This is a very good topic of discussion and consideration @Victoria_White and I’m glad you brought it up.
I spent three years at a church feeling lonely, and for the first two years it really perplexed me because I didn’t understand how they could happen or why it was happening. I was a new believer, and I didn’t hesitate in finding a church home and thrusting myself in to church life. I got over myself to do so. I typically have a lot of time in solitude outside of work, and when I have it at work, I relish it because it can get so crazy and busy in the office. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed several times truly lamenting about the level of loneliness present in my life. In a moment of vulnerability, I remember addressing it in a post-service conversation with a fellow member of the same church. I told her that I was shocked to find that I was more lonely as a believer than I was as an unbeliever. She took it as an opportunity to later come back and ‘prophesy’ over me in a class.
I truly did my level best to make connections and build relationships. I served faithfully, I made myself seen, I talked to strangers, I was on the altar prayer team, and I didn’t allow myself to be shy. My thinking was that as a believer, I’m supposed to put myself out there for fellow believers who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I took to heart the teachings of bearing one another’s burdens and meeting together for fellowship and all of that. The only way that was going to happen was if I put myself aside (introvert, awkward, quiet observer, and so on) and jump on in.
I left that church. It was like being in a one sided relationship where I’m doing most or all of the work and the other always has a reason for not contributing to the health and survival of the relationship.
To me, it’s a given that Christ can only fill certain spaces in our heart and satisfy certain longings, but to dismiss the real loneliness or disconnect that people experience inside of an active congregation, I think, does a disservice to those who experience it. It is something that needs to be addressed not only through prayer but in a very practical/tangible way as well. It can be downright discouraging to continuously experience loneliness and not make loyal or compassionate connections with others. It doesn’t even have to be bff-like connecting! However, it can be a connection filled with compassion, care, and tenderness. Yes, we’re in Christ and that’s the best thing ever; however, we are also physical beings with real physical needs and part of the those physical needs are companionship, whether brotherly, romantically, or both. Hugs, handshakes, warm smiles, inside jokes, laughing, shared moments that create beautiful memories, and all of those other wonderful experiences are, in my opinion, used and orchestrated by God. How do we not have time for one another? Even if we are going through ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, there’s something about sharing a burden with someone who’s going through similar or something else that’s difficult - just being a support by being there and allowing Christ to be in the midst of it all.
It would take another two years before I would come to a church that it seems like a better fit for me. I started making connections almost immediately. Again, I jumped in and started attending classes. The environment is different and the leadership is also different than the first church. I don’t know what makes my personal interactions with people different at the second church. Honestly, I would have expected them to be more of a labor at the second church because I was a bit jaded and standoffish from my experience with the first church. But, how could I really be that with people who are persistent in engaging with me and reaching out to me? Like really persistent - even the pastor and his wife …
I think I’m rambling. I have so many thoughts on this topic probably because it’s near and dear to my heart. But all of this is to yes, I do understand and have experienced this.