“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed.”
–Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This is one of the hardest posts I have had to write. For one, I do not like being vulnerable. Two, it is hard to put into words what loneliness is and how to overcome it. If you are like me currently, you may feel isolated. I know these last couple of weeks have been hard for millions of Americans and billions around the world. Our daily routines are gone as we move into an isolated state. Our communities have been ripped out from underneath us. Many times it is difficult not to break down as friends share their stories about their own struggles. Friends that can’t see their family members because of distance. Friends that moved to other cities only to move back home abruptly. Friends that are canceling weddings and vacations. I know I am not the only one going through this. Our sense of community is gone. But how do we deal with this? Before I dive into loneliness, I want to let you know that it will all get better soon. It is exceptionally difficult right now, but it will get better.
What do we mean when we talk about loneliness and community? From the very beginning, it is evident that man is not meant to be alone. God created us to be in community. God tells us that it is “not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Adam had no one with him, other than God. We see that God’s intended design for His creation is that we belong in community. Loneliness occurs when community is stripped away. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defines the community of Christianity: “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.” It is because of the work Christ has done for us and in us that we are able to experience community.
How do we overcome this loneliness?
- Understand that loneliness is temporary. God brought an end to Adam’s loneliness (Genesis 2:18). Job eventually got an answer from God (Job 38). The disciples went through three days of loneliness before being reunited with the resurrected Jesus. Loneliness is going to occur in life, but it is temporary.
- Look to the Cross. Jesus experienced loneliness. He walked with his disciples for 3 years and for 3 years they told him they would never leave him (Matthew 26:35). Then when Jesus went to the cross they were nowhere to be found (John 20:19). John was the only disciple at the cross with Mary, but even then, they left and went into hiding (John 19:25-27). They left him. The two closest people to him at the moment of crucifixion were criminals. One of which repented while the other mocked him. It should have been His disciples on the cross with him (Luke 23). Jesus took the punishment we deserved (Romans 3:21-31). He then rose up out of the grave three days later and met with His disciples (John 21). Jesus not only suffered with us but He suffered for us. It is by His death we have all been healed and brought into community. This grace binds us together into a community. It may be gone for now, but it will come back.
- Pray. David voiced his displeasures throughout Psalms. Psalm 13 was my go to prayer for my first semester at seminary. I felt alone and I kept asking the Lord, “How long?” It took a couple of months for me to find my community, but I voiced my displeasures. It got them off my chest, and I know the Lord heard me. Praying through the Psalms is helpful because the Psalmists were sinners like you and me and went through a lot of the problems we have been through. When you pray, it is important to also thank the Lord for the day (Psalms 118:24). While loneliness is difficult, today has been made by the Lord. Pray for others. Just because you are not with them physically does not mean you can’t pray for them. Bring their needs to the Lord.
- Look to the ultimate future. There will be a time when all this pass and we are together with Jesus in heaven (Revelation 21). No more loneliness but community forever and ever. This is a hope that we can cling to. If it doesn’t get better in this life, in the next it will be made perfect.
May we understand that community is a gift, life is a gift, and grace is a gift.