Unafraid: Friendless and Alone
The great poet John Dunn, in one of his great poems, wrote;
No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee
In this poem, John Donne explores the idea of the connectedness of people. People are not isolated islands. We are all a part of a larger thing, and if one person dies or if one person hurts, everyone is affected.
Yet for many of us that connection is lost and we find ourselves feeling alone and friendless.
Such loneliness at times leaves us feeling as if we were in isolation, feeling that we have no real companions with whom to share our life. It’s not the same as solitude. Let me make this important distinction.
We all need alone time.…But though we need alone time, we are also wired as human beings for companionship, for someone to share our lives with, to talk to, to listen to, someone who cares about us and enjoys being with us.
In the first creation narrative, in Genesis 1, God creates our whole world. Genesis notes, after each day, “God saw that it was good.” At the end of chapter one we read, “God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.” But in the second creation narrative, in Genesis 2 and 3, God places the first human in the Garden of Eden. Then for the first time God said something was not good: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It’s NOT GOOD that man should be alone.’” God’s response was to create woman.
So, we discover from the Creation stories that God desired His creation to be in relationship with one another.
Sadly, for so many people those important bonds have been broken.
We all know loneliness from time to time. But some experience a fear of being alone, and of being unloved. We think that the worst is going to happen. We tell ourselves things like, “No one likes me, and no one will ever like me. I’m too dumb, I’m too fat, I’m not likeable. I am not handsome or pretty enough, I have become to old.” This turns into, “I am lonely now, I’m going to be alone forever, and I’ll grow old and die alone”.
I have to admit that this is one of my greatest fears.
Yes, loneliness is a part of life. It usually passes. But chronic loneliness, anxiety, and depression can have serious emotional and physical consequences. One study in Great Britain said that long term loneliness has the same impact on physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In Great Britain and America researchers are now speaking of an “epidemic of loneliness.”
There are important steps we can take to help us during those times of emotion hurt and brokenness. Like with any illness, whether physical or emotional, we need to see a doctor to help us in our journey of healing. Therapists invite patients to pay carefully attention to negative thoughts, to question their validity and to test if the assumptions were really accurate before jumping to conclusions. To practice assuming the best instead of the worst.
These interactions with a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or pastor can have positive results in one’s healing. So, with that said, there is another important step in this journey. And that reality is God.
In God we are never alone. We were created for relationship with God. You were made to love and be loved by God. There is a quote from St. Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” The deep longing in our hearts is in part a longing for companionship with God and others.
Study after study has found that people who have faith, who are involved in their church, synagogue, or place of worship, who have relationships with each other, and are involved in serving others are happier and less lonely, healthier and live longer than those who are not. This is what church means. Yes, we hold worship services. But more than worship, it is Christian community. It includes volunteering together, growing together, participating in classes, small groups, support groups, youth group, God school and missions. In all of these areas we love one another, bear one another’s burdens, and are the body of Christ.
It is not good for man to be alone. God made not only companions, but the church so that we can discover the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ in our midst.
As Christians we speak of our “personal relationship with Jesus,” of having a friendship with Christ. For us Jesus embodies God. He is God with us, and we, in our relationship with him, share in a relationship with God.
Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:15: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends”
To live a spiritual God centered life means, in large measure, redirecting your imagination from thinking no one could love you and you’ll always be alone, to imagining that you are loved so much that God in Jesus would die for you, and that God is with you always. Even to the end of the age.
The fantastic aspect of this relationship is that you can talk with him, listen for him, pour out your heart to him. I love how the Psalmist’s paints this picture of God in Psalm 139:
“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me…
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”
Instead of using our imagination to imagine that no one will ever be our friend and we will always be alone, we use our imagination to picture Christ by our side. We speak to him. We read Scripture and listen for him. We remember how he said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Generations ago families used to set an extra place setting at their table and pray, “Be present at our table, Lord and be our guest.”
When you fully grasp the truth of the gospel, you know that you are never alone and never unloved. You are loved with a love that will not let you go. God says to you, “I know you. I know you better than you know you. I know every cruddy thing you ever did—and I love you more than anyone else ever could.”
Let my close with these powerful words from Brennan Manning;
“Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be.”
― Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
Never forget that you are connected and loved beyond your wildest imagination.