I came across this quote recently, ‘Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there’. I wonder how you feel about that? Of course, a lot has been written about loneliness recently, with lockdown, social isolation and shielding meaning that more people have had to face it. It has been recognised as a danger, as shown by the idea of ‘bubbles’ being allowed to support people on their own.
But as we get older, we may find we are lonely even without the pandemic restrictions, especially if we are housebound or living alone for the first time in years. So, as we face loneliness, what does God say about the situation? How can His truth help us?
While we may not agree that loneliness is the ‘scariest’ thing we face, God is clear that it is not a good thing. Remember the creation story when God said everything was good? There was one thing He didn’t think was good, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ (Genesis 2:18), and so Eve was made as a perfect companion.
The theme of community runs through the Bible. For example, in the Old Testament God calls the nation of Israel to be His people and the Psalmist states that God ‘sets the lonely in families…’ (Psalm 68:6). In the New Testament the church is described as a ‘body’, a ‘family’, a ‘household’ (1 Timothy 3) showing that as Christians we are all automatically part of a family even if we have no blood relatives.
But despite these things, being true we may still feel lonely, so what steps can we take in that situation? There has been lots of information produced to seek to combat loneliness which is easily accessible, but I just want to start by mentioning a couple of practical suggestions that may be helpful.
One idea is that maybe we can reach out to other lonely people which not only helps us but helps others too. For example, my mother lives in a small village where someone started a ‘Singles Group’ for those who are on their own. They meet in each other’s homes for tea and a chat on Sunday afternoons, a time which can be particularly difficult for those who live their own. Maybe you could start a similar group in your area?
Another practical step is to think of ways to help others. We may be limited by our circumstances or health but there are things we could all do if we put our minds to it. Why not send someone an encouraging message in a card or a text, or leave a bunch of flowers outside someone’s door, or make a cake for people who have moved in near you. Be inventive- there are so many ways we can bless people and by reaching out to others, we are also helping ourselves by not focusing on our loneliness.
But how can our status as children of God help us when we feel lonely? One thing we can do is to spend time praying, literally being with God who is described as, ‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.’ (Psalm 68:5) Maybe God can use our loneliness to bring us closer to Him?
Not only can we help ourselves not to be lonely by spending time with God, but we can also tell Him how lonely we feel. After all, He is our loving heavenly Father and Jesus said, ‘Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.’ (Matthew 6:8). We can ask him to help us to cope with our feelings of loneliness knowing that He holds us in His hands and He will bless us, whether that means sending someone round or giving us His comfort and peace.
We can also focus on the fact that as Christians, although we may struggle with feelings of loneliness, we are never alone. You may remember the song which includes the words, ‘Now I am your child, I am a member of your family and I can never be alone ‘cos Father God you’re there beside me…’. I always liked the song, but the challenge is do we actually believe the truth of it? Do we realise that these are not just nice words for children but they are amazing truths for all Christians? And can we let it help us in our feelings of loneliness?
We can seek to impress the truth of these words on our hearts in practical ways. For example, mealtimes can feel quite lonely. However, some people find that setting two places or putting a spare mug across the table helps them to feel that Jesus is present with them in the same way as a physical friend. This visual aid can be a helpful reminder of His presence and of His promise, ‘If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me’. I know this is not human contact, but it can really help illustrate that we are not alone.
I’m not trying to make it all sound easy, as it clearly isn’t, but let’s remind ourselves that even if loneliness is ‘the scariest thing out there’ it is covered by Paul’s words, ‘I am convinced that [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. (Romans 8:38,39). We can rely on the love God has for us at all times in all the situations we face, even loneliness.
Questions to think about:
- How much is loneliness a problem in your life at the moment?
- What practical steps can we take to avoid loneliness?
- Are there any ways we can help others who may be lonely- and in so doing, maybe help ourselves?
- How much do you believe that loneliness can be helped by the fact God is with us? How much do you experience that truth? Are there any practical ways we can be more aware of that truth?
- Try using the words of Psalm 27:4 as a prayer each day for a week to encourage you that you can dwell with God.