All One in the Church #4: Loneliness
When I was twenty, I moved into a flat. I loved it! Then, late one Friday night, my train home was canceled. I was about to call my parents to tell them when I realized they didn’t even know I’d gone out; no one knew where I was. That night, I spent two hours on an empty railway platform. There was no one I could turn to for help; I began to understand loneliness.
Loneliness is normal. It’s one of many emotions we experience, and it is often fleeting. However, there are times it causes intense distress. Marriage becomes a wonderful blessing for the lonely, but it can also produce loneliness. Some people rejoice in being single, but many do not and the assumption that everyone should marry puts an extra burden on the single and can exacerbate their loneliness.
Loneliness is often fleeting but there are times it causes intense distress.
The end of a marriage is also a lonely time—whether by divorce or bereavement, people must adjust to being without a partner. Sadly, some people are lonely within marriage. They may feel uncared for and have no one they can really talk to. For those with an unbelieving spouse, even if the marriage is happy, sitting alone among couples at meeting and events may be difficult.
DO SOMETHING KIND
- Read your list of ecclesial members. How many of them are single or attend alone? Loneliness may be an issue for them. Make a special effort to include them.
- Read your address book, your list of colleagues; think about the neighbors you know. Could loneliness be a concern for any of them? This year feels like the loneliest ever as the coronavirus has forced us apart. If you have been feeling lonely, be reassured it’s not just you.
- Write a list of everyone you know who may be lonely. Can you do one thing for each person?
- Become tech-savvy. Technology has been a huge blessing for our communal spiritual lives, but sometimes we need the closeness of a one-to-one conversation. You can set up your own video chats for private conversations.
- Not being online is even more isolating, but a phone call or card can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
This year we all need to be creative to find solutions, but many of us do have the extra time to give to others. Living in the English countryside, I can meet friends to walk one on each side of quiet country lanes. Someone just wrote a song for and about me, and I was absolutely delighted. What could you do to make someone on your list feel special?
When our meeting places reopen, numbers may be limited. This might be a positive for people who arrive alone. They will be easier to notice and include.
We can make up for reduced numbers by opening more often. Use your time now to plan some appropriate social activities for reopening. People who live near your hall may be pleased to have an event they can attend.
Everyone has felt burdened this year, but we can look for ways to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, [we] will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2 NIVUK).
And if, when you wrote your list of lonely people, you felt your name needed to be on it, then doing all of these things may well be the cure for your loneliness too.