Dealing with Loneliness During COVID-19
In a recent edition of USA TODAY, writer Alan Gomez explores how long-term loneliness affects us physically and mentally. It's a valuable analysis. In short, Gomez writes that "humans were not meant to be alone." We are hard-wired to be social creatures. (The writers of the New Testament might say we are created for koinōnia -- deep and genuine relationships.) The forced isolation of Covid-19, "if it is prolonged, puts wear and tear on our bodies. The reason it's unpleasant is it's a biological signal, much like hunger and thirst, to motivate us to reconnect with others."
If you are the friend or loved one of someone who lives alone -- and 25 percent of Americans do -- I have a few suggestions. Continue to pray with and for your friend. Reach out to them in simple ways. Call or text frequently to check in. Sometimes a mere smile on FaceTime can be a balm for another person. Make sure to listen to your friend sympathetically as he or she pours out to you the pain and struggle of living in isolation. Be a good listener. Give your friend permission to say whatever is on their mind. Ask God to give them the courage to trust him. Additionally, you may need to direct them to a pastor or trained counselor. Remind yourself that it's not your job to "rescue" them. That's God's responsibility. You may find it beneficial to share with them your own struggles with loneliness. Being transparent with your hurting friend will help create a loving and honest atmosphere. Ask God to show you how to help your friend along the way. Be like the four men in Luke 5. They did not ignore their paralyzed friend's need. They did not abandon him to a life of loneliness. They were fully committed to seeing that he got relief. They were willing to sacrifice their time and energy. They were persevering and undaunted in their caregiving.
During this time of isolation on the farm, my friends and family have been wonderful. This pandemic has given all of us an unexpected opportunity to reconnect with each other. My friends and family spend hours with me every week on the phone just listening. They demonstrate their love and concern on a daily basis. They encourage me to stay in the word and trust God. They pray for me on a regular basis. I know they are only a phone call or text message away if I need them.
When I feel lonely, I find that reading or listening to Scripture is a source of comfort to me.
Finally, let's not forget that Jesus experienced loneliness. "All the disciples forsook him and fled" (Matt 26:56). "He was despised and rejected by men" (Isa 53:3). His ultimate loneliness was when he died for you and for me. Jesus was lonely for us. If you have come to the end of your rope (and we all do eventually), turn your life over to him. Let him bear your burdens. He is the closest friend and companion we will ever have. The more we meditate on his presence, the less we will tend to be overwhelmed by the loneliness of life.
May 30, 2020
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.