Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. (Airing daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital at 9am)
If you were to say something is ‘epidemic’, you’d probably mean widespread, extensive, or sweeping. That’s what the dictionary says. I would say that loneliness is an epidemic that has already swept the world—and continues to grow.
The simple fact is we are social beings—we are made to connect with others. But studies have shown for quite a long time that many—men and women—do not have close friends. It’s not an exaggeration to say these studies reinforce the growing recognition of loneliness as a public health issue. Just like with the dangers of smoking, it’s bad for your health to be a lonely person. Loneliness crosses all ages, races and socioeconomic groups. People feel left out, disconnected, with no-one to speak to when they need to.
What’s going on here? Are we really having that much difficulty in relating to others? One man went to the psychiatrist and said, Please doctor, make me a split personality. The doctor asked why. The man replied, So I can talk to myself. Well, many of us talk to ourselves but the conversation can be depressing! It is a terrible to feel isolated, estranged and despondent because you lack close companionship. When wardens want to administer their most severe punishment they put prisoners in solitary confinement.
These days we would prefer to send a text or email, rather than talk to someone. Technology makes it very easy and quick to establish a connection. But does it cure loneliness? I don’t think so. It seems as if getting close to someone else is dangerous business, so we prefer to keep to our own company. Maybe it’s safer that way. The lack of quality relationships might be a large factor in loneliness.
Three Basic Emotional Needs
C.S. Lewis once said true friendship is born when we can say to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one. I’ve heard it said that if you have one good friend, you’re doing well. You may know a lot of people, but who do you express your real feelings to? We do need someone who will stand with us as we share our deepest feelings, thoughts, and fears. What about a ‘soul friend’—that special person to whom you feel safe to share anything with.
Lifeline reported 60% of Australians often feel lonely. About 3,100 people took part in a survey and 83% of them felt loneliness was on the rise in this country. A very high score indeed. No wonder then we can call loneliness an epidemic that is sweeping the Western world. Many move house frequently not getting to know their neighbour, or work long hours, not having time to make a social connection beyond work colleagues.
We have an inner need to belong to a group—any group—and if we don’t find it, loneliness becomes an increasing problem, a sense of inner wilderness. We feel lost without a connection. Do you really want to live in isolation? Albert Einstein reportedly once said, “It is strange to be so universally known and yet to be so lonely.”
Loneliness is a painful sense of being unwanted, unneeded, uncared for, maybe even unnecessary. Every person has three basic emotional needs. Every one of us has a need for someone to love and someone to love us. We also all need somebody who understands us, who knows how we feel. And then we desire somebody who wants us and needs us. We need to be needed. Counsellors will tell you that loneliness is a leading cause of suicide. So it is a serious matter.
The Cure for Loneliness
(This passage has been taken from an article by Lydia Brownback, author of the book Finding God in My Loneliness.)
Loneliness is everywhere, but we don’t talk about it too often. Perhaps that’s because we’ve grown so accustomed to its oppressive weight that we’ve lost awareness of it altogether. Oh, something seems off, but we attribute it to the weather or the stress du jour, and we try to shake it off with a good dinner or a night out on the town. But there it is again the next morning.
Relief comes only as we acknowledge our loneliness and turn to God and his Word for the help and understanding we need.
In the Bible we discover that God is present in our loneliness. He is there in times of grief and in times of discouragement—when others forsake us, and when our hopes are disappointed. He never leaves us, not even when our loneliness springs from our sin and bad choices. Ultimately, those who belong to God through Christ Jesus are never really alone, and because that’s true, loneliness does not have to characterise us. Isn’t that a relief?
What Scripture Says About Loneliness
The Psalmist in Psalm 27:10 (NIV) said, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me”. He realised that even if family connections are lost, God would never reject him. Recognise God’s presence. Paul said, “…the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…” (2 Timothy 4:17 – NIV). Where is God when you are lonely? He is right next to you. Jesus said, I will not leave you as orphans—“I will not leave you comfortless” ( John 14:18 – KJV). God said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 – NIV).
There is no place where God is not. He is everywhere at all times, and you can constantly talk with him. As long as you understand this, you are never really alone. Prayer is a fantastic tool that you can use in lonely times. Talk to God, and let him speak to you.