It’s more dangerous than obesity.
It’s as damaging to health as smoking cigarettes.
U.S. health officials say it costs the federal government $6.7 billion a year just to deal with its myriad consequences.
“It” is loneliness. And an estimated two of every five Americans suffer from it.
“It is not good that man should be alone,” says the Bible’s book of Genesis.
That truth speaks to more than marriage. It’s also a broad statement about God’s design for humanity from the very beginning of time: We were created for community.
God has designed us for relationship – relationship with himself, and then relationship with other people. The same triune God who said “let Us make man in our own image” exists in community – Father, Son and Spirit. To be made in His image is to be made for relationship.
It’s not hard to find evidence that we’ve strayed from God’s design.
The loneliness “epidemic” was heralded a couple years ago by the health insurance giant Cigna and echoed more recently by university researchers and public health institutions in the U.S. and Europe.
The United Kingdom is nearly 10 years into its “Campaign to End Loneliness,” particularly among seniors.
Loneliness is an equal-opportunity ailment, afflicting not only homebound seniors, but also tech savvy 20-somethings more connected to others than any previous generation in history.
Don’t miss that last part: Mere proximity to others – whether in the tangible or virtual worlds – is not the answer to loneliness. Most of us know what it is to feel utterly alone in a crowd of people, or while surfing our sea of online friends.
Hope and real help are found in the gospel itself. The gospel meets us at the point of our deepest relational need – a sin-fractured relationship with God.
Jesus left the glory of heaven and was born into this world specifically to bring people like us, alienated from God by sin, back into right and lasting relationship with him. Jesus lived out the holiness of God that we cannot, and then took upon himself the condemnation we deserve for our sin at Calvary.
“Once you were far away from God,” says Ephesians 2:12, “but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.”
To be “brought near” to God through faith in Christ is to never be truly alone again.
Nurturing that relationship with God through prayer, meditating on Scripture and meaningful connection to God’s family, the church, does much to salve the lonely heart.
Healthy churches are gospel communities whose members move toward one another as God, in Christ, has moved toward us. God takes the initiative in relationship; so should his people.
And these Christian communities in turn are meant to move toward those outside the church with the gospel – relationally.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,” says James 1:27.
The truest gospel witness is not only spoken but lived out in moving toward and caring for the marginalized, the forgotten … the lonely.
And there is the catch.
Real relationships take time, attentiveness, genuineness, patience and love.
In other words, the very costly things that God himself lavishes upon us in the gospel.
The church rightly bears God’s image as it shines sacrificially into the darkness of a busy, individualistic culture that, desperately lonely, is not surprisingly starved for real community.
Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or email@example.com.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.