Loneliness is increasingly significant in our world. More and more people live on their own. For those who enjoy solitude it is a good choice. But for those who find themselves alone and lonely, it can be crippling.
Having a friend on Facebook is a poor substitute for having a friend in reality. And even people in a family can find themselves burdened by loneliness – to be in a relationship with someone where there is no love can be even lonelier than being single.
Christians believe that the God they worship has promised that he will never leave or forsake them. When faced with loneliness that can be profoundly comforting. One of the blessings of the Christian faith is that it draws people into community. When a local church is functioning effectively, people find friendship, encouragement, help in time of need, and opportunities to use their skills in the service of others. (It must be added, unfortunately, that in churches which are not functioning effectively it is possible to find only boredom and duty.)
The shared sense of purpose that can be found in a Christian community changes the way people regard their activity throughout the whole course of a week. A new sense of purpose lights up people’s lives as they find themselves acting as ambassadors representing Jesus in their neighbourhoods.
It is sometimes the case that people look for the answer to loneliness by seeking the one man or woman with whom to have a lifelong relationship. Although that is a good and proper thing, it is not the best starting-point when it comes to addressing loneliness because yearning for romance can stop you finding friendship. People are not attracted to those who tell everyone how needy they are. Instead, people are attracted to those who are enjoying their lives, generous with their skills and time, and have a sense of purpose. Those are all things that you can do something positive about, and a church is a good context for them (although not the only context). Sometimes friendship leads to romance but, even if it doesn’t, friendship is a wonderful thing in a lonely world.
Countering loneliness involves taking action:
filling your time with activities that benefit people who are in need,
joining clubs where people work together at things,
coming alongside those who follow Jesus to seek answers to the biggest questions in life,
enjoying things (such as reading) which are best done solitarily,
recognising the moments at which loneliness is likely to make you feel depressed and taking immediate action to get busy.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it ... Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me?’
Where to find it:
About these words:
These words come at the end of a long letter by an unknown author to Jewish Christians about thirty years after Jesus, encouraging them to persevere in the face of persecution.
And they said...
Aelred of Rievaulx, monk, 1110-1167:
No medicine is more valuable than a friend. He will be someone whose soul will be to us a refuge to creep into when the world is altogether too much for us, and someone to whom we can confide all our thoughts. His spirit will give us the comforting kiss that heals all the sickness of our preoccupied hearts. He will weep with us when we are troubled, and rejoice when we are happy. He will always be there to consult when we are in doubt. And we will be so deeply bound to him in our hearts that even when he is far away we shall find him together with us in spirit.
Martin Sheen, actor:
How we make up for brokenness is through each other, and I believe that is how God finds us. In each other. You don’t have to do it by yourself and you shouldn’t try.
Theresa of Calcutta, nun, 1910-1997:
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty ... Spread love everywhere you go - first of all in your own house. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, 1906-1945:
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.