In a highly connected world, more and more of us are suffering from loneliness. It is more than just an emotional problem, as it can cause poor physical and mental health and raise the risk of suicide.
Social isolation can lead to increased feelings of loneliness. However, loneliness isn’t the same as social isolation. People can be isolated yet not feel lonely - even if we have very few social contacts, it’s the quality of that relationship which has the most impact on our feelings of loneliness. For instance, we can be living with a spouse and still suffer from loneliness. Cohabiting can heighten emotional distance if there’s no form of intimacy.
Personal circumstances can contribute to loneliness, such as loss of a spouse or friend, retirement, being a single parent or carer, disability or sickness, moving to a new area, even a new church.
We can put up barriers to protect ourselves against the world. We can lack confidence and self- esteem; for instance, we might have a fear of rejection so we push people away before they can reject us. Or we may be naturally shy, or have communication difficulties.
Loneliness can carry a feeling of not being ‘good enough’.
About 40% of people (and this includes children and adolescents) will suffer from loneliness at some point in their lives.
There’s a lot we can do to alleviate loneliness from our lives, such as joining clubs, engaging in activities with others and making new connections. To do this we might need courage and support, but it is vital to our health and wellbeing.
However, we can also benefit from learning to be alone and enjoy our own company, and being able to focus on the things that bring us pleasure.
It could also mean facing difficult feelings and finding peace with them.
We naturally want to run from these feelings of loneliness, but God can use them; through it He can enlarge our hearts to love and value others. God doesn’t want us to fear being alone.
Loneliness can help us to seek God in a deeper way and draw closer to Him. Jesus went to a lonely place to hear from God - He intentionally sought out solitude.
Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us God will never leave or forsake us. We are never alone when we are alone with God.