Friday, March 9, 2018
Loneliness isn’t something we can ignore
There so much wisdom in this that I really need to read. Loneliness is a big struggle for me.
Part 1 of an interview with Tiffany Bluhm,
Author of Never Alone
Loneliness is on the rise in our society and impacting people of all ages. Research has shown that it increases stress and high blood pressure, weakens blood flow and immune systems, and is linked to mental disorders, depression, and even early death. It isn’t something to ignore, but rather it’s a signal for us to pay attention. Unfortunately, its negative associations, such as a weakness perception or feeling of having poor social skills, impede people from being honest about where they stand. To make matters worse, it has contagious tendencies, and our social networking culture makes it viral. To break the cycle, we need to understand what loneliness does and the behavior it encourages, seek to be more positive and discerning, and retrain how we think about people. For persons of faith, that includes re-evaluating what loneliness has led us to believe about God and our relationship with him. The debut book, Never Alone: Exchanging Your Tender Hurts for God’s Healing Grace (Abingdon Press), by Bible teacher and speaker Tiffany Bluhm serves as a guide to help women do just that.
Q: Of all the fears there are in the world, how prevalent is the fear of being alone?
As little girls, we feared playing alone on the playground. In middle school, we feared sitting alone at lunch. In high school, we feared going alone to the prom. As adults, we fear we may never marry or have children. We fear our husbands may leave us. We fear we will be left to our solitary selves to fight the hardest battles of our lives. We spend our lives doing our absolute best to prove we are lovable and valuable, never to be ignored or left alone.
Q: Why do women need to hear and be reminded they are never alone?
Hearing they are never alone addresses women’s worst fear that they'll be left alone, rejected by the people around them simply for who they are, what they have done, or what’s been done to them.
Q: What was your inspiration for writing Never Alone and its companion Bible study?
Too many women, including myself, have wondered if our life experiences disqualify us from the intervention and hope of Jesus. I was inspired by my own struggles (including abandonment at birth, being dumped by the man of my dreams, and losing a child in the adoption process) and struggles of close friends that we are not only loved by Jesus but given a beautiful identity as we follow him.
I’ve always believed women play a critical role in society, one that is intended to be defined not by culture but by Christ. Never Alone exposes the truth of a woman’s value and vision when she believes in God and who he designed her to be.
Q: What is the main message you have for your readers? Whom did you write Never Alone for?
Never Alone claims you are not too far gone, beyond repair, or too broken for the companionship and grace of Jesus. Jesus restores dignity to women when the world tries to rip it away from them. The person you were intended to be is found when you work through the dark parts of your story and soul and cling to Christ through it all. If you ask him, the light of Christ will heal you, restore you, and lead you on.
Never Alone is for women who have allowed shame, despair, rejection, and loss to define their lives. No matter how small the incident or how big the trauma, we were built to walk in the fullness of God, never a counterfeit version determined by our life’s aches and pains.
Q: How do our relationships change when we begin to believe fully that Christ will never leave us? Once we realize He is always with us, are we better equipped to conquer loneliness in our daily lives?
A soul without Christ will hunger for someone to make it complete. We were built to abide in Christ, and if we don’t, too often we’ll seek and search for someone else to fulfill us. To be our everything. It’s a misplaced need that no human can bear, but Christ can. We can’t put on others what only Christ can do. When the companionship of Christ is enough for us, we change, as do our relationships.
You see, what we believe about ourselves is projected onto our relationships. The healthier the soul, the sweeter the relationships around us. Our brokenness made whole is not only for us. Others will see the glory of God at work in our life when we experience it for ourselves.
Q: You suggest women forgo healing when they fail to see God’s presence in their hardest memories and toughest trials. How does revisiting the past help with the healing process?
You and I are who we are today because of the experiences of our past. If we want to work through our current struggles, it will serve us well to revisit the past experiences that have affected how we see ourselves, others, and God. If we are able to identify those contributing factors of the past we can invite Christ in to those tender moments. We can ask him to redeem what has happened ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years ago.
You know what is really good news? Jesus’ grace is retroactive. It can redeem the hurts of the past if only we offer up those aches and pains. We must remember that God isn't the cause of our misfortune or pain; he is the answer. Sometimes we want to push him away because we think he failed to save us from whatever tragedy occurred, but that's not the case. He is the healer of tragedy, not the cause.
Q: What are some other factors that work against women in their journey to restoration?
Honestly, the lies we believe about ourselves, coupled with festering resentment and bitterness for the way things have turned out in life, make for some hefty stumbling blocks. Sometimes, you don't know where to start in your hunt for restoration. You and I can easily question if Jesus' grace is capable of doing all it claims it can.
In our deepest hurts is when we decide who Jesus is—not just in the good times, but in the hard ones. If we aren’t able to identify the presence of Jesus in our pain we may wonder if he can restore our broken moments that leave us lonely and confused.
For those wishing to dig deeper into what the Bible teaches about this subject, Bluhm has also created the Never Alone: 6 Encounters with Jesus to Heal Your Deepest Hurts Bible study that explores the story of six hurting women in the Gospels.
Keep up with Tiffany Bluhm and read her blog at www.TiffanyBluhm.com. She is also active on Facebook (TiffanyABluhm), Twitter (@tiffanybluhm), and Instagram (@tiffanybluhm).