At no time in the history of the world have we been more connected to one another. With the speed of air travel, you can be in Memphis in the morning and Madrid in the evening. And with the internet and smart devices like your phone or tablet, you can become “friends” on Facebook with just about anyone in the world or express your opinions on any number of topics on Twitter, and someone on the other side of the world can respond.
But it’s also ironic, because at no time in the history of the world have we been more disconnected from one another. Reality has become virtual, turning “friends” and “followers” into impersonal avatars on a computer screen. The fact is, loneliness is on the rise.
We were created for companionship. Deprived of lifegiving fellowship, we die a little each day. Sometimes our loneliness comes from spatial distance—the isolation we experience when we’re geographically separated from our loved ones—like not being able to visit aging parents in nursing homes. Sometimes, it comes from spiritual distance—the emptiness we feel when we’re drained of purpose—which can lead to anxiety, self-medicating the pain, and even suicide.
No one is immune to loneliness. It’s a disease that inflicts everyone from time to time. Some of us even struggle with isolation and despair to a greater degree than others. But all of us can conquer the mountain of loneliness and discover the path to companionship.
- Acknowledge your feelings (Psalm 25:16-18).
It doesn’t do any good to force a smile and pretend to be the life of the party. You feel just as lonely inside; you’re just now a lonely hypocrite. Pious platitudes and holy hallelujahs won’t cut it. Loneliness is real and painful, and the best thing you can do is to acknowledge its reality and pain.
That’s what David did in Psalm 25:16-18: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.”
- Be proactive in conquering loneliness (Philippians 2:3-4).
We also need to face the reality that sometimes loneliness is a choice. Perhaps you struggle with self-image. You cannot accept yourself as God created you, and you’ve come to believe no one else will either. If this describes you, you need to learn to look at yourself from God’s perspective. God isn’t in the business of creating junk (Ephesians 2:10).
To see yourself from God’s perspective also means to accept the fact that you’re the recipient of God’s favor and friendship. He loved you enough that He was willing to lay down His life for you. After all, He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Maybe you struggle with selfishness. This is often expressed in terms of busyness. “I’m just too busy for friendships,” you say. It’s true that friendships take time and effort. But anything worthwhile costs something: time, emotional energy, effort, and sometimes our pride (Philippians 2:3-4).
Friendship isn’t a luxury. It’s necessary for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Because friendships are essential to conquering loneliness, we ought to strive to create friends. I’ve identified four kinds of friendships we ought to develop.
First, acquaintances are those we meet during the daily course of life: at the store, at work, in the neighborhood, at church. Most of these relationships are superficial and will never evolve into anything deeper, and that’s fine. But some of these will deepen because all friendships begin here.
- Casual friends
Second, casual friends are those with whom we socialize or have some sort of consistent contact. We know these folks on a first-name basis. Our conversations with them involve superficial topics like the weather, sports, fashion, the stock market, vacations, or work. Such friendships may last for only months, or they may span a lifetime.
- Close friends
Third, close friends are those we share more intimate information with. These people might include neighbors, church members, or work associates with whom we feel camaraderie. Such relationships are characterized by mutual agreement on the basic issues of life and freedom to discuss personal feelings and concerns. At any time in life, we might have anywhere from five to twenty-five close friends.
- Intimate friends
Finally, intimate friends are those we allow into our inner world. A person usually has from one to six intimate friends. These are people with whom we can share our deepest feelings with complete openness. An intimate friend is usually the first person we want to talk with in a crisis. Although the nature of such friendships can change, they most likely endure a lifetime, regardless of geographical distance. Even if you move away from one another and are separated for a period of time, when you’re with that person it’s like you just pick up where you left off.
- Cultivate your relationship with God (Psalm 119:24-25).
Like a puzzle piece that fits perfectly to complete a picture, so God has created in every human heart a hole that can be filled only by Him.
Having a relationship with God alone does not loneliness, but not having a relationship with God guarantees loneliness.
The most basic kind of loneliness is the loneliness of estrangement from God. And only He is the remedy for such loneliness.
What do you need to confess to God? Get it off your chest, and begin to repair your relationship. After confession, commit time to God’s Word. Paul, in his prison cell, longed for intimate friends and the comfort that only the Word of God could bring—the books of the New Testament and the parchments of the Old Testament.
Whenever we, like the apostle Paul, find ourselves in the shadow of the mountain of loneliness, the beginning place for conquering that mountain is renewing our relationship with our Creator.