(watch the entire teaching by clicking play on the video below)
We live in a time when people have the opportunity to be more connected than ever through technology. From texting and email to social media and live video chats, there’s never been the ability to connect with someone instantly like there is now. And yet, loneliness has never been a more significant issue.
America is facing a massive epidemic of loneliness. And this is not ordinary loneliness, this is when someone feels lonely regularly, with a deep sense of emotional disconnectedness from people.
Research shows that 36 percent of Americans suffer from chronic loneliness. Approximately 43 percent of our seniors experience severe loneliness. And this epidemic is most severe among young adults; the most “connected generation”—61 percent of them suffer from loneliness and an inability to connect.
Loneliness impacts our health in significant ways. In fact, there’s a 30 percent increased risk of early death. We are not meant to live isolated and emotionally disconnected from one another. Research shows that severe loneliness impacts your health in a way that’s equivalent to you smoking 15 cigarettes every day. You’re 64 percent more likely to develop dementia because of loneliness.
And here’s what shocks me.
Surprisingly, 92 percent of people find it difficult to tell others that they’re suffering from chronic loneliness. Be very honest with yourself if you are someone dealing with loneliness, chronic loneliness or a severe emotional sense of disconnectedness and isolation. I want you to open your heart and courageously pursue the answers and actions from Scripture that I’ll outline.
The Bible is not silent on the topic of loneliness. When we look at it through the lens of Scripture, we can see God’s heart is to help us deal with loneliness and be victorious in that area.
In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
A yoke was a wooden implement placed over the neck of two oxen that would keep them together so they could plow the field in unison. Jesus says, when you take My yoke upon you, My message, method of lifestyle, worldview and perspective, you’ll find that my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
And He tells us to come to Him if we are burdened with the pain and weight of loneliness. In other words, He’s not going to reject you. He is very sympathetic to where you are and how you feel, and the pain you’re struggling with. The message of Jesus is meant to set you free so you can be able to live your life in a flourishing, thriving way without feeling as if you’re carrying around this huge, uncomfortable, unbearable burden of loneliness.
So, let’s understand how do we deal with loneliness.
First: Take Notice
Take notice that there’s a vast difference between being lonely and being alone. Many people get it mixed up, and as a result of their inability to distinguish the two, they equate the two, and they find themselves suffering because of improper definition.
Mark 1:35 says, “Very early the next morning before daylight, Jesus got up and went to a place where he could be alone and pray.”
Jesus sought to be alone. He intentionally woke up early while everybody else was asleep in the house so He could go outside, and find a place where He could be alone. Why? One reason the Scripture says is that He wanted to pray without being distracted, without feeling the pressure or obligation to answer people’s questions or engage in conversation.
Jesus wanted to have alone time with God. Being alone is not bad when you recognize the value of it and you are at peace with yourself. If you don’t like yourself, you’re going to struggle when you’re alone, and you’re going to think that being alone is equivalent to being lonely. But that’s not loneliness; Jesus was comfortable with Himself and He spent time alone.
Being lonely is an emotional state which has to do with your interior thoughts.
Being alone is a physical state, which has to do with your external reality. Being lonely is a lack of human connection, but being alone is a lack of human company.
Being lonely describes a gnawing feeling which has to do with feeling unsettled and incomplete. Being alone describes a setting that has to do with your physical surroundings.
To overcome loneliness, you must take notice of this difference.
Being lonely describes the feeling that something is missing. It signals a thought of “I’m incomplete.” Being alone says nothing is missing and that you are not struggling with feeling incomplete. When you take notice that there’s a big difference between being lonely and being alone, you’re able to come to a place where you’re inching up, so to speak, out of the hole that loneliness creates.
Second: You Must Take Action.
When you take action, you recognize that this is a very complex problem. I don’t want to act like it’s simplistic, and I don’t want to minimize it because if you’re hurting, you’re hurting. And if you’re struggling with loneliness, you’re struggling. And I’m not going to minimize that or sweep it under the rug or trivialize it, and just throw some Bible verses at it and let you think that that’s all you need to do.
And I want you to recognize that being lonely and struggling is not an indictment against your character. It’s not even an indictment against your level of spiritual maturity. I want you to recognize even Bible characters struggled with it.
