What to do about loneliness
Building community flows from knowing where community comes from
Too many of us have a sinking feeling of being isolated, unloved and unknown. A national survey by Lifeline this month revealed 60 per cent of Australians often feel lonely and more than 82 per cent believe loneliness is increasing.
The survey found that although those who lived alone were more likely to be lonely, 60 per cent of couples also reported high rates of loneliness.
“…we are made for relationship.”
We’re “connected” via social media, seemingly constantly, yet anxiety, fear, depression, suicide rates and loneliness – all symptoms of disconnection – are at an all-time high. Not even in our churches are we immune from the terrible poverty of loneliness.
Several years ago, a study revealed many single Christians also feel isolated within their own church communities. Four out of ten single worshippers reported feeling “inadequate or ignored”, with more than one third claiming they were treated differently to those who appeared happily married. Nearly half the single worshipers said their church “did not know what to do” with them. When did we start building walls rather than bridges? Before cathedrals, stained glass windows, and worship bands, Christianity was a home-church movement built on close relationships.
The nature of the Godhead (the relational Trinity) is community. The truest thing we can say about ourselves, if we are made in the image of God, is we are made for relationship. Loneliness is the clearest breakdown of relationship to God and to others.
“…we are all dependent on each other.”
In one of the greatest sermons ever preached, Jesus exploded the myth that true happiness is about how we feel, what we have or what we do. It is all about relationships, he said.
Jesus said the first step towards joy was knowing that this world was in a mess. And knowing that, we had to commit to each other – even our enemies – and realise we are all dependent on each other.
I have witnessed poorer developing communities around the world where intimate living and working together is interwoven into the daily fabric of life; loneliness is rare.
As communities of faith in the developed world, we need to learn the lesson from our so-called “poorer” brothers and sisters on the planet: the vital lesson that we can only find real meaning by longing for a deeper union with God and with others.