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Loneliness and the Christian

Albert Einstein
Loneliness is a terrible thing. In fact, it's the first thing God said was not good - "It is not good for the man to be alone ..." - so he made Eve for Adam. It's one reason marriage was invented; marriage (as God intended) can be a great antidote to loneliness. But in this fallen world, it's no longer the main answer. For one thing, marriage is not for all, for one reason or another. And besides, there are plenty of married people who are as lonely as anyone.

Genesis chapter 11 tells the story of the Tower of Babel. People tried to make community apart from God - 'If we work together, we won't need him!' sort of attitude - and they tried to build a tower to heaven. (Some would say a sort of ancient United Nations.) What did God do as a suitable punishment, and to stop them? He confused their languages, so they could no longer communicate easily. Isolation, lack of connection with people, is a result of rebellion against God.

In our fast-pace modern world, loneliness has created a pandemic. Esperanto never took off. Facebook doesn't quite fulfil. Soaps aren't really the answer to recreating community in your own living room.

But there is an answer. It's the gospel. As we turn back to Christ, by his grace, the curse of loneliness is lifted. It's one of the things we don't have to wait to death to have - it's for now. How does the gospel make a difference? In some ways, things get worse as a Christian! As if it wasn't hard before, now we stand apart from the crowd. And yet the gospel is still the key answer, in two ways:

[1] We're never alone. I know the idea of God being with us can seem a bit like a child's invisible friend. But it's not so. Just because God is unseen, doesn't mean he's not real. A distant lover gives companionship - it's the knowledge that someone out there loves you. And the time will come when God is seen. All other loves are shadows of his. A person is never truly known if not known by God, who is eternally relational (Father, Son and Spirit), and the source of all knowing. Can you take that in? The central person in the universe relates to us as family. He loves us so much he would give his life for us. He has done.

[2] Because we are now his family, we become part of his new community. The church family is a big deal. The local fellowship is so important; we are not just generally part of 'church' on a big scale, but relate personally. I would say that in the church fellowship, there is a level of belonging unknown elsewhere. Becoming a Christian is a u-turn from the isolationist, me-centred, each-man-for-himself world, to a community of genuine love. In my experience, there is a genuineness of love in church, showing itself in people making big and real sacrifices to serve others, which can only be a result of hearts changed by God.

All wonderful. But doesn't this create a huge challenge for us too? Firstly, it's the challenge of looking at our own hearts when we feel lonely (as we all do sometimes): could it possibly be because I've been backing away from the church fellowship? Have I been serving others? Have I been praying for them, caring for them, meeting regularly with them? If I feel out on a limb, could it be that I've drifted?

Secondly, there's the challenge of keeping on looking out for others. If others are in more lonely situations, are we getting tired of the effort of including them? That's an effort the whole church must share in. If I'm not active, organised and deliberate in spending time together, it's not just me who's affected - it's a cruel carelessness towards others. So, let's ask the question: have we been careless? Have we grown slack? The great thing about grace is that each day is a new start - if we've not been as caring as we should be, then - today - let's make amends.