt with, regardless of how the others treat me. That night, I got on my knees and prayed earnestly to God. I prayed He would open my eyes, that He would give me a desire to help and bless the others and that He would make me happy.
I can honestly say my life has never been the same since.
A conscious battle
Instead of allowing my thoughts to revolve solely around myself and my situation, I decided to start living for the others. I consciously took up a battle in my thought life against thoughts of loneliness, discouragement and self-pity, and let the peace of God rule in my heart instead. (Colossians 3:15) Every time a negative thought came I imagined slamming a door against it, so it wouldn’t take over or have any power over me.
Besides battling against these inclinations inside me, I also became active with the practical things that I could do. I had prayed to God on that evening that he could open my eyes to the needs of others, and that is exactly what he did!
I gradually saw people around me that felt lonely or out of place and might need me as a friend or someone who could help them. I used what I had to make it good for the others in small, day to day things like giving the others a ride in my car, buying kids I knew a treat and always, as soon as somebody came to mind, I would take the time to pray for them. I did what I could to make the others happy, and as a result, I was made happy myself.
The joy I received didn’t come in some sort of instantaneous bolt, but over time.
A new mindset
After a few weeks of practicing this, I got to the end of a busy day and realized that I had not once given in to self-pity, or wasted time obsessing over my own problems. God had changed my mindset and I had truly started to care for the others. Those that I spent time with and prayed for had become my friends, without me even realizing it. And because of this, loneliness had faded away; it didn’t have a grip on me anymore.
Today, my situation is so different. Before, I was desperate to have friends, and self-pity dragged me down. But once I stopped focusing on myself and started to use my time on things that have proper worth, I have been able to build lasting friendships with those around me. God opened my eyes to things I was blind to, and now my thoughts are no longer based on “me, myself and I.”
That doesn’t mean that it has always been plain sailing. Satan has come back several times to try and take me back to the dark place I was originally at. But, I have resisted him; I have chosen to care for the people around me, and to be a blessing and friend to the others. I have kept Jesus’ words about love right before my eyes: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13.
As a result, he has blessed me more than I can explain! I have solid, reliable and faithful friends, far too many to count. They are people that have always been there, but whom I haven’t been able to see properly because of my own selfish, clouded vision. I found them when I chose to stop focusing on myself!