We crave connection and to be understood. It starts when we connect with our mothers the moment we’re held for the very first time. This gives acceptance, love and security. When illness happens though, we sense the lack of understanding by others so this connection
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem to be important to you.“ C.G Jung
We also feel different because we can no longer join in with ‘life’; the activities we once enjoyed with others have now stopped and it feels like the whole world is going on without us.
Imagine the guy at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5) He laid there for 38 years. Wow! Watching the world go by. Not working, no family, maybe no friends; surely he must have felt lonely?! But thank goodness for Jesus!
Or the leper who approached Jesus. He was ill for many years, existing in a leper colony, away from family and friends. This is loneliness in the extreme.
I believe this one encounter healed more than just the leper’s physical condition, but the separation and loneliness the illness had caused him in the first place. The touch of Jesus was the answer!
“Loneliness and the feeling of being uncared for and unwanted are the greatest poverty“ Mother Teresa
Q. In what ways can you relate to the leper or paralyzed man? What does this tell us about the answer to a lonely heart?
Unfortunately one of the saddest factors I’ve seen is those people who choose to withdraw from life because of their physical (or emotional) affliction. Unconsciously they feel fear. Fear that people don’t understand resulting in rejection, fear that they’ll feel worse, fear that being with others will emphasise their internal hurts…and so on. They then separate themselves from others so they don’t feel alone in the crowd. I have seen this even in the church, (yet the unwell need to be in church more than anyone else!!) Human nature is to protect ourselves but Isolation is never a strategy! We heal when we’re in relationship with others no matter how uncomfortable.
“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges” Joseph Newton
There is nothing the enemy wants more than to isolate us from other people. If you’ve ever watched a shark movie, you’ll know that the shark always aims for the lone seal, or surfer! Remember the most demonised man in the Bible? He was all alone!
Q In what ways have you chosen to push people away by creating a “self v’s them” type mindset? How can you challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone?
What’s scary to me, is that the isolation we feel can often be caused because we hate the way our life has become. before the illness started. We reject it causing us to feel isolated from ourselves. We project this out onto the rest of the world and use the illness as the ‘excuse’.
What we often don’t realise is that loneliness even causes us to be sick!!! According to the Journal Perspectives On Psychology feeling lonely on a daily basis can shorten your lifespan by 26%!
“Isolation is linked to a number of dysfunctional immune responses and increased blood pressure…..Lonely people produce more inflammation-related proteins in response to stress….which are associated with numerous conditions including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.” Caroline Leaf
We see in Scripture that God sent Moses to deliver the people from Egypt but they just didn’t grasp
“Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.” Acts 7:25
Moses wanted and expected people to understand but was disappointed. His expectations were way too high. Can you relate? I’ve learned that the most pastoral of people rarely possess empathy as it’s such an advanced skill.
Q. Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s lack of empathy? What was the result? In what way were your expectations involved?
So what can we do about this?
When Jesus walked upon earth, he was the only person who was sinless surrounded by a world of sinful people. How isolating! What do you suppose his friends thought of this? I imagine this caused him great anguish at times, especially throughout the teenage years where his friends and siblings would be getting up to mischief! No-one could identify with him. He must have felt so different, I’m sure even his own parents failed to understand him from time to time. Few people believed he was the son of God, even his own brothers (John 7:5)
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Is 53:3
His own people rejected him, his friends who couldn’t even pray for him let him down whilst he’s in absolute turmoil. Judas betrayed him and one of his best friends even denied him.
Everyone rejected Jesus as they jeered and mocked during the crucifixion. Even God, his loving Father turned his back on him.
“Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Matt 27: 46 MSG
How can our great high priest not understand our loneliness? Jesus went through extreme desertion so you and I would have connection and approval; He overcame loneliness so we would also have victory over it. What a comfort! What a friend!
So if you feel no-one understands your pain and isolation, talk to the only one who does. This then releases us from the hurt and disappointment we experience when we expect this from
There are a few practical steps were can put in place to help us whilst we overcome the loneliness illness may have caused:
- Serve in church (Yes, even if the pain riddles you, you can still serve despite your suffering. Taking your eyes off yourself and onto others is a great distraction from self-absorption and you’ll make new connections as well)
- Be the answer to someone else’s loneliness. “When you reach out in your own state of loneliness it increases your longevity and reduces blood pressure” Caroline Leaf
- Work out where you have been avoiding or building bridges. Start making steps to restore this by increasing your social contacts. Call a friend and invite them for a coffee…….
- When someone deserts you because they don’t understand you can no longer keep up with them, ask God to replace those people with better friends!
Finally, I’ll leave you with the best verse in the Bible to combat loneliness.
I hope this has helped you today. Have a great week.