Loneliness sucks.

It’s a feeling of isolation that can feel as debilitating as physical illness.

There are many ways loneliness can manifest, and even more reasons why, but let’s talk about romantic loneliness: a lack of that special kind of intimacy that comes from a partner we all crave so deeply.

Most people seek to ease the pain of loneliness by pouring all their energy into finding ‘The One.’ In lieu of this, the intense desire for intimacy can drive some into the arms of porn. No space for loneliness there, right? Porn promises all this and more; you don’t have to give anything back.

But what do you do when you can’t find that special someone? Or when you realize the struggle of loneliness is much more than a gap to be filled by a willing lover? When you realize porn does more harm than good?

The antidote to loneliness is real intimacy. Romance and sex aren’t the only way to experience this.

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Here are four ways to experience intimacy and deal with loneliness:

1. Learn to Sit with Loneliness

Humans were created for healthy relationship. Even in the Garden of Eden, where Adam walked with God in perfection, the Lord said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ Thus Eve was created as the perfect partner and confidant. It is natural to crave closeness and intimacy with other humans, not only God and yourself.

If relationships were vital in paradise, how much more will humans desire the closeness and support of another human in today’s world? In a world of ruptured intimacy, heartache, unmet expectations, and downright cruelty, humans genuinely need the solidarity and connection that began in Eden.

It is natural that we crave closeness with others. It is part of our identity as people made in the image of God. It is a desire placed within us to draw us close to one another and form loving communities and relationships.

Don’t let loneliness become the enemy. It’s okay to acknowledge what you’re feeling and hoping for, to sit with that emotion and honor it for what it is. It is human nature.

2. Cultivate Friendships

Don’t become so obsessed with finding the perfect romantic partner, or with the despair of not having one, that you forget about friends and family. This is a common error of the lonely heart, but only serves to compound your loneliness and push valuable friendships aside.

Take your focus off what you do not have and focus on what you do have. Chances are you have at least one friend who genuinely cares for you, if not more!

These friends are amazing sources of untapped intimacy. Don’t worry, intimacy in friendship doesn’t mean you have to start cuddling up and buying each other roses, it just means investing in each other, being vulnerable, and sharing life. These can be the most satisfying and genuine relationships.

Friends can make you feel truly known and loved. Sharing your struggles, joys, or a few jokes with some good blokes or your closest girlfriends can give a sense of belonging that overshadows a sense of loneliness.

Desiring a romantic relationship and being intentional in dating is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a great thing! Just make sure you’re also cultivating friendships and making time for non-romantic adventures.

This is an antidote to loneliness. Isolation and negativity will only lead you into dark places.

[shortcode-variables slug=”mypilgrimage-inline”]3. Learn to Date Yourself

Okay, if you’re not into corny lines, you don’t have to call it ‘dating yourself.’ This step is just about learning to be at ease in your own company.

Being alone doesn’t have to mean loneliness. Making peace with solitude can really take the edge off your discomfort and open a whole new world of possibility and adventure.

You might feel awkward as you learn to enjoy your own company. That’s perfectly normal, keep at it. Try wandering around a mall on your own, take yourself out to dinner, or even enjoy the freedom of a solo holiday or outdoor adventure. Many people start this journey by simply seeing a movie on their own. These activities can be genuinely relaxing and rejuvenating if done with the right mindset.

Chances are you’re going to experience pervasive thoughts and feelings of awkwardness at first. We’re not used to being on our own, let alone enjoying the experience! It is vital you acknowledge what you’re feeling, but then intentionally rephrase those thoughts in a more positive light. Instead of allowing your mind to play the ‘everyone’s-looking-at-me-pitifully’ soundtrack on repeat, turn it around and celebrate your independence.

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Remind yourself of the freedom of choice you’re experiencing, and instead of focusing on what other people may be doing or thinking, set your energy and attention upon what you’re doing in the moment. Be mindful.

There are no limits to the adventures you can have when you learn to be joyful in solitude.

Changing your perception and taking part in some alone time (we’re talking the mindful type, not the naughty kind!) can go a long way in healing your lonely heart.

Again, balance is key. It is important to have a balance of community and comfortable solitude.

4. Restore Intimacy with Jesus

Now you’re a pro at dating yourself, it’s time to date the Lord Jesus himself! Throw on your best robes, brush your hair, and hope J.C. is in the mood to turn some water into wine!

Okay, not really.

Jesus is the ultimate healer of your lonely heart, though.

It can feel impossible to connect with him, being invisible and all. But he is the one near to the broken-hearted. He knew you before the womb, he will know you after the grave, and he lovingly walks by your side each day as you suffer or celebrate. There is no one who is closer or knows you more intimately.

Trust that God in his sovereignty has you exactly where he wants you to be and has your future in his hands. When you feel the familiar rush of loneliness setting in, fight back by being proactive. Look for ways in which you can serve God in your current context. Do your best to listen to his voice and determine where he may have you serve. This is a great way to forget about loneliness and use your unique position for good. Plus, this will more than likely bring you into contact with fellow Christians or some kind of community.

Pursue intimacy with God with your whole heart and chase satisfaction in him. Seek his calling on your life and utilize your season of singleness for good. Let’s be honest: all this may not come easily, but the Bible promises answers to those who seek.

Intentionally seeking a romantic partner is a perfectly honorable endeavor, but ensure you’re also engaging your need for intimacy in the ways mentioned in this article. Without this balance, you may become consumed by your longing, and end up seeking the embrace of pornography or uncommitted lovers.