Loneliness in Our Churches
There is a very important woman or girl in your midst. She is often present, yet seems invisible. She doesn’t openly complain. In fact, maybe she rarely ever speaks at all. She goes unnoticed by most, although she tries to fit in somewhere. She has a lot to offer, but she doesn’t feel free to speak her opinions and is too uncomfortable to approach people.
She is lonely. She can be around a lot of people, yet she is still lonely. She can be working with the public, yet she is still lonely. She can be a faithful volunteer in your church, yet she is still lonely. She can be a leader in your church, yet she is still lonely. She can be a faithful and loyal friend, yet she is still lonely.
Maybe….she is you…or the woman next to you…or the woman you forget to notice at church every week.
Loneliness is common in our churches – too common.
It is very easy to come to church ready to socialize with your circle of friends, yet ignore others who are lonely.
God’s Word Acknowledges Loneliness
God’s Word has some things to say to us about loneliness. In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be alone. In Psalm 68:6, God tells us that He “sets the lonely in families.” Ecclesiastes 4:10-11 tells us that we can help each other up when one of us falls. God assures us in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us, and He has made it known that we are to walk through life with each other. The one-another passages in Scripture make that very clear, and they do not exclude anyone – not even the person you would rather not love.
Although loneliness and being alone can go hand in hand, this isn’t necessarily always the case. Some of the time, being alone isn’t a negative thing unless it is causing the person to feel an inner emptiness. Loneliness is a frequently expressed complaint in counseling, both secular and Christian. Loneliness and insecurity often occur simultaneously, and that often bears destructive fruit. A lonely person is tempted to cope with the pain with something — anything — that might bring some relief. If that relief is not found in Christ, the loneliness will continue to be a struggle.
How do you offer hope to a person who is suffering from loneliness?
As a follower of Jesus Christ, our model for caring for one another is Jesus Himself. No doubt, He experienced extreme loneliness — He was separated from the Father on the cross. But He also had friends who played a One-Another role in His life as well as He in theirs. In John’s account of the last evening Jesus spent with His disciples, Jesus told them, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:12-17)
Love One Another
Jesus’ command was to LOVE EACH OTHER. He put no conditions on it. It was not a suggestion. This command is blatantly clear for us in Scripture – we must love each other… not just those who are nice, or just the people we like, or the ones who are the most within our comfort zones, or the ones we understand the best, or the ones that make us feel good about ourselves. That lonely woman or girl may not fit into any of these requirements that we must admit we all have at times. She may be difficult to approach, or even difficult to love. But what are we commanded to do? Love her.
There are a variety of ways to love. This love is an action, not a feeling. What more loving thing can we do than offer them HOPE. We do that with God’s very words from Scripture.
As you help someone who is lonely, you can begin by offering them the following Truths:
*God created man with an inherent need for social relationships (Gen. 2:18). God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:27), and God is a social being (Gen. 1:26). A social relationship exists among the persons of the Trinity — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without relationship, there will be loneliness. Therefore, the first encouragement a lonely person needs is to start building relationships.
*The most lonely time in history was when the Father deserted the Son and Jesus was left alone as He bore our sins. “About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”— which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
The lonely person needs to understand that Jesus understands their loneliness, and experienced it Himself. This person also needs to know that they are loved by God, and by you.
*This post is, in part, an excerpt from the biblical mentoring course “Life on Life, Applying the One-Another’s of Scripture” offered by Word of Hope Ministries. For more information on this course, please visit www.biblicalmentor.com.