What to do about loneliness
Building community flows from knowing where community comes from
Tim Costello | November 10th, 2016 10:19 AM | from Tania Harris’s link on God Conversations
Too many of us have a sinking feeling of being isolated, unloved and unknown. A national survey by Lifeline this month revealed 60 per cent of Australians often feel lonely and more than 82 per cent believe loneliness is increasing.
The survey found that although those who lived alone were more likely to be lonely, 60 per cent of couples also reported high rates of loneliness.
“…we are made for relationship.”
We’re “connected” via social media, seemingly constantly, yet anxiety, fear, depression, suicide rates and loneliness – all symptoms of disconnection – are at an all-time high. Not even in our churches are we immune from the terrible poverty of loneliness.
Several years ago, a study revealed many single Christians also feel isolated within their own church communities. Four out of ten single worshippers reported feeling “inadequate or ignored”, with more than one third claiming they were treated differently to those who appeared happily married. Nearly half the single worshipers said their church “did not know what to do” with them. When did we start building walls rather than bridges? Before cathedrals, stained glass windows, and worship bands, Christianity was a home-church movement built on close relationships.
The nature of the Godhead (the relational Trinity) is community. The truest thing we can say about ourselves, if we are made in the image of God, is we are made for relationship. Loneliness is the clearest breakdown of relationship to God and to others.
“…we are all dependent on each other.”
In one of the greatest sermons ever preached, Jesus exploded the myth that true happiness is about how we feel, what we have or what we do. It is all about relationships, he said.
Jesus said the first step towards joy was knowing that this world was in a mess. And knowing that, we had to commit to each other – even our enemies – and realise we are all dependent on each other.
I have witnessed poorer developing communities around the world where intimate living and working together is interwoven into the daily fabric of life; loneliness is rare.
As communities of faith in the developed world, we need to learn the lesson from our so-called “poorer” brothers and sisters on the planet: the vital lesson that we can only find real meaning by longing for a deeper union with God and with others.
Some prayer points to help
Pray that everyday Aussies would find real connection and real relationships in the local church.
Tim, agreed with you, whole-heartedly. Loneliness is devastating. Indeed medical researchers connect ‘loneliness’ with the majority of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, diabetes and many diseases. Is this why so many are sick and dying amongst us? A natural consequence of a lack of love for one another? Is this also a reason many say God is so distant from them, where is He? why doesn’t He speak? Many have not time for ‘one another’. ‘If’ loneliness is so widespread in the Body of Christ and love for God and one another is our essential DNA, what do you think needs to happen at the leadership level? That is, what do we need to do that is different if our practice violates who He is and who He has called us to be as His people in His world. It is true many clergy don’t know how to ‘solve’ this issue. How are many unloving towards one another? So many are caught up in the herty-gerty of church programmes and life’s demands. Putting more on the people of God is akin to laying heavy burdens they cannot bear. However I believe we don’t have much to say until the revelation of love’s priority grips our hearts urgently. Yes, our need “to commit to each other” is in my opinion the number one issue that requires urgent, proactive addressing in the Body of Christ. Yes let us pray, but let us be His people and do His heart. I so appreciate what you have said. It needs to be tabled for every congregation in this Land of Mateship! Wayne R Crockford BA (Soc Sci) University Chaplain (ret’d but not from the Kingdom), this my passion for the Body of Christ