Saturday, October 10, 2020

Loneliness - a side effect of the COVID crisis

Provided courtesy of Unsplash - Keegan Houser

Provided courtesy of Unsplash - Lucrezia Carnelos 

Provided courtesy of Unsplash - Ann Humphries 

I read this comment in the ‘The Guardian’ newspaper a while ago - ‘The  dilemma, I’m 22 years old and going into my fourth year in medical school. I have been using  study to escape loneliness, insecurity and anxiety that arose from the stress of the course and my failure to establish friends’.

Another person wrote in The Telegraph “‘Life looks good on the surface - so why are we all so lonely?  ‘But you can’t be lonely,’ a friend tells me crossly. ‘You’re out  every night.’ The backhanded compliment makes me laugh. But it also makes me sad. On paper my life sounds  glamorous. My Facebook and Twitter updates show evenings spent at film premieres and West End first nights. Last weekend I  was at  the  seaside  reviewing  an  exhibition  in newly  cool  Margate.  Next  Saturday  a friend  and  I  are  staying  at  a  boutique  hotel in  Hay-on-Wye. An  acquaintance  recently  wrote  on  my Facebook  page:  ‘I  follow your  glittery  life  in  awe.’  But  I  think perhaps  she  shouldn’t.  I’m  not  saying  my carefully  curated  social  media  output  isn’t true.  Just  that  it  edits  out  stress,  tears  and rejection.  And  the  pockets  of  real loneliness. Denying  you  feel  lonely  makes no  more  sense  than  denying you  feel  hunger’” These are the comments of a high profile journalist who looks as if she is living the high life but most certainly doesn’t feel as if she is.

Please bear in mind that these statements were made before the COVID crisis hit us - how much more painful will life be for these people now

A new  national  commission  investigating loneliness  in  the  UK,  launched  in  January 2020 (and  planned  by  West  Yorkshire  MP  Jo Cox  before  she  was  murdered  last  June), shows  that  a  fifth  of  the  population privately  admits  they  are  ‘always  or  often lonely’.  But  two-thirds  of  those people would never  confess  to  having  a  problem  in public. Here is the problem - loneliness is the devastating unseen result of the pressures and emptiness of modern life when people live devoid of real purpose and meaning.

We  effectively  have  a  silent epidemic  affecting  people  of  all  ages  and backgrounds. Researchers  now  recognise  that loneliness  is  a  serious  public  health  issue. As  a predictor  of  early  death,  it eclipses  obesity.  Some  studies  argue that  it  is  a  bigger  killer  than  cancer  or heart  disease.  And  it  increases  the  risk  of premature  death  by  26  per  cent, according  to  a  2015  study.  Feeling  lonely is  a  double  whammy:  it  hurts  physically and  emotionally  –  and  we  also  feel  social shame. (Some of this information was taken from Fortune Magazine)

Humans  were  not  designed  to  be solitary  creatures.  We  were designed to live in families, Psalm 68.6, the Bible. The  need  to  interact  is  deeply ingrained  in  our  genetic  code.  So  much so,  says  John T Cacioppo (the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago) that  ‘the absence  of  social  connection  triggers the  same,  primal  alarm  bells  as  hunger, thirst  and  physical  pain’.

Herbert  Van  Zeller, writer, sculpted and cartoonist (1905-1984) once said that ‘the  soul  hardly  ever  realises  it,  but whether  he  is  believer  or  not,  his loneliness  is  really  a  homesickness  for God’. I do not agree with all that Van Zellar stood for but that’s an interesting perspective on loneliness and one that I would agree with.

God’s plan for human life 

Humans are social people as can clearly be seen in everyday life and words of God in Genesis  chapter 2 verse 18 reflect this: ‘And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him’.

At a very basic level you were created to have a relationship with God. When God gave Moses, the famous prophet, the 10 commandments he said,  ‘And  thou  shalt  love  --  the  Lord  thy  God with  all  thine  heart,  and  with  all  thy soul,  and  with  all  thy  might,’ Deut. 6. 5. When God sent His Son, Jesus into the world he came to experience loneliness. His loneliness was to an extent that few of us will ever experience during our lifetime. He, Jesus, was despised and rejected of men, He was a man of sorrows. He came to earth to the people He had created and they ignored Him and ultimately rejected Him. He arrived in the nation, Israel, that He had chosen to be the vehicle of blessing to the whole world but He was unrecognised, unappreciated and excluded. The truth is that God chose to experience the loneliness of this life so that you could enjoy His company for ever and experience the genuine joy and happiness He gives.

If you want to read about the experiences that the Lord Jesus had the Bible describes them in John chapter 7 verse 53 and chapter 8 verse 1.  The gospel writer, Matthew, records in chapter 8 verse 20 how Jesus was often alone and homeless - ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’. For the Lord Jesus the ultimate loneliness was when he died on the cross. This is described in Matthew  27 and Psalm  22. At this stage He was not only forsaken by people but by God as He ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’.

Loneliness can have some benefits - on a temporary basis 

Sometimes we need solitude and time alone to think. I know if you spend a lot of time on your own you may not be keen on the idea but you are free the from the interruptions of others and have time to think. To get to anyone you need to spend time with them. Believe it or not, we all need to be alone with God to get to know Him. In John chapter 3 we read of man called Nicodemus. He made a point of getting alone with the Lord Jesus to ask Him questions and ponder the answers. This ‘alone time’ is good. It changed the way Nicodemus thought and was a major crossroads in his life, We need to take time to think about life, God, our future, the brevity of life. To reflect, to sort things out in our minds and to discover the truth. Have you ever sat down with a Bible and talked to God. You’ll be amazed how He answers you as you read His word, the Bible. 

As I close please reflect on this passage from the Bible:

John 3:16-21

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved; He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.’

No comments

Blogger Template Created by pipdig