“No one understands you, Christina. You’ve always been different. If other women really knew your heart and struggles they would reject you. Just stuff it down, put on a good face, and keep going through life. It’s better to be alone anyways. You survived high school, college, and all the years up to this point with only a couple of close friends. Stay hiding. Again, no one really understands.”
Sadly, those are real thoughts. The oxymoron is that in the moments I listened and believed those thoughts, I felt so alone when reality is that I was the farthest from being alone in those thoughts. Have you ever heard yourself say something similar? Maybe different words but the same conclusion: I. Am. Alone. And in a twisted way my loneliness drags me down to further isolation rather than reaching out to someone. If this is you, my friend, pull up a chair.
I was drowning in those thoughts a little less than a year ago. I felt like no one could relate to me as a filmmaker’s wife and watching my husband wrestle with God’s will and waiting on His timing to fulfill his calling as a “missionary who makes movies.” There is no other woman in my church that is a wife to a filmmaker so of course no one understands, right? In addition, there are sins and idols in my heart that I’m always dealing with and who likes to confess sin, especially to other women who appear to have it all together, right? So it’s easy to just try to deal with it alone. Fake it until you make it somehow. Isolate. Yet choosing to isolate myself kept me in bondage to the lies. And worse, in my loneliness, fears, and a wrong identity of who I am in Christ, I was keeping the door of my heart wide open, resorting to my idols for a sense of comfort and control.
But my God is good and gracious, and He opened my eyes and did something miraculous. The Bible says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16) So I cried out to Jesus in my loneliness, since He of all people understands what it is like to be alone and misunderstood. I prayed many of David’s Psalms, and He answered by bringing 3 very different yet life-impacting relationships into my life. Let me share how these relationships have changed me and brought me from isolation to extending my arms out and loving others even more without fear of rejection.
The Friend: One day I got on Facebook and had a new message from a woman I knew of but never met. Her message was short and simple. She told me that God had laid me heavily on her heart and that she was praying for me. Completely unexpected and it touched me significantly in that moment when I needed someone to show compassion. I thanked her and told her how much her prayers meant to me. As our conversation continued, we shared more about ourselves and we soon realized that we are very similar in our personality and struggles as wives, mothers, and even ministry callings for our families. Our friendship deepened as we encouraged each other in our faith and pursuit of Jesus, held each other accountable to our idols in life, and even vented or laughed about our daily grind as moms.
Fast forward: it’s been 7 months and this girl has become an anchor in my life holding me down with Truth. I don’t know where I’d be without her. Our friendship has displayed Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” And man is she sharp! She calls me out when she perceives my heart wandering, she listens to the Spirit when praying for me and tells me exactly what I need to hear, and she encourages me to keep pursuing Jesus no matter the cost. I pray I do the same for her. God heard my cry of loneliness, the Spirit spoke to this woman to send a simple message to tell me that she cares, and my life has been changed because of our friendship.
The Older: I’ve always desired an older, wiser woman to mentor me. Someone to take me under her wing, teach me from her life experiences, and pour Truth into my life as a young wife and mother. I didn’t know how to go about finding this mentor. I prayed occasionally that God would just send someone to me. That this woman will walk right up to me and say, “I’m going to disciple you.” Well, it wasn’t happening. Last year Brett and I started attending a church whose mission is “to make disciples who make disciples.” It only increased my desire for someone to come alongside me that has already walked in my shoes as a wife and mom. Again, in my loneliness I begged God to send someone who could disciple me.
One Sunday morning I was praying as I got ready for church. I asked God to show me that morning the woman who could disciple me. With faith, I walked into the church building and my eyes started scanning like a hawk looking for food. A few women caught my attention yet I didn’t feel the Spirit tug. Brett and I dropped the kids off in their classrooms and we found a seat. We were early that day, so I kept scanning as women came and sat down. Then I saw a man standing in the back that caught my attention. I faced forward again and spoke this man’s wife’s name to God. Within 5 seconds, Brett turns to me and says, “What about _____” It was the woman I had just spoke to God. I had overwhelming peace from the Spirit.
The service couldn’t get over soon enough. Brett went to get the kids and I eagerly sought out this woman. She was speaking to someone else, so I anxiously waited off to the side trying to still figure out what I was even going to say. She acknowledged me, finished her conversation, and smiled brightly as she made her way to me. It didn’t take long; I was babbling and crying like a baby as I told her, “I desperately need someone to help me!” Her compassion was overwhelming as she hugged me and said, “Yes. Let’s meet up as soon as possible. I am very available.”
