Recent headlines from a variety of sources
• “Surgeon General Says There’s a Loneliness Epidemic” (The Washington Post)
• “Young PeopleReport More Loneliness Than the Elderly” (USA Today)
• “The Biggest Threat Facing Middle-Aged Men Isn’t Smoking or Obesity. It’s Loneliness” (The Boston Globe)
• “The Surprising Effects of Loneliness on Health” (The New York Times)
• “Loneliness Begets More Loneliness” (The Atlantic)
• “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us” (The New York Times)
• “Social Isolation Kills More People Than Obesity” (Slate)
About one week ago, these statistics were reviewed and released from a 20,000 person Cigna study based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale:
• Fifty-two percent of Whites sometimes or always feel lonely.
• Sixty-four percent of Hispanics sometimes or always feel lonely.
• Forty-seven percent of Blacks sometimes or always feel lonely.
• Seventeen percent of Whites have no close friends.
• Twenty-eight percent of Hispanics have no close friends.
• Thirty-seven percent of Blacks have no close friends.
The reality of people feeling lonely is troubling. Technology is supposed to provide access to more people with immediate help and feedback – and it has helped, but one of the major and depressing result from social media platforms and technology is that it isolates people.
Perhaps Mother Theresa was more right than we knew when she said, “life without other people is the worst disease any human being can ever experience.”
Taking further direction from Mother Theresa, when she first started her mission in the depths of poverty and diseases in Calcutta, (renamed Kolkata in 2001) India, she described her goal and the purpose of her new Mission, writing, “it would care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
What can individuals and churches do to alleviate the epidemic of loneliness? What should Christians do to fight loneliness?
Do what Jesus did. He reached out to people. Jesus went out of His way to contact those who were lonely and isolated. The woman at the well (John 4:26) and to one of the thieves hanging on a cross next to Jesus, Jesus invited the thief to leave the loneliness of his life into eternity to be with Jesus (Luke 23).
Reaching out to the lonely and inviting them to be with you, to join your circle of acquaintances and friends is the godly act of true inclusion.
Teach the Gospel. Teach the Gospel of Jesus, not a point of view or an opinion. People estranged from church have often been excluded because of strict dogma taught in churches. Jesus taught truth and was full of grace (John 1:14). Christians and churches must follow Jesus’ example – teach and preach truth but leave plenty of room for grace to be applied in every life. Only Jesus is the final judge, we are not. Jesus set the example in His life and what He taught, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Be gracious to others. Listen, accept, serve, and do not condemn, these are acts of grace which Jesus lived in His life and taught us to do in our lives. We may not touch every lonely life, but we can make a difference for at least one lonely life.
Will you make a difference in one life who is lonely?