Have you ever felt guilty about feeling lonely? As Christians, we are called to love others, to have rich fellowship amongst believers, and to make disciples. It seems like loneliness is in direct conflict with what it means to live a faithful Christian life. Aren’t we all supposed to be full of joy and community and neighborly love in the service of others? Is loneliness a sign of disobedience? Why do we feel lonely?
Because we’re human. Loneliness is part of the normal experience and is a subjective feeling that ranges from a restorative solitude to a miserable isolation. Some loneliness is situational, while other experience loneliness as a chronic condition. Studies reveal that loneliness has become a national epidemic with serious health side-effects. “Lonely people are more likely than the nonlonely to die from cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory illness and gastrointestinal causes—essentially, everything” (Latson, Jennifer. “Disconnection.” Psychology Today, vol. 51, no. 2, April 2018, pp. 45.)
There are many things in our culture that isolate us; people now marry later in life, and marry less. We passively scroll through social media and envy others’ fun instead of using it to nurture real-life relationships. Our political rifts emotionally divide us and our transient professional world physically separates us. Personally, I’ve noticed that since moving to a townhome, we don’t do as much yard work, so we don’t bump into neighbors as often. Some of my favorite conversations with my neighbors were over weeds!
Being lonely is not a sin. Loneliness was certainly woven into Jesus’ life; He must have felt a sense of isolation living as a sinless man, among sinful parents, siblings and friends. You see His loneliness foreshadowed in Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men…” culminating in His extreme loneliness on the cross, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Studies reveal that loneliness has become a national epidemic with serious health side-effects
So what do we do? We recognize our problem and humbly understand we are not above loneliness as Christians. We ask for help. We stop comparing ourselves to others, we mindfully engage in social media. We invite people over, we introduce ourselves. We make small talk with strangers, we notice when people are gone. We talk about our problems and complain with our friends! We get professional help if we need it. And most importantly, we look to Jesus, who took care of the worst isolation mankind has ever known; our separation from the presence of God. Jesus bridged that gap by paying the penalty for our sins on the cross. He was forsaken by God in our place; we are now, by faith in Jesus, reconciled to the God who made us and loves us, and this relationship will fulfill our loneliness for all eternity.
This is a hard and isolating world we live in, and just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we won’t feel lonely. We are called to be fully invested in this world while also remembering we are foreigners, citizens of heaven. If you feel lonely, reach out and get help. It’s a problem our entire culture is facing, and loneliness is not a symptom of sin, but a sign that we are human and need God and each other.