Singers sing songs about it, and poets write poems about it. Doctors write prescriptions to buy drugs to combat it. It can lead to love; it can lead to depression. When you have it, you want it to go away, but you find it keeps coming back.
We're talking about loneliness.
Far too many members of God's Church have loneliness as their only constant and all too unwelcome companion. The Church of God consists of many members who live alone, not by choice, but by the circumstances of their lives.
For many people this leads to endless hours of sitting alone with only the constant annoying companion of boring television and endless commercials for various drugs we should ask our doctor about.
Loneliness is not something we can allow to dominate our lives. The affects of loneliness are not positive, wholesome, uplifting and encouraging. Instead, loneliness causes us to reflect on the self and the things that have caused us to be lonely in the first place.
How Loneliness Hurts
Before we consider the solutions, let's review what loneliness may be doing to us that is not healthy—either physically or spiritually.
Loneliness simply hurts. It's a desire for human companionship. We need someone to share our good times and bad times, and to just be there to talk to. When this is simply not available, we begin to have feelings of sadness.
Perhaps we feel no one really cares about us and the feelings we have. Why isn't anyone interested in what I am doing? Perhaps we have feelings of being worthless.
When we are alone and unable or unwilling to be out among others, this can lead to periods of inactivity where we basically shut down. We watch TV, read or just sit and stare at the four walls. When this continues day after day, we may find ourselves withdrawing from the world around us and focusing on our own cares, concerns and feelings. We can begin to fantasize about things that are not real or that have no value. We become totally wrapped up in the self.
Can we agree this is not the best situation to live in?
What Can We Do When We're Lonely?
What can we do about it? Plenty.
First, realize you are not alone. There are many other people in God's Church just like you who suffer with feelings of loneliness. You would be great friends if you only knew them, but you haven't met so many of them yet!
The key is found in something our teens and young adults have learned to do quite well. It's called "networking." Those of us who are older might call it "keeping in touch with each other." Wouldn't it be great to be able to talk to some friends in the Church with situations exactly like yours? What about going to the mailbox and finding a letter from your new Church pen pal?
And for those with real courage to learn something new, get a computer (used ones are quite reasonable) and invite a Church teenager to your home to show you how to e-mail and send and receive instant messages! The computer can lead to loads of fun and enjoyment!
Okay, if you can't be talked into using a computer, then let's revert back to something more simplistic. How about the telephone? Wouldn't it be fun to meet some other Church members who are just like you?
For example, I recently visited one of our shut-in members. I discovered she loves poetry. I know another widow in the Church who lives in another part of the country who also loves poetry. I know these two individuals would love talking to each other, even though they've never met. Likely, they will become friends and call each other often.
If you would love talking to other Church members who share your interests or just want someone new to talk to, why not ask your pastor if he could help put you in touch with someone?
Here's the point. To combat loneliness, we need to reach out to others and find ways to help someone else have a better day. If you are shut-in or live alone and face lonely days wishing you had someone to talk to—take action! You can reach out to others via the computer, the telephone or the mail.
Find new friends who just like you battle loneliness every day. Discuss things of mutual interest. Find out who is having trials in their area that you can pray for too. Send a card to someone to tell the person you are just thinking of him or her. Find a way to encourage, uplift and edify someone else who is just like you! We are all family! You are waiting for each other! UN
Ron Kelley is pastor of the Asheville, Greensboro and Hickory, North Carolina, congregations.
Loving the Homebound
The following e-mail message demonstrates the dedication and the needs of our shut-in brethren.
This is a prayerful, heartfelt message. Please forgive me if I take a bit of extra time to write. I feel it's necessary. I've asked my husband to pray along with me so I get the words and feelings expressed clearly.
My husband and I have been homebound from attending services since late June. The reason—his health challenges (two hospitalizations involved) and also my own driving limitations. He no longer drives. Living in a metropolitan area is not for the older, less agile drivers!
My hope is that you somehow will be able to wear, for a little while anyway, the challenges of those of us who are in this situation and find a way to encourage all of your aging brethren with your love and concern.
Aging challenges have truly been a great adjustment. Emotionally, I've suffered intense feelings of guilt because we aren't able to be where we've always felt God wanted us to be, a part of the physical group. His command, "Be there!" has been a part of our psyche for over 30 years. At this time, our physical weaknesses have placed us in a very challenging position.
Our hearts are still filled with desire to stay focused on God's way and continue to endure to the end! We'd hope that those of you who are still able to attend services will find a way to understand this.
Those of us dealing with this change in our lives are not dropping out just waiting to die. Although, at times [it seems] death wouldn't be such a bad thing. Pain of all kinds would be relieved. The resurrection is truly a much-looked-forward-to event! Not only for the physically challenged but most of all for the whole world. We all understand that.
We were active members, with my being the pianist for several years along with both my husband and I serving, as we were able, in other ways. After his retirement we made the decision to move to this warmer climate primarily for health reasons.
We thank you all so very much for being of assistance with MP3s, DVDs, tapes, announcements and prayers.
We do have contact with a few brethren we've met in this area. And we really appreciate their contact, as well as the budding friendships. With the challenges we've been dealing with, our homebound lifestyle is the best, at least for now.
I'm not sure just what I expect any of you to do with this message other than perhaps help and encourage others as aging challenges come to their households. We are mentally able to listen, learn and endure! Encouragement, no matter what age a member is, is definitely a plus. God loves us all and we KNOW it! The young need camps. The young adults need training to replace the older ones. And the aging need understanding.
— Jerome (Jerry) and Dara Schneider, Fort Worth, Texas
Practicing Pure Religion: What the Rest of the Congregation Can Do
James 1:27 James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
American King James Version×tells us: "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble."
What can we do to help those who are lonely?
• Identify who they are in your church area. Ask your pastor about people who live alone, and especially those who are unable to attend services.
• Introduce yourself with a card or letter. Make sure they know who you are and tell them that you care about them.
• Make a follow-up phone call. Ask how they are doing. Is there anything you could do to help them? Would they like a visit?
• If they would like you to come, actually make the visit! Get to know them. Find out about their history. Most of our elderly members have fascinating stories to tell, and we could benefit greatly from hearing them.
• Titus 2 speaks of the responsibility of our elderly members to teach the younger generation. Give them the opportunity to do that! They have so much to teach, and we have so much to learn from them.