One of the saddest stories I have read involves a lady who lived in a town in Massachusetts. She lived alone, in the same house for 40 years, yet none of the neighbours really knew her.
One day in October 1993, the Police broke down the door to get inside, to find her dead on the kitchen floor. This was no ordinary discovery, for she had been dead 4 years. Police worked out she died at age 73 of natural causes, because that’s the time her bank transactions stopped.
Four years earlier, someone phoned the police concerned about here whereabouts, and they phoned her brother who said she had gone into a nursing home. The mail had stopped, and a neighbour paid the dead woman’s grandson to cut the grass because it looked run down. Her brother said the family hadn’t been close since 1979 when their mother died, and he said “Someone should have noticed something before now”. One lady across the street said ‘My heart bleeds for her, but you can’t blame a soul. If she saw you out there, she never said hello to you”.
What a sad and tragic story. A story of someone choosing to live alone, cut off from anyone. Yet in her darkest hour no-one noticed her death for 4 years. I wonder how many more people are living alone, without a friend. It may be you I’m talking about right now.
So I am thinking of this question today, ‘What is loneliness?’ I guess it’s a feeling of emptiness or hollowness inside you. You feel isolated or separated from the world, cut off from those you would like to have contact with. You may experience loneliness as a vague feeling that something is not right… or it may be an intense deprivation and deep pain. You could even feel emotionally isolated when surrounded by people, and have difficulty reaching out them. It needs to be stated that loneliness is not the same as being alone. It’s a feeling of being alone and feeling sad about it. Of course, all of us feel lonely some of the time… it’s only when we seem trapped in our loneliness that it becomes a real problem.
Billy Graham, the great evangelist, said some time ago that, in his opinion, the feeling of loneliness is the problem that plagues more people than any other. In our world populated by billions of people, some folk want nothing more than to get away and experience solitude, others can’t shake the nagging pain of feeling lonely, detached, and disconnected. The strange thing is that we fill our lives with many events and meetings and phone calls, yet in spite of all the activity, we rarely connect deeply with others. We have more acquaintances than friends.
But the truth is that we are never really alone. People may let us down, friends will disappoint us, and families sometimes fracture. But the eternal God is always with you, because the Bible has some wonderful verses to reach you in the time of loneliness. Proverbs 18:24. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’. Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” What a wonderful promise to know that the God of the universe is personally interested in you, and will hold your hand. For you are never alone, really. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’. Psalm147:3 “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds”. Hebrews 13:5 “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”.
If you say today “I am lonely”, tell God all about it. Admit it to Him – that’s a good start. Develop a rich and on-going relationship with Jesus Christ, for He is your most reliable friend. James 4:4 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”. Your loneliness will be under His control, and even though it won’t dissolve all sense of loneliness, it will mean you have friend for all eternity who knows you best. So remember God knows how you feel. Because Jesus became man, He shares in the full range of our feelings. Loneliness is not a sin… it is part of our frail humanity.