I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a condition that we all face at different points in our lives–loneliness. Losing family members and friends, having kids grow up and even move away, it’s all quite a change. Sometimes I don’t like change.
“Pssst. Natalie. This is supposed to be a post about what brings you joy, remember?”
Prepare yourself for some “ugly cry” truth here. I’ve struggled a bit lately to feel joy.
Here’s the thing, there has to be opposition in all things.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.“
As a mortal, it is important to face challenges and make choices without our Heavenly Father’s constant presence we once enjoyed (see D&C 58:26–28). Even the Savior suffered alone, that he could know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities (Alma 7:12).
If we look at the Topical Guide for “Loneliness”, we see cross references for “Brotherhood and Sisterhood ; Fellowshipping ; Holy Ghost, Mission of.”
Isn’t that interesting? The Holy Ghost was given to us precisely to help dispel the loneliness that Heavenly Father knew we would feel. Of course, he also gave us each other, which is why the Topical Guide includes “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” as well.
We are promised in the scriptures,
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18) and, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5).
When we feel like we are wandering in the desert all alone, we have to make a choice in how we deal with it. The bad example that I sometimes set is one of self-pity, of criticism, of anger, of unjust blame, of depression, and of discontent and a general attitude of “why me?” These thoughts do not lead us me out of loneliness.
Elder Hales said,
“When we are marred spiritually or physically, our first reaction is to withdraw into the dark shadows of depression, to blot out hope and joy—the light of life which comes from knowing we are living the commandments of our Father in heaven. This withdrawal will ultimately lead us to rebellion against those who would like to be our friends, those who can help us most, even our family. But worst of all, we finally reject ourselves. Those who are alone and lonely should not retreat to the sanctuary of their private thoughts and chambers. Such retreat will ultimately lead them into the darkening influence of the adversary, which leads to despondency, loneliness, frustration, and to thinking of themselves as worthless.”
Instead, the right way to dig ourselves out of the deep dry pit of loneliness is to engage in meaningful activities and exercise some patience.
Elder Richard G. Scott once commented on the role of personal initiative in overcoming feelings of loneliness and of being excluded:
“The social and sport activities [of my youth] left me feeling alone and unwanted. It was not until a lot later in life that I realized it was largely my fault. I have since learned that one cannot demand love and respect or require that the bonds of friendship and appreciation be extended as an unearned right. These blessings must be earned. They come from personal merit. Sincere concern for others, selfless service, and worthy example qualify one for such respect. All my rationalization that others had formed select groups and knowingly ruled out my participation was largely a figment of my imagination. Had I practiced correct principles, I need not have felt alone.”
Peace doesn’t always come immediately, and it doesn’t always come in a rush. Sometimes the light gradually grows brighter like a sunrise rather than the flip of a light switch.
We can also search through our feelings to find the gratitude in our circumstances.
An 88-year-old sister who is almost blind and completely homebound said,
“I talk to the Lord as if he were right here with me. . . The lonelier I get, the closer I get to the Lord. Being alone gives me an opportunity to be quiet, and in my quietness I seek the inspiration that the Lord has offered me.”
Now, as real as all of this has felt to me recently, there are so many who are feeling loneliness that is much deeper and broader than what I’ve felt. A sweet and faithful older sister in my ward just passed away very suddenly. My heart hurts for her husband as he mourns her loss. His sacrifice puts my very temporary loneliness in perspective.
And yet, even death is only temporary because of Christ. Ultimately, even if we cannot change our circumstances, we must remember that this is just but a small moment, because our Savior has walked this way before us.
“. . because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel.”
Now, there just might be someone out there who is really, really struggling and may have even had thoughts of suicide. It just so happens that the Church launched a new website this week. Even if that isn’t you, check this website out so that you can be informed and maybe help someone else along your path: Suicide Prevention Site. It has a great video and some good questions and answers. If you really knew, you might be surprised how close the reality and impact of suicide is to someone in your circle of friends. Now, a website is not a substitute for medical and professional help. Please reach out. You are worth it. There is no one else like you in the world. You are needed.
For those like me, who maybe are just feeling a little more down than usual, what are we going to do about it? How am I going to find that which brings joy, even when it feels a little hard?
I’m going to keep trudging. I’m going to keep studying my scriptures and words of the prophets. I’m going to keep trying my best to love my family, to help people, and to do my best to keep my head up and realize that Heavenly Father loves me, that life is good, and that I have much to be grateful for, in an effort to find and embrace the joy that is just waiting for me if I choose to feel it.
 2 Nephi 2:11
 Hales, Robert D., “We Can’ Do It Alone”, October 1975.
 To the Lonely and Misunderstood, Brigham Young University 1981–82 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, Provo, Utah: University Publications, p. 199
 Holland, Jeffrey R., “None Were With Him,” April 2009.