“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” (Psalm 25:16)
Dear friends in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
According to a 2018 survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults, nearly half (46 percent) report experiencing times of loneliness. Surprisingly, the survey found that young adults (ages 18-22) were the most vulnerable and that heavy use of social media did not noticeably lessen the extent of loneliness. Now, in this time of social distancing, loneliness is an even greater health and well-being concern.
The Bible has many examples of loneliness other than David’s lament seen above. Many of God’s prophets were estranged from their communities as they answered God’s call. Even Jesus, betrayed, abandoned, and dying on the cross, cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I find it reassuring to know that we have a God who not only knows our weaknesses but has experienced our temptations and troubles.
If you are experiencing loneliness, the first practical step is to realize you are not alone. Whether it is classmates, family members, or people in your community, others have experienced loneliness and know what you are going through. One of the suggestions that professionals give in combating loneliness is simply to take care of your physical self by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Another is to build a support network of family and friends. Unfortunately, for many of us, a huge part of our support group was our weekly time of worship and fellowship. Still, we might ask ourselves not only where can I find support but who might I reach out to that needs my word of encouragement? Often it is in the act of giving that we receive.
Finally, the one suggestion that intrigued me the most, especially during this time of social distancing, came from a website called lifeandhealth.org. They noted that being alone does not equal loneliness and often we may just need to change our perspective. Jesus often found it necessary to get away from the crowd to spend time with God and gain a new perspective. Time alone is also a useful time to sharpen a talent or learn a new skill.
Many pastors, including myself, are having to learn the new skills for ministering and ministry, like creating an online worship experience. For you, this may be the perfect time to take up crafting, learn a musical instrument, or learn to make bread from scratch. You might rediscover the wonders of nature as you take time to watch a bird build a nest, watch the sandhill cranes do their mating dance, or listen to the spring peepers. Maybe you will find the time to view a spectacular sunset or watch as a full moon breaks over the horizon. Perhaps you will discover a new book, reread a beloved book, or have a long phone conversation with a friend.
And last, but certainly not least, perhaps you will find time to read a word of scripture and sit and reflect in the quiet stillness of God’s presence, knowing that God who watches over the sparrow, will certainly watch over you (Matt. 10:29-31).
God bless you on your journey,