According to recently published research, in total , 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty million people. Characteristics of people who are more likely to experience loneliness include: those who are widowed, those with poorer health and those with long-term illness or disability. 43.45% of the group reporting bad or very bad health are often/always lonely. There is no doubt that being chronically unwell isolates people.
I believe that isolation, although sometimes necessary to prevent the spread of disease, is itself a potentially dangerous experience. Solitude is one thing – where one seeks ‘aloneness’ for spiritual or psychological refreshing – but isolation can be a tool in the hand of our enemy and accuser, Satan. It may be forced upon us, but we must take practical steps to try and minimise any damage that may be caused. I speak about this, among many other things, in my book ‘Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts’.
From the other side of the coin, I try to keep my eyes peeled for folk who may be lonely. A smile, a word of greeting, an offer of practical help, an enquiry if all is well, may each be a way of bridging the gap with someone who is feeling isolated and lonely. High rise blocks of apartments are deadly for this problem, hiding folk away and putting them in files and boxes. When folk do emerge, they are often wary and fearful. We need to find ways of taking an interest in others well-being without overpowering them or disrespecting their personal space. It’s a difficult balance, but the pandemic of loneliness is also deadly and there will be lives lost as a result.
This is where your local church community can be a literal ‘God-send’. Its foodbank, or church cafe, or drop-in centre, offers real hope for lonely people. Our church runs the Alpha Course and it is well attended each time we run it, offering friendship and good food as well as helpful videos. Find out more about Alpha at http://www.alpha.org.uk.
Above all, you may be lonely, but you are not alone. Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Hear the words again of Hebrews 13:5 from the Amplified version of the Bible: ‘for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!’