A remedy for loneliness
By Thurman Hayes
According to studies, people in modern, highly developed cultures are becoming more and more lonely. According to one recent study, 60 percent of Australians feel lonely on a regular basis, and 82 percent of Australians feel that loneliness is on the rise. The British government recently took the radical step of appointing a “Minister for Loneliness.”
If this is a problem in Britain and Australia, it is certainly a problem in the United States. What is driving it?
Writer Akos Balogh makes the following observations:
- Demographic changes: Recent years have brought a sharp upsurge of single-person households. This includes older people who have lost a spouse, and younger people who are single.
- The elderly are particularly vulnerable to loneliness: As people live longer and lose spouses and friends, the potential for loneliness increases. One elderly person observed, “The sad fact is that I have fewer friends and family than I had. It’s one of the unintended consequences of growing older. You lose people you grew up with and love. All too often you have to attend their funerals.” Another startling statistic: 40 percent of nursing home residents haven’t had one visitor in the previous 365 days.
- Busyness can lead to loneliness: One would think that busy people would enjoy lots of time with people, but it is not the case. As our culture has gotten busier, people aren’t investing the time necessary to build relationships. It is now very common for people not to know their neighbors.
- Social media is a mixed blessing: Facebook “friends” are fine, but they are no substitute for real friendships. In fact, sometimes Facebook can reinforce loneliness. One observer said, “On Facebook everybody else’s life looks charmed compared to your ordinary existence: they go on cool holidays; their kids win all the awards; and they have the fun experiences.” This leads people to compare their lives to others, and feel that they come up short. And that can lead to more withdrawing from others.
- Individualism: Western culture is highly individualistic. The social ties to families and friends and neighbors are not nearly as strong as in many other nations.
What can we do to combat the loneliness epidemic? The church of Jesus Christ is a powerful way to prevent loneliness! In the local church, we can find a loving community of people. It is no accident that in the New Testament, believers in a church family are referred to as “brothers and sisters.”
In a New Testament church that preaches the good news of Jesus, you are likely to find a family who will love you, and give you the opportunity to love others.
Here you will find singles and married couples, young people and older people, all brought together by the love of Christ, which enables us to love one another. You’ll make friends with people who will accept you and be there for you, and you’ll have the opportunity to be there for them. You’ll have opportunities to get outside yourself and serve others, which is another powerful tool against loneliness.
Most of all, you’ll discover a Savior who came to us, rather than leaving us alone. Jesus is “God with us,” and He makes this promise: “Never will I leave you…never will I forsake you.”
Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.