Let’s face it. Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it can also be a terrible time if we are feeling lonely. Loneliness hits all of us, married or single; extroverts or introverts, well-adjusted or neurotic! Loneliness is being single & aching to share your life with someone; being married, but feeling misunderstood or unfulfilled; having a good day at work and only four walls to share it with; feeling no one would like you if you told them your secrets; taking inventory of your life and feeling you made the wrong choices; experiencing the loss of a loved one and feeling that no one cares. We all know what loneliness feels like, but what can we do about it? What can we learn from Scripture about dealing with loneliness?
To begin with, we should know that Jesus chose on many occasions to be alone. He began his ministry alonein the desert (Mark 1: 12-13); and he often withdrew from people in order to be with his heavenly Father.
This pattern has been repeated by his followers again and again. In fact, it was out of Frank Laubach’s profound loneliness and isolation as a missionary that the desire to nurture an intimate relationship with God was born. He wrote that, “Prayer is the simple recognition that God is present at all times, under all conditions and through all people.” We do this any given moment when we “pray, recall God, sing or hum a devotional hymn, talk or write about God, seek to relieve suffering of any king in a prayerful spirit, work with the consciousness of God’s presence, read a scripture verse or poem about God, give somebody a helping hand for the Lord’s sake, breathe a prayer for the people you meet, follow the leading of the Inner Voice, plan or work for the Kingdom of God, or testify to others about God, the church,” (Frank C. Laubach, Man of Prayer).
So yes, Jesus embraced a prayerful solitude on many occasions, but he also embraced a single life – a single life shared with others. Some of Jesus’ best friends and disciples were unmarried; including his friends in Bethany: Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John 11). When we enter the community of Jesus’ followers, we are encouraged to bring our unique personalities, gifts, and interests. Now consider this: when we withdraw from community, we deprive others of those things, of the very qualities and strengths that the Body of Christ needs.
The last thing lonely people need is fake community. Today there is tremendous pressure to portray an idealized self. Many teens createprivate "real" social media accounts as a way of expressing their true identity apart from the one they portray to the general public. We do the same as adults, portraying an idealized self, instead of showing our real imperfect selves as Jesus intended. This month has been bittersweet for several families in our church who experienced the death of a loved one last year. This month two more of our dear saints left this world for their heavenly home, Liz Gottlieb and Elizabeth Hedges. May we know in part what they now know fully – the peace and joy of the Christ Child, “Risen with healing in His wings.” The hurt is real and we need to share it. But the healing can be real too as we truly grieve, laugh, forgive, and love one another, in Him.
It’s tempting to wait for others to bring an atmosphere of joy into our lives. But we can bring our own atmosphere with us. We can choose to love, to smile, to ask questions and listen carefully; and when we do this it will draw others toward us. We can give our time in service to others; not only in the church but in the community, at hospitals, foodbanks, animal shelters, schools and libraries. Perhaps Jesus’ most famous command is to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This Christmas, he invites you and me to imagine that others are as lonely as we are --and to love them as we would want to be loved. That’s turning loneliness…into blessedness.