A few weeks ago I got an email inviting me to write a blog post for the Christian dating website Christian Connection. I was slightly surprised because, as you probably know, in the past couple of years I’ve been living in the joy of realising that singleness isn’t actually as awful as it’s often made out to be. At least, it’s not when you’re able to dig into Jesus and find your contentment in him. My message to those who are unhappy being single is that the only person who can complete you, fulfil you and bring you lasting joy is Jesus – not someone you meet on a dating site. So I wasn’t sure I could really write an article promoting it or talking about how to pursue romantic relationships.
I explained that, but the editor persisted, and eventually we agreed that I would write a piece on overcoming loneliness.
You can read the resulting piece on the Christian Connection blog. In it I identified three roots of loneliness: selfishness, shame and pride.
That sounds harsh, I know, but I’m not entirely blaming the singles. Sometimes these things are at least in part our fault, but if we’re believers, that means we should be part of a church, and the whole church family should be taking responsibility for ensuring its members aren’t feeling lonely. Shame and pride might hold some of us back from asking for help, but it is selfishness which stops those who are fine as we are (whether single, married or in families) from looking out for one another and making sure there is no one lonely among us.
So how do we overcome these common causes of loneliness? First and foremost we have to recognise their source. They are not just random impulses that pop out of nowhere; they are all well-concealed, wily tricks of the enemy. He is doing his utmost to prevent us from living in the kind of joyful, mutually-sacrificial, loving community God intended the church to be. The more he can stoke the fires of our selfishness, shame and pride – and build them into furnaces of loneliness, disappointment and resentment – the happier he is.
His number one goal, of course, is to pull us away from Jesus and prevent us from being effective for him, and one foolproof way of doing that is to pull us away from fellowship with others. He delights in division and loves to see the walls of self-protection creeping up around our hearts as we draw away from the very people who are meant to be our protection against his schemes, because we fear they might hurt us, reject us, or cost us too much. The further we get from the centre of the flock, the easier it is for him – the prowling lion – to pick us off and tear us to pieces.
The solution is to dig in. And for the whole flock – the whole church community – to dig in, too. Jesus calls us to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34) – selflessly, courageously and humbly.
He is our great example. Let us confess our sin, receive his forgiveness and – in his strength – love our neighbours as ourselves.