Summary: We struggle with loneliness in silence. And yet you and I were made for relationship. How can you overcome your loneliness?
Columnist Marla Paul reluctantly admitted in an article she wrote that she was lonely. “The loneliness saddens me. How did it happen that I could be 42 years old and not have enough friends?” She ended her column with these words: “I think there are women out there who don’t know how lonely they are. It is easy enough to fill up the day with work and family. But no matter how much I enjoy my job and love my husband and child, they are not enough. I recently read Han Christian Anderson’s book, “The Ugly Duckling.” I felt an immediately kinship with this bird who flies from place to place looking for creatures with whom he belongs. He eventually finds them. I hope I do too.” After the column was published, the telephone started to ring. People stopped her on the street and at her daughter’s school. Letters poured in from housewives, executives and university professors. The column generated 7 times more mail than usual. Marla said, “They wanted to share their frustration and estrangement. All were tremendously relieved to discover that they weren’t the only ones.” The Gallop poll says that loneliness affects more than 1/3 of the population and psychologists say that figure is rising. At a recent Christian Conference, a poll found that 92% of all participants struggled with loneliness.
And yet we struggle with loneliness in silence. Lee Strobel writes, “People today will admit any problem –drugs, divorce, alcoholism- but there’s one admission that all people are loath to make, whether they are a star on television or someone who fixes televisions in a repair shop. It’s just too embarrassing. It penetrates too deeply to the core of who they are. People don't want to admit that they are sometimes lonely. Loneliness is such a humiliating malady that it ought to have its own politically correct euphemism” relationally challenged. Or its own telethon. Anything to make it safer to confess. Because right now, it’s taboo, an affliction of losers and misfits. And to be honest, of respectable people like you and me.” Listen to our music and you hear the lonely voices:
- Carole King : Winter, spring, summer or fall, all youn ahev to do it call and I’ll be there
- Paul McCarthy: All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
- Elvis Presley: Just take a little walk down lonely street to heartbreak hotel
- James Taylor: Do me wrong, do me right, Tells me lies but hold me tight. Save your goodbyes for the morning light but don't let me be lonely tonight
- Bonnie Rait: What can I do to get you back? I’m feeling desperate and lonely
Henri Nouwen in his book, “Reaching Out” said these words: “Loneliness is one of the most universal sources of human suffering today. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists speak about it as the most frequently expressed complaint and the root of not only an increasing number of suicides but also of alcoholism, drug abuse and other major physical and psychological problems.” And it can have devastating effects. The perpetrators of the Columbine High School tragedy, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleighbolt, wrote in his diary: “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. You people had my phone number and I asked but no, no, no, no, don't let the weird Eric kid come along.” Jesus knew loneliness too as all of the disciples left him and ran away. What an experience to have those you love the most leave you when you need them most.
There’s a reason we feel this way and it’s because you and I were made for relationship. God created us for community and we have that need deeply wired within us. “For God said, “It is not good for man to be alone…” Gen 2:18 We each have a built in need for deep, satisfying relationships. Paradoxically, we deny the way we wired and often run away from that legitimate need, thinking that it makes us weak and even vulnerable. There are many causes of loneliness. The first is the kind we create for ourselves because we have intentionally or unintentionally isolated ourselves through either negative attitudes or actions, critical spirits or cynicism. Second is loneliness beyond our control like through a divorce or death of a friend or loved one. Third is psychological loneliness which often afflicts those in leadership positions. One Biblical example is Elijah and the meltdown he had after Mt. Carmel because he felt all aloe as a dedicated follower of God. Fourth is cultural loneliness where our technology, while making us more connected than ever, at the same time more distant from each other and true emotional connections. Fifth is the loneliness we choose because of a decision that needs to be made or a path that we need to walk. There are times in life when you have to take a stand that others will not understand and may even disagree with. That’s the loneliness Jesus felt on the way to the cross. When he resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem, he knew it was a journey he would take on his own and even those closest to him didn’t understand and tried to talk him out of it.