Thursday, March 17, 2016

Communication and Loneliness

With this month’s topic of communication, I’ve been thinking about why it is so important to us to be able to communicate, and to do it as well as possible. Like Richelle posted in the opening post on this topic, communication is the sharing of information from one person to another or others.  Perhaps a stereotype, but one that I think is generally true, is that women are wired to value and desire communication. However, we don’t simply value the mere ability to transfer information to another person, but we value the result of that transfer of information; we desire relationships where we are known and understood and where we know and understand others.

Coffee with dear teammates

Women in general value being known, pursued, and understood.  When we have ample opportunities to know and be known, a vital part of our self thrives and this overflows to many other aspects of our life. When we don’t have opportunities to share of ourselves or to have others share of themselves with us, we suffer. This can happen for many reasons, whether it is struggling to relate on a heart level in a foreign language like Liz discussed, or because there simply aren’t many people around with whom we can truly relate, or because of conflict in relationships with people that we otherwise would connect with most deeply.

 One of the topics that we have talked about here often and that is always discussed in missionary trainings and with regards to missionary care is the issue of loneliness, which is the result of not having enough communication and true connection, resulting in our feeling unknown.  

As you all know, completely avoiding loneliness on the foreign mission field is nearly impossible. We will all have seasons, whether short of long, where we feel quite alone apart from our family and the Lord, or perhaps times when we even feel separated from those constants as well. I think it is through this struggle that many of us learn to depend on the Lord more deeply than ever before. And though I would never for a second diminish the value of what we experience with the Lord during these times, I also know that He has created us as relational beings with true and legitimate needs for deep and life giving relationships.  To deny these needs is denying how God has made us. Sometimes I think it is okay and actually very necessary to acknowledge our relational needs as significant and deserving of focused attention and even sacrifice.

A weekend trip to Helsinki with a close friend; an oasis during a season of much loneliness

I can think times when I ignored my relational needs for too long, to the detriment of myself and others, and also of other situations where my loneliness caused our family to make some significant sacrifices that made big differences. One sacrifice was my husband taking 3 days off of work to watch the kids so I  could attend a gathering of missionary women in another country, specifically for the purpose of fellowship and connection. Another was a Christmas gift from my husband of a weekend away with a good friend to spend time resting, having fun, and staying up late talking.  Another was even larger when we decide to switch our children’s schooling option from Russian to international school, and even decided that we'd be willing to move to a less convenient part of the city largely so that I could have a community of women to connect with. All of these were sacrifices in different ways, but they were also very  life-giving not only for me, but also for the rest of my family.

If you are feeling lonely, here are a few ways out of countless options of how you might be able to pursue more life-giving connection despite an isolating situation:

-Set aside time one day a week/every other week/once a month or as often as you feel that you need, for the sake of connecting with a friend in a life giving way. This could even involve traveling to another city if that is an option. 

-Consider those friends that you miss most and  with most deeply who are not close to where you live. Consider setting up a regular time have coffee with them over Skype. 

-Invest in a retreat with friends or attend an organized retreat for missionary women through an organization like Thrive.

- Perhaps consider whether moving to a different location in your town would provide greater fellowship opportunities and if this might be possible for your family. 

- Write emails and letters to friends that you wish you were in better touch with to see if you can re-establish connections. 

-Join a club or group where there are women that you feel you might connect with. 

-Adjust your budget to include babysitting money so you might be able to do something relational that you are currently hindered from due to having children in tow.

-Take risks by being open with women in your daily life that you don't yet have a deep friendship with but might like to. Sometimes all that stands between an acquaintance and a deep friendship is a willingness to be the first one to open up. Sometimes good friends end up being people that you would never have expected. 

One of the keys to addressing loneliness is to recognize our need for relationship as a truly significant and legitimate need. It may take some real sacrifice and courage to find ways to meet these needs in seasons and situations of loneliness, but it is worth it!

How are you feeling with regards to loneliness? Do you have opportunities to communicate deeply with others in your near vicinity? If not, are there any ways that you have found to meet your needs for connection where there are few options? Could any of you friends use prayer for right now for the struggle of loneliness?


  1. I struggle with loneliness off and on. This second year I have tried to get together with some other missionary wives a little more. It has helped. I am also deepening my relationships with nationals. But I am also trying to guard my mind from going down certain paths that lead me to despair. But the hardest area is trying to relate to people back home.

  2. Hi KC! Congratulations on making it through your first year and into your second!! That is a major milestone! I think for so many of us, that first year is so hard, especially when it comes to the issue of loneliness. I know I struggled a lot during that time for sure. I am so glad that you are getting that needed time with some other missionary wives and for your deepening relationships with nationals. Praise God for those blessings! And I can totally relate to you about trying to relate to people back home. That can be so hard, especially when it is people that we have only just relatively recently been close with and perhaps even shared day-to-day life together with and that we wish could understand our current life circumstances. I will pray for you in this struggle as I know it well myself!