In fact, in Psalms 25:16, David sings of his struggle with loneliness. He says, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I’m lonely and afflicted.” David recognized that his loneliness had an impact on him. This is not the typical regular loneliness that all of us feel from time to time. It wasn’t the kind where you say I’m lonely so I’ll turn on the TV or call a friend. I’m not talking about that kind of normative run-of-the-mill struggle. I’m talking about chronic loneliness.
David was admitting loneliness had caused him to be afflicted and he’s dealing with chronic loneliness.
Chronic loneliness is:
- an inability to connect on an emotional level
- when you have no close friends
- feeling that no one gets me and understands me on a deep emotional level
- feeling isolated both relationally and emotionally
- feeling a lack of self-worth
- feeling as if there’s nobody who wants to spend meaningful time with you
Chronic loneliness gets to the place where you are tired of trying to engage.
So what answers does the Bible offer to this issue of chronic loneliness?
Again, I want to pull from David’s life. David took action and how he took action was by seeking God in prayer. Don’t minimize the value of prayer, and don’t minimize the importance of God walking with you and wanting you to walk with Him. David took action when he asked God to turn to him.
Taking action to deal with loneliness requires prayer.
You need to ask yourself this question, what am I doing to encourage loneliness? In other words, are you building bridges or barriers to overcoming loneliness?
A bridge is built when you ask your friends and family questions. You ask them how they are doing, how’s your family, how’s your child? When you start to ask these kinds of questions, you’ll find that there’s reciprocation and a rapport. And over time, you’re building bridges out of your hole of loneliness into a place of deeper intimacy and connectedness with someone else.
You have to be equally careful because barriers are built when you show disinterest in others. There are no questions. You focus just on the job, just business, and you could care less about a person’s personal life. You need to be very mindful of that.
Psalms 68:6 shows us the action that David took, it says, “You find families for those who are lonely.” David recognized that God searches out for potential families and communities that you can connect with. And He finds them for you and then connects you with someone else in a group.
You need to understand that you will need to go out of your way and take action. No one’s going to ring your doorbell and say, “Hey, would you like to be a part of my community and be a part of my family?” It doesn’t work that way. You have to intentionally take the step to engage and realize in God’s wisdom, He already created opportunities because He wants to place the lonely in families.
He’s already created a family for you. Your job is to find them out.
Third: Take Comfort
God is our creator, and He’s very sympathetic toward our emotional needs, even the ones that may seem so non-spiritual, like loneliness. Psalm 142:4-5 says, “Look and see, there’s no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Most scholars agree that this time in David’s life was when King Saul was trying to kill him, and David was in a cave. He was isolated, lonely, abandoned and rejected. David said there’s no one on my right hand.
The historical framework in Jewish thought and culture suggests that the ones on the right hand are your champions. David was saying, God, I have no champion on my right to help me fight this crazy king that’s trying to kill me. Rather than wallowing in the quagmire of self-pity, David leans into God and recognizes that one of the aspects of God’s nature and His character, in essence, is that He’s a relational god. God gives comfort to those who He creates. He fellowships with us. He comes alongside us in our pain.
David looks to the Divine Creator to be his friend, confidante and comfort.
David’s not the only one who did that and notices that about God. Isaiah, the singing prophet, says in Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
This prophet of God was saying to Israel, God doesn’t abandon you when you’re in the fire or the flood. He tells them that God is with them in all of the murkiness and the twists, bumps and turns in the road of life that can become so problematic and unpredictable.
Paul testifies to the same fact that God comforts us when we struggle with loneliness. In 2 Timothy 4:16-17, the apostle says, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”
Paul was not spiritualizing and making this ethereal, esoteric relationship with God. He noticed that he grew in strength, ability and might. In other words, his loneliness gap was filled up. Paul says that God gave me strength.
How does God give strength?
He gives you strength when He allows you to discover your purpose. You become fascinated by doing something fascinating and bringing a change in society. That’s God giving you strength.
How do you find out when God gives you strength? How do you take notice of it?
When you find yourself praying for someone unsaved and you’re asking God to open up their eyes that they may see the blindness of their souls and recognize that Christ is indeed the light of the world. That’s God giving you strength.
When you find yourself having a creative idea that unlocks an answer to a problem that you’ve been struggling with for months. That’s God giving you strength.
How do you deal with loneliness?
You take notice.
You take action.
You take comfort.
Remember in Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.”