When we think of loneliness, we usually think of it as a state of being: either isolation of distance or spirit. But I believe that loneliness is more than a condition. It is a condition that often is the result of a basic attitude choice that says, “I am self-sufficient and can face life alone.” If attitudes are responses to life circumstances, how do you choose to react to the joys and sorrows of life? You can choose to stoically face life alone, or you can choose an attitude of companionship—an attitude that says, “I need other people for my emotional and spiritual health.”
Companionship is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Interpersonal relationships offer more than longevity of life. The Bible details both the emotional and spiritual benefits of companionship in Ecclesiastes 4:7-12.
Solomon had it all—power, wealth, pleasure, wisdom, stature—and yet, he had no one to share it with. Sure, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, but his life was void of true intimacy. Solomon longed for companionship. Without it, he described life as meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8).
Such a realization led Solomon to make the following observations about the value of companionship: Why are two better than one? What benefits does companionship offer?
1. Assistance in times of crisis. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
A popular Swedish motto states: “Shared joy is a double joy. Shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” Solomon had this idea in mind when he observed that a primary benefit of companionship was encouragement during a crisis: “For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.” And friends rarely “fall” at the same time.
Have you ever noticed that often one person in a relationship is “up” when the other person is “down?” We can allow such incongruity of feelings to hinder our relationships: “Why are you so depressed? Cheer up and be like me!” “Why are you so happy? If you were sensitive to my feelings, you wouldn’t be so light-hearted!”
Or, we can realize that God allows us to suffer crises at different times so that we can support one another. Imagine two people simultaneously in quicksand. Neither person would be in a position to help the other. Only someone out of the mire would be able to offer a helping hand. In the same way, relationships are important because they offer assistance in times of need.
2. Support when we feel alone. (Ecclesiastes 4:11)
Solomon observed, “If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?” However, I think Solomon had more in mind than body temperature. As one writer observed, Solomon probably was thinking of the value of companionship in vulnerable situations like a move to a new city, the start of a new job, or the loss of a loved one.
The biblical story of Ruth and Naomi illustrates the value of companionship during times of loneliness. Ruth had lost her husband in death. Her mother-in-law Naomi, a widow herself, advised Ruth to return to her mother’s house or find another husband. But Ruth was unwilling to sever the relationship. She realized that she needed Naomi and Naomi needed her, especially as they faced an uncertain future.The rest of the story reveals that Ruth and Naomi’s relationship provided many benefits to both women and was instrumental in Ruth entering into a marriage that would ultimately produce one of the forerunners of Christ.
3. Protection when we are under siege.(Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Have you ever felt like the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:5? “Our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” Paul was expressing a basic truth of life: we are constantly facing attack, whether it be from other people, circumstances, or even Satan. Solomon reminds us that companionship offers protection during such attacks.
Sometimes other people can serve as our advocates when we are being mistreated. Other times, those closest to us can provide us with perspective about our problems.
Solomon says that it is harder to defeat two than one. And he adds that three are almost invincible. Some have suggested that the third person is a reference to Christ. Maybe. But more likely, Solomon is referring to the value of many friends.
4. Accountability when we are prone to wander. (1 Kings 11:4)
I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve known through the years who were once great Christian leaders who suddenly fell into immorality or unbelief and fell away from the faith, leaving thousands of disillusioned Christians.
Correction, no one “suddenly” falls into immorality or unbelief. It is a gradual process of a little compromise here and there, an ignoring of spending time with God, a growing cynicism toward the world in general and spiritual things in particular—all things going on beneath the surface where no one can see. And then, there comes the spectacular collapse that everyone sees.
That was the story of Solomon’s life. His meteoric rise to the top left him with no one to be accountable to. Although he had been dedicated to God in his youth, materialism and sensual pleasure turned his heart away from God.Yet no one dared to tell King Solomon the truth. Who will tell you the truth about yourself? Who loves you enough to call your actions into question? Who is close enough to both you and God that they can sense when you are drifting spiritually? One of the prime benefits of companionship is accountability.
Have you ever noticed a piece of wood in a fireplace? When it is placed in the middle of the fire, it glows red hot. But take the wood out of the fire, and the wood turns from red, to orange, to gray, and then finally coal black. But place it back into the fire, and it will start to glow again. A Christian is like that piece of wood. He needs the rest of the “embers” to ignite him and keep him glowing red hot!
Relationships can be a nuisance at times, but they are necessary for our fulfillment. Dr. Louis Leakey, his wife Mary, and their son Richard dedicated their lives to studying the habits of chimpanzees. On one occasion they wrote, “One chimpanzee is no chimpanzee.” In other words, it is only in the company of other chimpanzees that a chimp fully develops. Isolated, a chimp never reaches its full potential.
What is true of chimps is even truer of us. God has designed us in such a way that we desperately need other people. Companionship is the cornerstone of God’s plan for life.