The Loneliness Epidemic
We have a problem. We call it loneliness. It's silent, shameful, and invasive. Loneliness doesn't discriminate - some of the loneliest people are in relationships, some are always surrounded by a crowd. Loneliness can kill you - scientifically speaking you will die 15% faster if you are lonely. It's more deadly than obesity, and poverty. Nearly half of all young people feel lonely frequently, which is more common than seniors. And that's a recent change - you can bet that it's connected to technology and online "social" networks. The loneliness epidemic is gaining ground, and it's time we take a stand.
In almost every society, from our western countries to small tribes of other nations, the most severe punishment handed down is solitary confinement. It's the worst thing we could think to do to someone. We know instinctually how valuable community is. We recognize that we need each other, that connection is important. It's why we run to social media - a lazy way to connect with others. We want community without risk, benefit without effort. It's also why social media fails us, because the risk and the effort is where the benefit is. The messiness of relationships has a purpose.
Beloved, do you know that lonely is not a part of God's language? It is never His will that you are lonely. God will never ask you to endure a lonely season. Loneliness is a lie from the enemy, that is meant to keep you enslaved. It breeds pride, self pity, and bitterness. Now hear me that I'm not discounting your experience. I am speaking with authority, because I have lived with loneliness, and I have been set free from it. My circumstances have not changed, but my point of view has.
Sometimes we are alone because God has arranged our circumstances to draw us away. His purpose here is to get closer to you. It's a honeymoon. The groom needs a few weeks with the bride where she is not distracted by other things, to establish an intimacy for the future of their relationship. Does a bride feel lonely on a honeymoon? No! She is alone with her groom, engaging in the intimacy. Sometimes the bride and groom need another honeymoon after 15 years of marriage. Cracks form in the relationship and they go away again, alone together, to re-establish the foundation and intimacy.
Sometimes we are alone because of the brokenness around us and in us. The messiness of relationships with others takes its toll, and we choose to protect ourselves by pulling back. We've been hurt one too many times, and we retreat into the safety of aloneness. Rejection becomes a constant companion, and fear stops us from ever stepping into community again, or from risking with the ones we're in relationship with.
Regardless of what has brought you to aloneness, you need not feel lonely. If you are, look for the lie. Maybe you're believing you are unloved (that's a lie). Maybe you're believing God wants you to endure this pain (that's a lie). Maybe you're believing you will be alone forever (that's a lie). Engage with God. Kick fear in the rear and take the risk of community. Find a place to serve. And maybe, just maybe you should deactivate your facebook account for a little while. It may go against instinct, but if you're feeling lonely fight the urge to park in front of a screen, and make an effort to connect off screen. There is a whole crowd of people who are feeling lonely, and ashamed of it - let's give each other a little grace and a hand up out of that pit.
"God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions. Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full face. The 'worst' is never the worst."
- Lamentations 3:25-30