The cuckoo clock on the wall chimed the hour. A quiet house usually brought me comfort, but not today.
Alone with my anxious thoughts, I began to despair about the season of life I was in. My body was weary and my soul became plagued with questions. “Will anyone want me?” “Will I be a failure for life?” “God, where are you?”
The voice in my head whispered, “No one wants you. You are such a disappointment.”
Tears streamed down my face. I had no answers or solutions. All I could do was cry out to the Lord. But it seemed like my prayers went unheard. I had returned to the United States and felt like I was in a foreign land. I wanted to return to the familiar feeling of safety I had grown accustomed to in Germany.
Loneliness was a huge issue for me upon my return to the States. I was not connecting with people, even those in the church. I felt isolated and wondered if something was wrong with me. Although I presented a good front, inside, I was crumbling.
I applied to countless jobs, but I received rejections or silence. I had thought by this point I would have married a military guy or at least be dating. Nope, I had no one.
My repatriation was lonely, but through it, I learned to rest on the sufficient grace of Christ who sees me.
Christ Who Sees Me
My loneliness reminded me of a desperate girl from the Bible. She was a foreigner enslaved to an abusive mistress. She was pregnant with her master’s child while fleeing in the desert alone.
Hagar must have been miserable! What was going through her mind? “Do I matter to anyone?” “Who can I turn to?” “What will happen to the child?”
Genesis 16:7 says, “The Angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring in the wilderness” (NKJV). God had been searching for Hagar!
Think about it! The God of the universe stepped onto earth to have a heart-to-heart conversation with this foreigner.
Hagar encountered Christ! (This part of the story is always exciting to me.)
He asks her a question and then tells her to return. Christ also addresses the question of the plans He has for the child, who is Ishmael.
She returns out of obedience. It is in this section of Scripture that God reveals Himself, for the first time, as El Roi, the God who sees. In the words of Hagar, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Gen. 16:13 NKJV)
The significance of this story still hits my lonely heart. God searches for us in our times of desperation. He doesn’t always give us the answers we want, but He gives us the answers we need.
Searching for a job in the United States was difficult for me, as acquiring a position is about who you know. Great experience doesn’t help unless you have connections. Everything is so automated and distanced.
Thankfully, God doesn’t operate like a human resource representative. He steps into our stories just like He did with Hagar. He knows us, and He cares about our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. We are seen and beloved!
Also, we can know Christ in a way that the Old Testament people did not. We have direct access to God because of the blood of the Lamb (Heb. 10:19 NKJV).
As TCKs, we may often feel isolated. It might be due to the cross-cultural experiences that have shaped us. Maybe we only have our family or a few friends our age. Chances are, we have dealt with loneliness in various life seasons and on different levels.
Coming back to my parents’ home country was challenging for me. There was so much uncertainty as well as an overwhelming amount of decisions. Loneliness and longing for my heart countries or better times weighed on me. I longed for the past. I wanted old friends to talk to.
The relationships I had with my family felt like conflict lingered beneath the surface, ready to spring into action. Everyone was trying to cope with their own changes of coming back. No one told us how much the transition would affect how we conducted ourselves as a family.
Conflict was a large proponent that made the loneliness harder. I learned to rely heavily on grace. Grace to extend to others and grace as a reminder that I don’t have to have everything perfect in my life. God’s grace is sufficient. His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Relying on Christ’s Sufficiency
The loneliness of life forces my attention toward the inner workings of my heart. It isn’t wrong to hope for a husband, a good job, or to return to where I grew up. But God is more concerned with refining my character than with temporary comfort. My initial reaction is to cry out in self-pity. If I am not careful, my good desires can turn into things that I seek ultimate satisfaction in, and they become idols. Idols are things I place ahead of God. Idols blind my heart to the truth of who I am in Christ. I forget God sees all of me – the beautiful and the ugly that needs refining.
When I get lost in the messiness, God’s grace reminds me of the pouring out of Christ’s blood on my behalf. Focusing on the truth of Christ allows me to obediently follow the One who sees me. It causes my idols to fade from view because Christ is all I need.
Songs and Scripture passages help me focus on the character of Christ. We all need to be reminded of the truth of the gospel daily. This practice has helped me in some lonely seasons.
An example of the truth of the gospel can even come from Hagar’s story in the Old Testament. It might go something like this:
“God is the God who sees me. I am a stranger in a foreign land. This world is not my true home (Heb. 13:14). How do I know this? Christ came to redeem a people to Himself. He has enlightened my eyes and caused me to see my own need for Christ’s redeeming work on the cross (Eph. 1:18–23 NKJV).
“I can walk confidently through this day knowing that my most profound need to have my sin removed has been provided for in Christ. It is out of a thankful heart that I can praise (Ps. 147).”
Tears and grief over loneliness will come, but the choices we make in renewing our minds will refresh our hearts. They will grow us so the next time we feel lonely, we can look back and see the hand of God drawing us to Himself. We can look forward to a day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4) and when the loneliness of our hearts will be a permanent thing of the past. I am looking forward to that day!