In today’s world we have so many options available to help us feel connected. Between our MySpace pages, our Facebook status updates and our tweeting on Twitter, it seems that we can keep track of every moment of our days and our friends’ days as well. Yet with all of this technology designed to keep us together, many of us still fall victim to a problem that has plagued us all since the beginning of time–loneliness. Rod White, pastor of Circle of Hope Church in Philadelphia has noticed this increasing disconnect even within his own members. “The medium itself is diminishing our capacity to connect by making a new means of connecting via machine. It is Matrix-y.” Too often we find ourselves settling for a virtual community instead of an actual one.
To deal with loneliness, especially during this time of year, it is important to acknowledge why you may be experiencing loneliness and some things you can do about it. Loneliness is often a symptom of a bigger problem–separation. Separation can be felt from many different directions: from our friends, from our family and even from God.
The first step is to realize that however alone you may feel, you are not the only one experiencing that feeling. A myriad of circumstances, such as the end of a relationship, job loss, or separation from loved ones, can lead us to feel lonely. Whether you yourself are experiencing these types of circumstances or are simply an ear willing to listen to one who is, there is inspiration to be found in the Bible. One passage that always helps me put things into perspective is Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 where the writer says, “What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing. Does someone call out, Hey, this is new? Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.” (The Message) The Bible also shows us that Jesus Himself felt the pain of loneliness during His time on earth. Just after the Last Supper, when He was by Himself and was thinking about His fate, He recognized the need for companionship, saying to Peter, James and John, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” (Matthew 26:37-38, The Message). Simply put, we need others and others need us. Although you may feel alone in a particular emotion, it’s more likely that those around you may be feeling the very same way. Having a conversation with a close friend about what’s going on in your life might give you insight about how others deal with their feelings of loneliness.
Although you may feel alone in a particular emotion, it’s more likely that those around you may be feeling the very same way.
God is Never Gone
Step two is to realize that as a believer, you are never alone. When you have a relationship with Christ, it means that you two are together, now and forever. The Psalmist says, “You’ve always been right there for me; don’t turn your back on me now. Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me; you’ve always kept the door open. My father and mother walked out and left me, but God took me in” (Psalm 27:9-10, The Message). While it may seem that during winter you feel the most separated and the most disconnected, it is important to realize that God is waiting to spend time with you, anytime. Conversing with God in prayer is an effective tool in feeling connected. It is important to have a time of private prayer to address all areas of life, including feelings of loneliness.
It is also great help to pray with others. This provides a time of fellowship, and also lets you know of the concerns of others. Establishing trust with family and friends is sometimes the toughest part to battling loneliness and feeling connected. By first offering to share and to pray for others, friends will know that they have a willing ear to hear their concerns and to help share the burdens. In the past I have recognized that the first step towards fighting loneliness does not happen overnight; it happens when I listen to and think of others over time. When I have shared with friends, they have also let me know how I can pray for them as well. Often when I am thinking of others, it makes me appreciate how much time they are putting aside for me.
Being Involved With Others Allows Woes to Slip Away
Step three is to get involved. While feeling disconnected can be a source of loneliness, it is important to know that making connections by volunteering can be an effective solution. Rob Steinbach, pastor of Freedom Church in Baltimore, Maryland says, “I think a solution is to get back on mission with Jesus. Stop dwelling on yourself and join in with what Jesus is doing on earth.” Many things in our society lead us to the ideal of independence. Pastor White also recognizes this fact in counseling members. “The philosophy of the age counsels people to learn how to be individual, since it thinks that is the natural state of humans. Postmodernism casts doubt on the ability to communicate and relate at all.” But the fact is that every single one of us depends on others, whether we admit it or not.
Since we live in a world where independence is the ideal, we tend to have our own missions. We strive to have the better paying job, the nicer car, the better place to live. However, we fail to realize that our hard work is for nothing if we don’t get others involved. Those goals, our jobs, our community, are enhanced by interactions with others. When we change our focus outward instead of inward, connectedness is inevitable. As for the Christian response to loneliness, Pastor Steinbach offers this perspective: “Specifically, Jesus will always be with us as we are on mission with him. Perhaps the reason some of us are dealing with loneliness is because we are on our own mission and therefore we are alone.”
There are many opportunities that can provide the interaction that can help you feel more connected. Look for opportunities through local charities, church groups and schools. Also, try Network for Good, an online resource for finding local volunteering. When we focus on others, we have no choice but to incorporate them into our lives. Jesus promises us a connection to Him as we connect with and serve each other, saying to his disciples in Matthew 28:20, “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (The Message) Although it may sound like a cliché, when we help others, we really do help ourselves.
The 15th century Catholic priest, Saint John of the Cross, coined the phrase, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” There is perhaps no better description to describe the separation that all of us feel from time to time. While loneliness can be a very real problem that effects every part of your daily life, there are very real steps that can change your outlook and help you make the most of each day that God gives you.