The Lonely Generation
Do you often feel lonely or isolated?
Even when you're surrounded by others?
It's possible that half of the people reading this article will respond, "Yes," according to a 2018 Cigna survey, which found that 46 percent of the 20k U.S. respondents reported sometimes or always feeling alone.
The survey came to a few other conclusions:
- One in four rarely or never feel like other people understand them.
- Two in five feel that their relationships are not meaningful.
- 18 to 22 year olds feel loneliest of all age groups.
Loneliness is nothing new, but it sure does seem prevalent in modern society, doesn't it? Many things can isolate us — spending all day in a cubicle, spending all night watching TV, dysfunction in our families, and, of course, that smartphone.
God didn't want us to feel lonely. Yes, we need periods of solitude to recharge — this is especially true for introverts like me — but God doesn't want us to feel cut off from others. In fact, He designed us for community and connection. We need these things to develop as full-fledged, healthy humans.
There are times when I feel lonely, and sometimes I just accept it. But it should be an alarm bell of sorts for me as a Christian. When I'm isolated, I'm easy prey for the enemy.
How do I stop loneliness from turning into something worse?
First, God created me to be connected to Him. He is the vine, and I am the branch (John 15:5). Ultimately, connections with other people cannot completely satisfy me. I do need a meaningful connection with my Creator. Just as I want to feel known and loved by my earthly parents, the same goes for my Heavenly Father.
James 4:8 says, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." Sometimes I feel self-conscious when I seek the friendship of others. (Will they reject my overtures? How embarrassing!) I don't have to feel this way with God. Even when I show up freshly stained with sin, He's ready to wash me up and fold me into His arms.
So, when I get lonely, I have to ask myself:
- Am I making an effort to connect with God?
- Am I just going through the motions or doing it half-heartedly?
- Am I keeping God at arm's length for some reason?
God also set up some institutions to keep loneliness away. These institutions are designed to mirror His love.
We're automatically enrolled into one of these institutions at birth: Our family. When the family unit operates as God intended, it's a safe haven where we are known and loved by those closest to us. (When it doesn't operate as intended, it can cause great harm.)
As we grow older, we form friendships with those outside our family that nourish us, teach us, and fill certain lonely compartments in our hearts.
So, when I feel lonely, I must ask myself:
- Am I making an effort to connect with the people who are closest to me?
- Am I really opening up with them, or am I faking it?
- Am I finding excuses to stay isolated?
- Am I blaming others for not making the first move toward friendship?
Connection with God, family, and friends is something that we need like we need air and food. Just like a starving person will eat just about anything to stay alive, we will settle for nearly any substitute for authentic community when we can't find the real deal. (Social media is one example.)
So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how lonely are you? What are you going to do to strengthen the connections that matter most?
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.