Loneliness is malnourishment of the soul.
We were made for connection and we spend most of our time trying to figure out how to get it. It would make sense then that our greatest fear is loneliness. Yet, it is an epidemic sweeping across the globe.
Look back at your own life. With honest assessment, could you agree that the majority of the bad relational choices you've made came at a time when you felt alone? Like a starving child, you stole bread. And no one despises you for that hunger or what your hunger drove you to.
Yet, here you are, consequently feeling the debt piling on you for all the moments and experiences you have stolen.
We malfunction when we are lonely. Young and old. Single and married. Men and women.
I've talked with many young adults who boil their issues and fears down to a single statement. "I don't want to be alone."
They aren't even talking about romantic relationships or sexual encounter, (though I'm confident there is an ache for that as well). They speak of the hollowness of their empty apartments and empty conversations.
Someone else said it to me again just last week. "I don't want to be alone."
She said it cautiously, whispering as though it were a sinful confession. By admitting it, she is betraying the secular social construct enforced on us all - the philosophy that independence is the chief goal and accomplishment of life.
Not only does her confession reject the 21st century worldview that she shouldn't need anyone, but she is also admitting that she hasn't been able to wholeheartedly embrace the religious mantra of "Jesus is all you need."
Jesus is not all that you need.
And He knows it.
We have physical needs - water, food and oxygen to live. There is no shame in that. To need something may make you vulnerable, but it does not make you wrong.
Jesus is not water, food or oxygen, nor is He IN those things, and to believe otherwise is to go against Scripture. He is not a created thing, yet He is not opposed to our reliance on created things. He took on the form of a man and by doing so proclaimed that the physical nature can also be sacred.
So then, all the things we need come as a beautiful gift FROM Him. Our best option is to humbly accept the design He has for humanity and to gratefully receive the provision. If you stop eating, you will grow hungry.
We also have relational needs - God designed us to do best with a caring father and mother. Even beyond that, we do best with a steady community, with friendships of mutual contributions. From those natural places of dependence, we will see supernatural fulfillment.
Once again, our best option is to humbly accept the design God has made for us and gratefully receive the provision for these needs too.
What if we don't get what we need?
Just because you may not have community and you are still vertical does not mean you don't need it. There are plenty of malnourished people walking around on this earth, but they are also experiencing the sorrow and struggle of the lack and you can only survive for so long like that.
Dare I suggest that much of our society's epidemic of persistent depression, anxiety, ego-centric insecurities, and insomnia can be linked back to trying to survive independently in an unfriendly, cold world? We all desperately need a shelter to come home to. We need to see in the eyes of SOMEONE that we are welcome to be in their presence. That who we are, underneath it all, is treasured.
Instead, we are broken individuals, living among a broken people, all demanding perfection, performance, and conformity.
We aren't good enough.
We know it and we are afraid to show our true selves to each other for fear of rejection. We accuse others for their weaknesses, yet we see the same folly within ourselves.
We can't trust each other.
We've been betrayed, abandoned and heart-broken by them too many times to try again. People are unpredictable and no matter how hard we try, we cannot control them.
In fear, we set up a construct around ourselves - attempting to form a bullet-proof shield. It turns out to be air-tight. Oxygen is running out. Our chests tighten, our vision blurs and we lose our bearings.
Into this world-wide panic attack, our kind Lord and Savior steps in and reaches for our hand to steady us.
To a cold-hearted world, His greatest gift has always been, "Love."
As our racing heart beat begins to level out, He whispers, "I'm not going anywhere."
He reassures us, "Though many be against you, I am FOR you."
Though we have faced the betrayal and abandonment of people, His promise to us is "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come for you. I am preparing a home for us so that where I am, you can be with me."
Over the chaos of scarcity and poverty He says, "Do not worry. I know what you need even before you ask. I'm watching over you."
Through tragedies, sufferings and catastrophes, He promises, "I will be with you. I know how to shut the mouths of lions and protect you from the flames. I know how to silence the wind and waves and it is My joy to give you the kingdom."
To a frightened, hesitant world, His greatest command has always been, "Love."
When you pray for each other, get close enough to gently lay your hand on their shoulder.
When you are feeling the darkness creep around you and attempt to pull you under, open your mouth and confess the truth to people.
When someone is experiencing lack, do something about it. Show them that they are worth being sacrificed for.
If people are widowed, orphaned or immigrants, create a place for them. Defend the vulnerable. Put a little extra water in the soup and share family.
Forgive, over and over again, if you want a chance of building life-long friendships.
Trust and lean on others, over and over again, knowing full-well the risk that you are taking.
Always speak the truth; don't give anyone reason to distrust you.
In generations past, humanity lived in community and had to work hard to find moments of seclusion. In our day and age, most live in seclusion and are straining to find moments of genuine community. We have to rewrite "normal" if we are going to pull culture up out of this relational nose-dive that we're in.
Keep your heart in it. Cry. Confront. Forgive. Laugh. Share. Over and over again. We all want friends like that. Years ago, my husband and I heard someone say, "Do you want to know how to get friends like that? Be a friend like that."
No one despises an oak tree for needing to keep its roots down, nor should we despise ourselves for having need of community. May you be rooted first and foremost in the unfailing love of Christ. From that place we can begin to create safe places and rich friendships that fill souls and still the hunger pains of loneliness.