By Pastor Royston Smith & Ciara Williams (Founder of Adventist Dog Ministries)
Your creator God is a God of relationships and community. He dwells in three long before time existed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Angels were created agents to work and be a part of the divine community (Psalms 103:20). Equally, male and females are created to worship God; even as they give companionship and care one for the other (Genesis 1:27). You are shaped by relationships. You discover yourselves by encountering others. You flourish more in company than being alone or in isolation. Thus, you could contend that isolation and loneliness are both consequences of sin. Now, loneliness and isolation are scourges, growing problems in our modern society.
Preacher, Charles Swindoll once spoke about an advertisement in an American newspaper that read, “I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for £3.50.” Unsurprisingly, many people responded to the advert, eager to have someone listen to them. In the UK, a YouGov survey conducted in late 2019, found that young people were some of the loneliest and most isolated group within society. They pointed to the ‘new challenges’ they face for the first time – moving home, or new jobs as possible causes. Interestingly, even Jesus experienced loneliness and isolation. On the cross, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
Often, loneliness and isolation can impact on your wellbeing. Likewise, feelings of being lonely can also have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Furthermore, researchers have pointed out that loneliness and isolation can cause an increase in health issues such as: depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress. The Apostle John noted, “The Pastor, to my good friend Gaius: How truly I love you! We’re the best of friends, and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health—that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul!” (3 John 2) The Message (MSG)). God wants to show you love. God wants to change your health status. God wants to see your health prosper. Actually, he wants to be your best friend.
Loneliness and isolation can influence bad life choices. This was evident in the life of the woman at the well. Lonesome, lost and friendless she started having multiple relationships with multiple men. She was moving from relationship to relationship to deal with her loneliness. Initially, she refused to offer Jesus a cup of water but his interest in her life and his ability to listen opened up a redemptive conversation. Through reflection Jesus was able to break customs and prejudices to change her life and become a source of inspiration and a genuine friend. She needed that someone to validate her importance. Jesus always treats people as individuals, accepting them with love and compassion. (See John 4: 1- 40)
Are you struggling with loneliness? You’re not alone. Everyone experiences seasons of isolation for one reason or another. Usually you overcome loneliness by meeting new friends, entering new social circles so understandably for some the lockdown must be daunting. There is some good news though, there’s no need to social distance from Jesus. He is the best friend we all need. In Matthew 11: 28 – 30, (The Message Bible) He asks, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Think about this! For those who haven’t accepted Jesus into their life, now is a good time to do so. For those who have, are you really taking full advantage of the abundant life He wants for you? When we realise all the benefits on offer of having Jesus as our best friend, such as honesty, someone to truly listen to you, care for you, and the willingness to have you come to Him just as you are, then the hurt of loneliness is overcome. Once you do you start to realise what Jesus has to offer, He will become the greatest friend you could ever have. Revelation 3:20 makes it clear what he wants to do with you. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” So, there’s another 3 weeks of this lockdown, make the most of it and choose to have a friendship with Jesus as a happy life is made possible when we do.