“Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.”
—Psalm 25:16 (NRSV)
There is a cesspool that starts as discouragement, becomes loneliness, and ends up as avoidance. Whether it’s a workplace situation, within the family, or within a church fellowship, or something else, or a mix of some of these, matters little.
Wherever we dwell in discouragement—where there is a void of encouragement—loneliness is the sure direction of regression.
Avoidance is a big enough problem at the best of times; when we are lonely in our discouragement we can become heavily dependent on avoidant strategies. The more we are disengaged the more disengaged we become. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Our prayer is like the psalmist’s; we wish for God to turn to us through our circumstances to reduce our loneliness and affliction. But as life is so often, our circumstances won’t be coerced just because we are suffering. These tumultuous circumstances will turn for the better independent of how we feel. This is obviously not much comfort. But it is important to understand the problem of discouragement and how it affects us detrimentally over the longer term.
The Pathology of Discouragement Leading to Loneliness
If we have ever been chronically discouraged—to endure six months or more of a serious void of encouragement—we will most certainly have experienced a discernible loneliness within the soul.
The theory is the mature wait on God—that there’s no better pat on the back than from God. The reality is different, however. Most people do require positive feedback and encouragement. This is weighed against the negative feedback we get. We can handle the negative feedback so long as we are getting some encouragement.
But then we find ourselves in a position where there is no encouragement. Is God bringing us through this hellish and parched land for a reason? It helps to see it that way; that there will be a reason, later to be discovered so we can testify about God’s faithfulness.
How Loneliness Breeds Avoidance
When we feel remote and isolated we cocoon into a shell. Things we became known for so far as boldness is concerned become the shadow of the former self. Suddenly we select for safety when courage would advise us to plunge on through and resume our boldness.
As the disencouraged sense of loneliness takes grip one of the first things we lose is our boldness; our courage. The key behavioural indicator then is avoidance. People notice us avoiding tasks and relational situations. A retreat from life occurs. We may even notice it ourselves.
And the irony is avoidance just compounds the whole process of discouragement and loneliness. And it can be a difficult process to be freed from.
We must go against the flow of the discouragement and seek our encouragement from God. To beat our avoidance we thrust ourselves into the bold fray of life.
Discouragement, loneliness and avoidance are all interlinked. It starts with discouragement and ends in avoidance. It’s vital we draw our encouragement from God when we feel discouraged by work, the world, family, church, etc. This encouragement is eternally available through God’s Word. Simply it works!
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.