Cold mornings are here once again on the homestead where my wife, my children and I live. There’s a fire in the wood stove, and chores need to get done. Feeding and watering critters is tough on a frozen morning, but it’s always a good time to contemplate the things of God, like how He beautifully interacts with and redeems the brokenness of our world and continually demonstrates His love for us.
Recently I found myself considering something that has really become apparent to me as I make an effort to minister to folks through Biblical, pastoral counseling: loneliness.
A recent survey found that nearly half of Americans feel alone, isolated or left out at least some of the time. It has been suggested that loneliness has dramatic health implications, rivaling the risks posed by tobacco and obesity.
So often, I meet people who are members of a large church but can’t name three people who attend church with them.
I ask, “Describe to me the people you fellowship with here at church.”
The answer: “What are you talking about?” Or, “Well, I come to church on the weekends.”
Many people gather with thousands of others on Sunday but don’t have any Gospel-affirming relationships.
There are so many lonely people in the midst of a crowd.
What does the Bible tell us about loneliness?
David found himself alone many times. He was the least of his brothers, assigned the task of caring for the sheep. He spent much of his life on the run, escaping Saul, and later his son Absalom. Many times, he was abandoned to loneliness.
But in his distress, he wrote this:
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you” (Psalm 25:16-21).
Lonely and afflicted, David turns to the One he knows is always there. “I take refuge in you … because my hope, Lord, is in you.”
Truthfully, as followers of Christ, we should be prepared for loneliness.
Many times, proclaiming the Gospel, especially in a culture rapidly turning away from Godliness and a Biblical worldview, leaves the proclaiming believer hated, spurned and rejected.
Luke 6:22-23 tells us, “‘Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.’”
Jesus proclaimed the truth, the Good News. He confronted sin, and it led precisely where He knew it would lead: to the cross. The religious leaders who were waiting for the Messiah excluded Him, reviled Him, spurned Him, hated Him and then murdered Him.
Even most of His followers abandoned Him at His death.
In suffering the wrath of God for the sake of sinners, He cried out, “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46).
The Son of God was completely alone.
Sometimes loneliness is due to a poor or weak understanding of the church.
Let’s consider the beginning of the church, as described in Acts 2:44-47 (NKJV): “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
True believers desire fellowship. More than occasionally attending a worship service, we desire to join with one another in one accord, breaking bread, enjoying the fellowship of the saints.
Let me encourage you to do a few things to overcome loneliness.
1. Connect with God by reading Scripture, praying and participating in worship and communion. David recognized that he could always connect with God, even when he felt “lonely and afflicted.”
2. Connect with fellow believers by attending worship services on a regular basis, participating in a Bible study or small group, enjoying times of fellowship and serving alongside others at events or in the community.
3. Reach out to connect with people who don’t know the Lord. Get involved in your community by volunteering. Find ways to love and serve the people you meet. As God puts people on your heart, pray for them, then reach out to connect with them with the Good News of salvation.
It comes down to this: Have you surrendered to the Lordship of Christ? Jesus said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
While you may sometimes feel lonely, remember, you are never alone as a follower of Christ.
Denny Dillman is benevolence pastor at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus. He lives on a homestead in Indiana with his wife, Jennifer, and their seven children.