Lonely Christians Can Fight Back Against the Darkness
Five practical steps from a pastor can help the faithful overcome the awful feelings of being disconnected and alone
Not long ago I met with a Christian friend who is battling Lyme disease. He and his wife own a small farm, a beautiful, little piece of heaven on Earth. A few years back while he was working his land, my friend was bitten by infected ticks that transmitted the disease to him.
My friend maintains a positive attitude about his health challenges, but he reminds me that the struggle is ongoing. Battling daily, he fights back with prescription drugs, diet, rest, and good doctoring.
In a recent LifeZette article, I wrote how loneliness is a silent killer in many of our local churches. Though our Sunday services are full of life and joy, there are still many Christians present who feel alone and disconnected. As Christians, we have a responsibility to view them with compassion, engage them with love, and seek to transform their loneliness into renewed joy in Christ.
But thinking about those lonely Christians, what personal responsibility do they bear? What proactive steps can they take to overcome their loneliness when they are removed from the blessings of Sunday fellowship?
Just like my friend with Lyme disease, Christians who struggle with loneliness need to learn how to “fight back” with effective strategies that can drive the dark clouds away.
Are you a lonely person? Do you find yourself feeling isolated and disconnected? Consider these five strategies for overcoming loneliness:
1.) Enrich your relationship with Christ. The most important relationship you need to develop is your relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a tremendous blessing to have friends in this life, but even the most faithful friends (Christian ones, too) will fall short, bow out, or leave you hanging.
This is why you must enrich your relationship with Jesus Christ through a regular devotional life that includes Bible study and prayer. Jesus is the one friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). Seek to know Him above all others.
2.) Stay active in your local church. Every church is by nature a community of believers. If you struggle with loneliness, don’t miss out on the tremendous opportunities that exist for friendship right inside your own church (Heb. 10:25).
Attend worship weekly. Plug into an adult class or Bible study. Join a small group. Sing in the choir. Participate in women’s or men’s ministries. Be present for fellowship meals, concerts, outreaches, or other church-wide events. Make genuine investments in your church community — and you will begin to experience the joyful returns of Christian fellowship.
3.) Be proactive in developing friendships. The farmer who wants a massive potato harvest begins by planting pounds and pounds of potatoes. The point is, fruitful friendships must be intentionally cultivated. Be proactive in developing relationships, not only with Christians, but also with other people outside your local church: a neighbor, a co-worker, or that other mom who walks the treadmill next to you at the gym. Who knows what kind of lasting friendships or gospel-sharing opportunities might come through a cup of coffee or a backyard cookout?
4.) Be socially savvy. If you want to enjoy a successful get-together, be specific. Give your friends the exact time, place, and potential cost of the get-together. Tell them the plan so they can plan. Secondly, never invite just one person. Instead, always invite two or three people — that way if one person is forced to cancel, the get-together is still on. Next, plan an activity where you and your new friends can talk, laugh and mingle. How about bowling, a painting class, target-shooting, shoe-shopping, or even coffee-tasting at Starbucks? You get the idea. Finally, put your social savviness into action by offering to drive, or paying someone else’s way.
You can’t possibly measure up to all those people populating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — so stop trying. Forsake jealousy and choose gratitude instead.
5.) Avoid jealousy of other people’s social lives. Social media are tremendous for the way they maintain our connections with friends near and far. But they can also create jealousy, as we read about others’ social lives and experiences. If you allow envy of other people’s social lives to fester, your loneliness and discontent will be magnified. Instead of treading that path, give thanks to God for the positive friendships and blessings you presently enjoy.
You can’t possibly measure up to all those people populating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so stop trying. Forsake jealousy, and choose gratitude instead (1 Thess. 5:18).
The last time I visited with my farming friend, we had a tremendous time. I love hearing about his agricultural adventures. But I especially wanted to hear how he is doing in his battle against Lyme disease. He is one of millions engaged in this war for the bloodstream. He is hopeful that very soon the disease will be eradicated from his body. But until then, he fights.
In a similar way, millions of people face a daily battle against loneliness — and that includes many Christians. While the church has a responsibility to show grace and love to these saints in the shadows, these lonely Christians must also embrace their responsibility to stand up and fight for joy. Loneliness doesn’t have to be the dominating force of their souls, because Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He is Lord over sin. Lord over death. Lord over all human feelings. By His grace, lonely Christians must fight. By His grace, they can win.
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 18 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.