loneliness

THE GOSPEL ANTIDOTE TO THE EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS

by Debbie Huber

Upon opening Facebook the other day, there was a picture of my family that I had posted a year ago with a notation from Facebook: “we care about you and your Facebook memories”.

Wow!  Facebook cares about me?  The place where I can show family pictures, see pictures from friends and acquaintances, find out about real AND fake news, argue with others without looking them in the eye, not be accountable to anyone, keep my struggles safely hidden from public view…

Right after seeing this I read an article that referred to a major study that was recently presented at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.  Data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals was analyzed. This analysis found that “social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity“.  

More significant than obesity?

Marriage rates have been steadily declining and families are having less children.  Families are separated by miles, divorce, estrangement, and just plain busyness. Schedules are busier and family activities dominate any possibility of free time. Neighbors come and go without ever interacting with one another. Many people live their lives without having anyone truly know about them and care for them.  

There have been multiple studies that suggest that frequent Facebook users do not feel more connected at all; they “actually experience feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and depression.”

Sometimes we are alone by choice by putting up walls because it can be too painful or fearful to be vulnerable to others. Or we just want to live our lives for ourselves without the baggage that comes from being accountable to one another. 

The Bible does have an antidote to this epidemic of “loneliness”.

We were made for relationship with one another but it is not necessarily how the world defines relationships.  God demonstrates what a healthy relationship is through the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. A relationship of fellowship, working together, and enjoyment of each other’s company. 

God calls us to relationship with himself through the gospel. We were “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13)

God made us to need Him and also to need one another. In Genesis 2 He says that “it is not good for man to be alone.”  We were not created to make it in this world alone. 

Real, lasting, satisfying relationships within the context of the gospel brings reconciliation between us because we were reconciled to God through Christ when we were without hope or without God in the world. We have relationship with one another even when it is difficult or inconvenient because we know that Christ died for our relationship to be restored to God even when we were “difficult” and far from Him. 

Be prayerful and watchful for the lonely around you. Seek them out face to face.  Be helpful when they need it, speak of the things of God to one another.  In light of what Christ has done for you seek reconciliation when there is division.  The Gospel will be on display in your lives.

And if you are the one “putting up walls” or on the fringes because you are fearful to be vulnerable or too busy remember the gospel!  You were not meant to go it alone in this world. The gospel tells us that we were made for relationship with God and with one another. Serve, help or become a part of a small group.  Ask God to help you to care for and be vulnerable with others. Preach the gospel to yourself daily and pray that the gospel will be lived out though your relationships.

 

LONELINESS

Loneliness has many causes

It may be that our circumstances have isolated us

Perhaps we don’t fit in with other people’s expectations

Or people we cared about – have left our life

Loneliness can also be the result of attitudes and actions that have driven people away

I don’t know your situation, but I do know we often get stuck in our loneliness, becoming unsure how to get out.

I have two suggestions for you regardless of why you lonely

First, change your focus from trying to find acceptance from others, to how God can use you to touch others.

This means relationships are no longer under the expectations of what people will be for you. Instead expectations are on how God will work in and through you.

You cannot control how people treat you, but you can be confident that God wants to use you to touch people with His love and for His gospel. This should excite us, because there are no purposes more wonderful than those that God has in using us.

Right now, there are people around you who are hurting.

It may not show on the outside, but it does not take much digging for their pain to come to the surface.

Become attentive to people.

Look for ways to serve them.

People will usually be receptive to those who genuinely seek to serve them; partly because it’s relatively rare, and partly because people are looking out for themselves.

The simple question of asking people how you can pray for them can open many opportunities to show you care.

This concern can have a powerful impact.

You will find your life filling with involvements that are God focused, and encouraging. It is incredibly satisfying when you can step back and see that God is using your in various relationships

If you are not sure who to start with, look for people the world pushes off to the side

Look for those who are being mistreated. Pay attention to people from their perspective rather than you own. There is work in all of this, but people want to be near those who care for them.

Second, make God the relationship that truly satisfies you.

It pleases God when we enjoy the good things He has created for our enjoyment – but our contentment should be in Him alone.

God deeply loves us . . He has saved us . . and He is committed to graciously finishing His work in us. These realities should all bring contentment.

When we compare what God has waiting for us, with what we think is missing from our present life, there really is no comparison.

Can you say you are content in Christ even if nothing else changes in your life?

This is something we must work at and “learn” (Philippians 4:11). But once learned, it is a precious reality, because nothing can then take contentment from us.

Make your relationship with God, the one that fills your heart, satisfies your soul, and fulfills what you have been thinking relationships should be.

Although we can feel lonely, it is impossible as a child of God to be outside of love or to be alone

6.19.12

ALONE

Loneliness is a sorrow that exists in many forms. It may be that we are disconnected from meaningful relationships, lacking people to share in our life. We may feel that no one recognizes our burdens or understands our pain. In all loneliness there is a degree of isolation that cuts at us.

Everyone probably has some understanding of loneliness, yet for anyone who is in Christ it is impossible to be truly alone, because we have the intimacy of God’s trinitarian presence: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even though we are designed for relationship and community with other people, God is closer to us than anyone can be.

We have God’s actual presence. Lift you hand and wiggle your fingers in front of your eyes. God’s presence with you is a real as those fingers. More amazing is that the Holy Spirit literally dwells IN us. We can never go anywhere without God in all that He is, being part of what we are doing.

We have God’s attention. I can be in conversation with my wife and not even hear what she is saying. Yet we are always in God’s attention. Pick any moment and God is right then thinking about you.

We have God’s heart. The Father sent the Son to die, paying for the guilt of our sin so that we would be restored in our relationship with Him. In it’s deepest pain, loneliness is feeling as if our heart is in isolation. All the wondrous graces that flow out of the gospel are built upon the new reality that we are now “in Christ”.

We have God’s engagement. God is ever active in our lives. There is no such thing as detachment from God in the life of a true Christian. God’s work is woven throughout every event and each moment.

In spite of these many realities of God’s presence we need to work at cultivating the awareness of that presence. Not because God is reticent to make Himself known, but because we live in the shallow world of physical sensations. Add to that is the fact  that we are easily distracted from God’s presence, because we are enraptured by attention to ourselves.

When we struggle to sense God’s presence, know that it is not the result of God’s heart toward us. The burden falls upon how we are receiving Him. Now this is a struggle we all have on many occasions. In the Bible we often read of godly people being discouraged by a sense of isolation from God. These are seasons we do not fully understand. But what we must grasp is that God is in fact near and we are not alone.

To deny God’s “nearness” is an enormous and perverse lie! It is an enormous lie, because God’s presence is real in so many ways. It is a perverse lie, because God has exercised the most extraordinary actions in universal history in order to be “Emmanuel” (God with us).

Today, glory in the blessedness that we can never, ever, be alone!