The holidays are upon us once again! A season filled with Christmas on every hand—music and lights, gifts and family, excitement and joy.
But not for everyone.
Just as the virus is pandemic in our world, so is loneliness. Some are facing devastating personal loss, some are navigating the painful waters of bereavement. Divorce, singleness, and broken relationships all bring their own brand of desperate aloneness. Young people and children have found themselves trying to cope with new models of isolation with varying success. We’ve all heard the stories.
And if that weren’t enough, we now have masks to hide our smiles and rules to keep us safely apart. Don’t touch! Don’t get too close! Protect yourself! And sometimes we even use these as an excuse to not get into the uncomfortable world of someone else’s pain.
Jesus understands our pain
I remember a season of loneliness in my single days that threatened to undo me. I had moved to a new town, hadn’t made friends yet, and looked hopefully to my new little church to fill some of the emptiness. But week after week, people smiled, said hi—and went their way after service. I desperately wanted someone to say, “Hey, come on home with us for lunch.” But it never happened. One particular Sunday I remember crying my way through the afternoon, fairly certain I could drop dead in the church aisle and no one would even notice.
A bit dramatic, I know. But the pain was real. Eventually God brought good friends my way and life mellowed out. But it was a lesson I never wanted to forget—remember the lonely!
Jesus understood this kind of pain and went to lengths to reach out with tender love and understanding to such sufferers. He healed lepers who knew the excruciating loneliness and isolation that awful disease brought. He reached out personally to all manner of those whose conditions had plunged them into despair and hopelessness.
He charged His followers to do the same.
Jesus taught that reaching out to the lonely is tied up with our eternal inheritance in the Kingdom. He told us to bring strangers into our homes, to care for each other’s needs, and visit those in prison. When we do that, He said, we are actually doing it to Him. (Matthew 25:34-40)
Wow, what a pressing truth! We can go to church every Sunday and not see the grieving widow or struggling single, greet them with a quick “Hi, how are you?” and be on our way. What would it mean to them to take a few minutes, really find out how they are, listen, pray for them—and follow up next week? Even in a crowd, we can be lonely. The reality is, we want to be seen and known.
What can we do?
This holiday season, as never before, opportunities to reach out to the lonely are legion. How can we do a better job of that?
The ideas are endless, but it begins with awareness of those around us. We can start a conversation or make a phone call. Invite someone out to eat or to your home for a meal. Sit with them, listen with engagement and patience and heart. Introduce them to others. Include them in a family activity or service project. Follow up later or next week, let them see that someone cares.
Visit the elderly or shut-ins if it is allowed. When we're in the store or workplace, give an offer of help, or make a point to give a word of encouragement and appreciation. Those moments of personal interest might be the lifeline someone needs that day.
And, if course, pray. We are privileged to be partnering with God in His passionate concern for people. I pray He will direct and bless each of our efforts. It might be that your outreach will change a life!
(Photo by Alex Green, Pexels)