At Gateway, we are in a series I've titled "Friends." I am told that we in Western society are more connected than ever through social media; we are more connected yet more isolated than ever before. One college dean when asked, "What is the biggest problem among the students at this institution?" replied, "Loneliness."
In the book, "The Soul Care Bible," edited by Timothy Clinton, Miriam Stark Parent, says, "From the moment of birth, humans seek attachment and connections. Without attachment or relationship, infants will fail to thrive. Without a feeling of connectedness, adults may yield to depression. Because God created people in His image, He made them relational. When God saw Adam alone in the Garden of Eden He said being alone was 'not good' (Genesis 2:18).
"Despite His own presence and relationship with Adam, God knew people also need human relationships. Human beings need both vertical intimacy (with God) and horizontal intimacy (with people) in order to be fulfilled."
There are different forms and causes for loneliness. When we are isolated from physical contact with others, we struggle with situational loneliness.
This is a growing problem in our highly mobile society. Jobs move people away from family and friends, and although our new surroundings offer opportunities for new connections, often people fail to make those connections. We pine for those we left and find ourselves struggling with situational loneliness.
A second form of loneliness is emotional loneliness. This is a loneliness that comes from feeling that we are close to no one.
Recently, I was in a situation where I heard a woman comment that though she was highly involved in an organization, and had been for years, she had "no friends" there. This individual is an outgoing, friendly person with a great personality, a person with many connections; but she feels lonely because she doesn't feel emotionally close to anyone in her circle.
Chronic loneliness comes from feeling that you don't belong, that no one understands you.
It is this destructive feeling that leads many to suicide and I think can be found at the core of many of the mass murders we are hearing about today. The person suffering from chronic loneliness is desperate for attention and often seeks it in negative ways.
There is another form of loneliness that we don't often think about. I call it cosmic loneliness -- it is a loneliness for God. Here's what I know both from personal experience and from years of observation and discussion with others: as long as my relationship with God is broken or flawed, my relationship with everyone else is going to also be broken or flawed.
For many years in my life, when my relationship with God was questionable, I discovered that I didn't even like myself very much. Since I didn't like myself, I assumed no one else could like me.
Some of you are old enough to recall the Simon and Garfunkel song "I Am A Rock," in which they graphically describe the process of a person successfully walling themselves off from others in their attempt to protect themselves.
Why? Because if a person doesn't like themselves they are going to keep others at a distance; they become the rock and the island of that song and try to convince themselves that "the rock feels no pain and an island never cries."
Maybe that describes you. You can hide from people and you may even hide from yourself somewhat successfully, but you can't hide from God. He knows you inside and out. He knows your good points, and He knows the deep dark secrets that no one else knows about. And knowing all of that, He still loves you and He still accepts you.
When you resolve the vertical loneliness you feel by coming into proper relationship with God, then you can begin to find the strength you need to resolve the horizontal loneliness that you feel. Get connected.
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.