Dealing with loneliness

Published 8:31 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

Writing on his Facebook page, Dr. Jim Denison, of the Denison Forum, reported that a new study by the health insurer Cigna has found that loneliness is widespread in America. Nearly 50 percent of respondents stated that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes. Another important insight from the study revealed that this is true not only for older people but for younger people as well. Loneliness doesn’t respect age.

A caring physician who is concerned about his patients as whole person says he has discovered that “99 out of 100 patients are lonely. And the one who says he or she isn’t probably is.”

Jesus knew loneliness. He came to his own people and was rejected by them. In addition, Jesus was denied and forsaken by his own close, personal friends. And then there was Jesus’ suffering on the cross — this had to be the most devastating loneliness of all.

Yet Jesus dealt with his loneliness, overcame it and gave us guidance in overcoming our loneliness, in one of his parables (Matthew 12:43-45). In that parable, we find a man possessed by an unclean spirit. With strong resolution, this man sweeps his mind clear, only to later suffer the return of the spirit and the invasion of “seven other spirits” more loathsome than the first. 

This parable shows us that we can’t just sweep our lives clear of loneliness unless we fill the vacuum that is left with other things. In other words, to successfully cope, we must replace our loneliness with something else, something better.

Initially, we can replace our loneliness with an active mind. We may not be able to change the situation we face, but we can do something about our response to that situation. Some of our loneliness is related to circumstances beyond our control. But often, we can do something about the life we live in our minds.

Next, we can replace our loneliness with a noble purpose. A person focused on some significant and noble purpose, some reason for being, may know brief moments of loneliness, but not for long.

The devastating loneliness that grinds most of us down can lead to a life that plays out with no useful purpose. Another way we can replace our loneliness is with a willing involvement.

Finally, and most importantly, we can replace our loneliness with an active friendship with God. Above all, loneliness should teach us to find a better friendship with God. What is loneliness, anyway? Basically, it is our homesickness for God. God has placed that longing in each of us.