Something worse than COVID-19 has been stalking us, but it’s not caught from other people. Others are actually the cure.
The last two years of masking, social distancing and isolation has proved to us that we were made for relationships. A lack of connecting with others is killing us.
“Loneliness is deadlier than obesity and should be considered a public health risk,” according to an August 17, 2017 New York Post piece. “Those with bad social connections have a 50 percent increased risk of early death compared to those with good social connections, a review of studies on loneliness suggests.”
Loneliness and isolation not only contribute to poor physical health but also take their toll on our mental health too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact, while social isolation is a lack of social connections. In addition to myriad physical problems, loneliness also increases depression, anxiety and suicide (see https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html).
We were not created to do life by ourselves. In the creation account in Genesis, the Lord said, “it is not good that man should be alone.” From the beginning, man needed relationships.
Too often, though, we substitute things for people, spending too much time in the accumulation of stuff at the expense of our relationships, especially with God. But if that relationship isn’t where it needs to be, then our other human connections will suffer, to our detriment.
Jesus was asked by the religious leaders of the day what the greatest commandment in the law was. He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments,” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).
We can only have real and lasting relationships if we are reconciled to God, through Christ, first, then true fellowship can happen. Does that mean we will never experience loneliness again? Absolutely not, but we must make the effort, for ourselves and others, to not stay there when those periods of loneliness come. Press in to the Lord, find refreshing there first. Healthy relationships with others flow from that.
We also gain the impetus to seek out those who need friendship and fellowship in their lives too. And not only will they experience the joy of human connection, but they will also be exposed to the ultimate giver of life, Jesus.
We will never ‘program’ away people’s loneliness, only real relationships will do that. And the believer in Christ knows the giver of real relationships.