Shutting the Door on Loneliness

Loneliness is company none of us wish to keep, but it does pay us unwelcome visits on occasion.  When it arrives, we wish we could just shut the door.  Does God offer any hope for lonely people?  For people who struggle to find love, or who've lost their love.

I believe there are far more lonely people than most of us realize.
I know lonely folks who frequent social clubs, enjoy their kids, appear
to be successful at work, and even attend a place of worship.  I know
some who are single, some who are married, some who are popular and
some who are unknown.

Loneliness can knock on anyone's door.  How about yours?

Diagnosing loneliness is mostly a personal affair, so you have to
ask yourself some honest questions.  Do you genuinely care for other
people?  Is your life focused mostly on the success and pleasure of
others?  Do you feel a willingness to sacrifice your own well-being for
others?  Do you purposely seek to meet people's needs, even when
there's nothing in it for you?

If not, you are either lonely or headed in that direction.

You see, long-term loneliness isn't a matter of not knowing people
to befriend, it's an attitude issue.  If you're living for yourself, if
other people are just a means to your end of personal happiness, then
even if you are married, popular, outgoing, and talented, your life
will feel empty.

Throw your life into caring about others, seeking their highest
good, and using your abilities to make the world a better place.
People with this attitude rarely have trouble finding friends.

I don't mean to infer that all people who feel lonely today are
self-absorbed.  Some people experience loneliness after a tragic loss,
pain that can only be healed through time and God's love.  I would
suggest, however, that the way to shut the door on long-term loneliness
is to insure that you never allow life to become you-centered. 

So if I'm lonely, what should I do?

1. Develop a secret life. Jesus talked about the secret life
in Matthew 6, describing how generosity and prayer should be done for
the honor of God, not our own honor.  It might seem counterintuitive to
suggest secrecy to combat loneliness.  But consider, a relationship
with God is the foundation of a well-balanced life.  Without it,
everything else will be empty.

2. Pursue friendships. As the old proverbs says, "A man who
has friends must show himself friendly."  What's stopping you from
being the one who invites people over?  Or asking a few people from
church to go to lunch?  Or taking pies to your neighbors, just to wish
them a happy day?  Develop a warm handshake and look people in the eye
when you greet them.  Care to remember their names and look for ways
you can be a blessing in their lives.  Friendship takes work, and a bit
of patience, to develop.

3.  Look for service opportunities.  Did you know that doing
"good works" with others is one of the best ways to develop great
friendships?  There's something about serving the needy, cleaning the
church, going on an overseas missions trip or helping on a ministry
team that bonds people together in a special way.  How better to
practice an others-centered lifestyle?  The more you allow yourself to
get involved in serving others, the less lonely you'll be. 

If you're one of those "I have everything and I'm still lonely"
types, remember this simple formula: "Life isn't about me."  Make that
your mantra, and ask God to help you discover its implications, and it
won't be long before there's no room in your life for loneliness.

Dan originally wrote this article for publication in the Marco Island Sun Times.


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