We started meeting up every other week. I talked, I cried, I confessed sin and struggles as she listened and constantly took me to Scripture. The Truth of God’s Word filled me as she shared exactly what I needed. I would leave my time with her energized, satisfied by the Word of God, and encouraged. She never judged me. She listened. She understood. She was used by the Spirit to speak to me right where I was in that moment. Here is the best part: Within the first couple of times together, she opened up and shared what God was teaching her. God had been telling her to stop being afraid and reach out to more women. The very day that I walked into church by faith looking for her to disciple me, she walked into church with her hands held out asking God, “Who Lord? My hands are held out to serve someone. Show me who.” Like me, she was scanning the women who came and went. Then when I walked up to her, both our prayers were answered. I just got the chills writing that out. Again, God heard me. God heard her. He doesn’t want us alone.
For several months now we have met on and off. Our relationship has displayed Titus 2:3-5, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” This woman is not only older than I am, but more importantly, she is much wiser and has been teaching me through her own life experiences. The humbling part is that God has also used me to encourage her and her pursuit of Jesus.
The Younger: Around the same time these two women came into my life, God still wasn’t done answering my cry for help and was stretching my heart even more. This time though, I became the “older woman” to a high school-aged girl. Like my desire for an older woman to disciple me, I have prayed for a younger woman to disciple, but the same frustrations came with pursuing this relationship. Just like I was waiting for someone to come up to me and announce boldly that she will be my mentor, the thought of me picking some girl out of a crowd was frightening and just plain awkward.
However, it wasn’t needed because this girl came to me first for nutrition advice. What started out as dietitian-to-patient relationship blossomed into a deeper discipleship relationship. As this girl shared her heart with me, I looked across the picnic table and could see myself, 13 years ago. Many of her struggles were similar to mine at that age. I am excited for the opportunity to share with her what I wish I would have known when I was 18 years old. We met recently and she updated me on a significant idol she had overcome which has drawn her closer to Jesus. She eagerly asked me questions and sought more of my advice. I cherish our conversations and walk away greatly humbled that even in the midst of my own struggles, God is using my life experiences, successes, failures, and the lessons that He has taught me to impact someone else.
My friend, we need each other. Stop isolating yourself. Stop telling yourself that you are alone and no one understands. Since there is nothing new under the sun, I guarantee you that there is another woman going through a very similar experience or battling a particular sin or idol like you are right now. Pray and beg God like I did to send you a friend and/or someone to disciple you. He will listen because He made us for relationships. He doesn’t want you fighting alone.
Let’s also stop making assumptions. That woman at church or in the moms’ group that appears to have it all together? She is struggling in some way too. Don’t be afraid to go to someone like I did. Be honest and confess sin, and I promise instead of more pain you will find immense healing take place. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16). We also need to stop judging other women, leading to gossip. (“Oh! We should pray for so-and-so! Did you hear…?”) No wonder we are afraid to open up and be real about our burdens and sins; it may be next on the “prayer request” chain. And just because we don’t struggle with a particular sin doesn’t mean that we are better than that other woman struggling with her sin. Let’s get the plank out of our eyes and see that we are all sinners in need of the gospel daily, no matter what the sin.
Since we are flawed humans we cannot expect perfection in each other. I have regretfully made my share of mistakes in relationships, and also have been on the receiving end of being hurt. In my own failures and rejection by others, I have a tendency to go back to isolation. I don’t want to cause or receive any more pain. In fact, I wrestled with the Spirit on publishing this post. Those lies crept in again telling me to isolate myself and not be vulnerable. However, I instantly realized they were lies from Satan trying to shut me up because he knows the spiritual impact of discipleship and doesn’t want you to experience it. These women in my life have taught me that blessing only comes when I come out from hiding. And that the most wonderful thing about friendship and discipleship is when we pour into each other, we can continue to pour out more to others. It’s a beautiful cycle. It’s a God-ordained cycle, and He wants you to be a part of it.
You are not alone in your feelings of being alone. You really are not that different. You are understood. You are not rejected. Now get up off your chair, get out of hiding, and ask God to bring a woman you can open up your heart to. And if you are an “older” woman, go reach out your hands to a “younger” woman who desperately needs the Spirit working through you. It’s better to do life together, I promise.