Overcoming Loneliness, Part I
"The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'"1
"I'm all alone in the universe. No one really knows me. No one really cares. God—if there is one—is far away. He got tired of the world and moved away. I looked in the mirror today and saw the real me—one hideous scar, an open sore. I'm going to sleep."
These were the words of a brilliant student at a large, well-known university. He was one of the most promising students there. He was exceptionally gifted, handsome, athletic, and popular, and he was headed for an outstanding career in medicine. In spite of all this, he was still a very lonely young man. After writing the above note, he injected poison into his veins and died.
Loneliness, like depression, is one of the plagues of contemporary society. Few escape it altogether. In its chronic form it is a killer. When we were still printing ACTS Encounter brochures, "Overcoming Loneliness," from which this series is taken, was one of the most requested pamphlets people requested.
Time magazine reported some years ago that health studies have long shown that unmarried or widowed people are much more susceptible to sickness than married people. For instance, the death rate from heart disease is five times as high among widows between 25 and 34 as it is among married women of the same age. And the divorced of all ages are twice as susceptible to strokes as are the married.2 I would expect that little has changed since this article was first written.
James J. Lynch, when he was a specialist in psychosomatic medicine at the University of Maryland Medical School, and author of The Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness, claimed that suicide, cancer, tuberculosis, accidents, mental disorders, and especially heart disease are "all significantly influenced by human companionship."
In other words, "loneliness and isolation can literally break your heart." Loneliness is a feeling of not being able to reach another person and his not being able to reach you. It is a feeling of being isolated even though you may be surrounded by people.
Henri Nouwen expressed it this way: the lonely person "cannot make contact; his hand closes on empty air."
To be continued ...
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, when I am feeling lonely help me to see if the cause lies within myself and, if so, to seek the help I need to overcome this problem. Also, help me not to withdraw into myself but reach out to others and lend a helping hand to a brother or sister who is lonely too. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Genesis 2:18 (NIV).
2. Time, Sept. 5, 1977.