As we discussed on Monday, this month TLM is digging into the topic of loneliness. With the start of the holiday season really kicking off in November, we felt this was a perfect time to talk about this particular emotion.
While loneliness can strike anytime during the year, it is during the months of November and December that statistically this emotion hits the most people. Perhaps it’s all the commercials that show people bustling from one party to another while we’re washing dishes that does us in. Perhaps, it’s the party going on at the neighbors that we didn’t get an invitation to or a memory of happier times that has us feeling lonely.
I decided to tackle this emotion from an angle that I personally have struggled with. People pleasing has been one of my biggest struggles throughout my lifetime. Without going into great detail about my childhood, let’s just say, I learned at an early age that if I didn’t want to feel lonely and isolated, there was a cost involved. I learned in order to have someone want me around, I needed to pay the price being asked.
As a small child I tried my hardest to be the best friend anyone could have. I would give my “friends” my lunch at school. I would take the blame for talking in class when the teacher was looking at my friend for the crime. I would even give Valerie, the popular girl, the treasure I had found at the bottom of my Cracker-Jack box. Telling my age now, aren’t I? All this in hopes that they would include me in the jump rope contest at recess.
As I reflect back now, I have come to realize that there were many times in my childhood that people weren’t asking anything of me. They were genuinely my friend, yet somehow, I felt the need to buy their affection.
As a teen, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, yet I continued to struggle with pleasing those around me instead of being solely focused on doing what was right and pleasing to God. After all, I was a teenage girl filled with raging hormones and longed desperately to have a boyfriend just like all the popular girls in school.
See, while salvation brings with it the blessing of being washed clean and born anew in Christ, we still have our fleshly bodies and human desires to deal with on this side of eternity. I was saved, but not strong in my faith. I was not always fully devoted to growing closer in my walk with Christ. Often, I traded the close relationship of the One for the attention of many. Did I do that with clear and open eyes? Of course not!
I, like so many other Christians, didn’t even realize that my people pleasing behavior was in fact usurping God from His place as number one in my life. I did know instinctively that elevating people by doing things for them in order to attract them to me was not God’s best for me. It was, in fact, creating idols in my life. That’s right, idols!
Gotquestions.org states, within a biblical framework, people pleasing borders on idolatry. So, following that line, people pleasing is against one of the Big Ten. Right there on the tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, the number one commandment says to worship no other god above the Lord.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3 NIV
Yet, here I was telling that still, small voice to be quiet as I sinned and put that person in the number one spot in my life in order to not be lonely.
You should know, people pleasing followed me into adulthood. I have always had a heart for caring for people. I truly want to leave those around me better off than when I arrived. That’s a healthy attitude until I do it for selfish reasons. While I have always wanted to be generous, I also have always wanted to be recognized as vital, worthy, and as part of the group. Admittedly, I have not always done things to lead people to Christ, but to lead them back to me. Wow, even writing that is a humbling statement.
I know what you’re thinking. This is what I thought also: “I am not worshiping anyone! I’m just doing what will make them happy. I want to please them and if that means I need to step over the line God has drawn for me in order to do that then so be it. Being the type of person that will do whatever is necessary to please someone else does not equal idolatry of that person.”
But Easton’s Biblical Dictionary defines idolatry as worship or divine honor paid to any created object. Guess what…people are created objects. We only need to look back at the first chapter of Genesis to see that Adam and Eve were created by the Creator. So, yes, people pleasing left unchecked can be idolatrous.
I know all too well how loneliness feels, but I also know that as a Christian woman, I am never without a friend. I know that in the darkest of hours, God is there with me. He promises to stick to us closer than a brother.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NIV
I’ve also learned that I can be generous with people, serve people, and love people, but that my absolute focus must be on the Lord. In Him alone, I must place all that I have. If a “friend” asks me to do something that I can feel in my spirit is against what God has called me to do, I know that I do not need to comply with that request in order to keep loneliness at bay.
I always have a friend in Christ. Even when the party rages on next door without me, I am not lonely. Christ loves me so much that He hung on a cross to save me.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:13-15 ESV
Nothing or no one on this planet can compare to that type of affection. When I begin to feel this emotion trying to slip into my day, I need to hold on to that fact and so do you.
Father God, I seek Your companionship during this season for myself and those reading this post today. With all the noise and bustle going on around us during the holidays, I ask that You draw us close. Lift up my sisters Lord. Remind them when loneliness threatens to isolate them from the crowd that You are walking beside them and nothing in this world compares to what You have in store for us. Help us remember that Your love is constant, that You are jealous for us, and that Your love is complete. In the loving name of Jesus, I pray to You, Amen
Written by Rhonda Carlsen
Please note all scripture was taken from the NIV or ESV.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.