Only the Lonely
'Tis the hap, hap, happiest time of the year, so the seasonal song lyric announces. But, millions of family members, friends, neighbors, and people in the next pew endure waves of depression and personal stress during the holiday season. Carolers, lights, brilliant colors, presents under the tree, and other holiday scenery are a thin veneer over the heartache and melancholy deep in the soul. And, of course, this seasonal slump isn't about the spiritual backdrop of our annual Christmas celebration. The birth of Christ is eternal Good News and the downer of the holidays is rarely attributed to religious beliefs. More, the holiday blues are about abiding grief, financial pressures, broken dreams, relational dysfunction, health issues, exhaustion, and pages of human bullet points. Oh, yes, and loneliness. The Christmas season is a hard time to be alone.
And, many of us live alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 35.7 million Americans live in single occupant residences, 28% of all households. The data fine-tuning identifies citizens over age 60 as the central population of being home alone. Under the senior adult years every age group reports steady numbers of people without partners in living arrangements. And, Christmas is essentially family time, or at the least, group time. Being alone through the holidays is the seed-bed of loneliness, a depressive state that fuels emotional strain, spiritual questioning, and physical impairment. Truly, living alone doesn't automatically trigger the emotional discord of loneliness. Who of us doesn't desire an occasional or temporary escape from the other people? We enter the sad distraction of loneliness when we perceive the need for social interaction or connection and there is none. Individuals surrounded by people can be lonely because the social connection goes lacking.
Our Christian worldview counsels loneliness in several directions---
1. Theologically, Christians are never alone.
Our faith affirms God's promised Presence. Jesus said, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28: 20, ESV). The truth that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5, ESV) insures his presence in every life circumstance.
2. Scripture advises our involvement with other believers.
Encouraging one another is one of the fifty two Bible verses with counsel for our interaction with other believers. One of my favorite Scriptures in this regard is Hebrews 10: 23-25 (ESV): "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near". Meeting together in the fellowship of faith gives us contact with other humans who usually understand the the various hardships of life.
3. Scripture commands our care for the lonely.
As mentioned so often, there are many Scriptures with direction for our interaction with "one another", other believers of faith. There are also biblical ideals about our treatment with people outside the family of faith. We should be aware of the lonely people in our circle of influence and bring these Scriptural ideals to them. You know, greeting one another, bearing with one another, showing kindness and gentleness to everyone, seeking the good of everyone, and displaying the mind of Christ to all people, especially those experiencing special circumstances. A little sensitivity during the holidays may be the blessing of fellowship to a lonely person.
It was a love song from years past, Only the Lonely, covered by Roy Orbison. But, it said something more than the loss of a love. One stanza was, "Only the lonely, Know the way I feel tonight, Only the lonely, Know this feeling ain't right". My point, Only the Lonely know the desperation of emotional solitude. You and I should reach out to them with words of grace and concern.
Only the lonely.