Loneliness is now an epidemic in our nation. We’ve never been more connected in this world of social media, but the truth is, most of us feel more disconnected and more isolated than ever. We live in a world where it’s easy not to really see one another. When we know people, we so often only see what others choose to show us, and even then, we’re still none the wiser about what is really going on inside.
This year, the BBC conducted a Loneliness Experience survey, with 55,000 people from around the world taking part. The results were staggering. There were high rates of loneliness, especially in young people and those approaching middle age. It’s not that people don’t have friends, but many feel a lack of a deeper connection.
What about you? Do you know people whom you can truly open up to? Do you have friends you can call when you’re having a bad day who will help you and bring balance and wisdom into your life?
For many years, I did not. In truth, it was because I really didn’t trust people. Let’s be honest; no one’s perfect. We all know that, eventually, even the best of friends will disappoint or let you down. I used this as a reason to avoid letting people close, a self-protection mechanism I learned from a very young age. The trouble is, this causes isolation, which leads to loneliness, and you and I were never designed for isolation. So what we think is self-protection becomes a form of emotional self-harm.
My isolation began to change when, at age 19, I discovered that Jesus was real – not just a person from history, not a fictional character, not a crutch people use to get through life, but real! I grew up in a family that had no time for faith or church and definitely no time for God. We never spoke about Him or the church. I knew nothing about God and would have declared myself an atheist if you’d asked me.
But one morning, in July 1989, I went to a local church for the first time. I felt God’s presence, and I was totally changed, from the inside out. I felt loved, understood, made new, forgiven. I connected with the One who needed no words but knew all things.
That was 29 years ago, and I can honestly tell you that Jesus has been with me ALL the time. He is FOR me, and He helps me. He helped me to lower my walls, to take down my barriers one brick at a time sometimes. He also enabled me to be kinder to others, to lower my way-too-high expectations of others and accept people, flaws and all.
Maybe you’re reading this, and you know you lack the deep connection you’re seeking. Let me really encourage you that it starts with a simple prayer to the One who knows you better than you know yourself. Go to a great local church; Google one in your area. There are all types and all sizes, and they’re filled with imperfect people just like you and me but who, once full of fear and trembling, took a step into an unknown community, into a church service and sat at the back. And slowly, they grew real friendships, deep connections that have nothing to do with physical DNA and everything to do with authenticity. Don’t be part of the epidemic. Decide to bring change. Life is too short to live it alone.