Do you ever feel lonely? I do. And if you do too, you’re not alone:
“We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic,” Harvard Business Review
In 2017, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy described loneliness as an epidemic and a public health concern. In an interview with the Washington Post, Murthy said that loneliness is associated with many physical and emotional health problems, such as:
- a reduction in life span, similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- greater risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety, and dementia
- reductions in task performance
limited creativity at work
- impaired aspects of executive function, such as decision-making
Loneliness is a serious issue and, as Murthy points out in his interview, one that often goes undetected or misdiagnosed.
The good thing is, God gives us solutions for loneliness. He doesn’t want us to live lonely lives:
“He makes a home for those who are alone. He frees the prisoners and leads them to prosper…”
Psalm 68:6 – The Voice
The Book of Acts paints a picture of the Christian life as one that is anything but lonely. The early disciples lived lives that were joyfully and deeply “together”:
“All the believers were together and shared everything.  They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it.  The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.  They praised God and were liked by all the people. Every day the Lord added those who were being saved to the group of believers.”
Acts 2:44-47 NCV
“That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.”
Acts 2:41 – The Message
“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer…”
Acts 3:1 – 21st Century King James Version
“When he realized what had happened, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, who was also called Mark, where many [believers] were gathered together and were praying continually [and had been praying all night].”
Acts 12:12 – Amplified Bible
In these passages, we see the word “together” a lot. These early Christians looked out for each other’s needs. They hung out every day. They prayed together. They helped each other’s faith. People liked them. Their lives seemed happy and connected. It’s no wonder people wanted to join their number.
The disciples in the Bible made it a priority to spend time together. I’ve tried many times to justify my life not matching these verses by telling myself maybe it was easier to spend time together back in that day. But the truth is, I’m sure they all had other places they could be and other things to do, just like we do. They prioritized being together.
Yet many of us today, even as Christians, live isolated lives. I know I am guilty of this. When I feel overwhelmed, I don’t like to tell anyone or be around anyone. I don’t like to admit I need help. As a result, I retreat instead of reaching out at the very moment I need my friends the most.
Can you relate? Choices like this will make us feel lonely, and our faith and physical and emotional health will suffer.
God can help us beat the loneliness epidemic; our lives can match the inspiration and togetherness of the folks in Acts 2, and here’s how.
Symptoms of loneliness
Before you can beat loneliness, you have to identify it in your life. Have you been suffering from any of these common symptoms of loneliness?
#1 Overworked and unsatisfied
“Here is one alone–no one with him; he neither has child nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labor, neither is his eye satisfied with riches, neither does he ask, For whom do I labor and deprive myself of good? This is also vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility); yes, it is a painful effort and an unhappy business.”
Ecclesiastes 4:8 – Amplified Bible Classic
According to this verse, someone who is alone will feel overworked and unsatisfied.
I tend to choose to “labor to no end” to get rid of any painful feelings I feel inside. I usually think working hard will make me feel successful, or will take away any anxiety or insecurity I feel. But from this verse, I learn that laboring alone will never make me feel satisfied.
Do you feel like there is “no end to all your labor”? Do you feel like your work is painful and unhappy? The problem may not actually be your job. The problem may be that you are feeling alone.
#2 Can’t bounce back from troubles
“If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.”
Ecclesiastes 4:10 – New Century Version
We all “fall” at times – in our faith, in school, in our marriages, in our health, in our job, in our parenting, or in other areas of our lives. But when you fall while you’re alone, it will be much harder to get back up. Have you been having a hard time bouncing back from something? What do you think that says about how much you are letting your friends help you?
#3 Overly reliant on your physical family
“Don’t forget your friend or your parent’s friend. Don’t always go to your family for help when trouble comes. A neighbor close by is better than a family far away.”
Proverbs 27:10 – New Century Version
Do you always go to your family when you need help? Physical family is important, because (most of the time) they are bonded to us no matter what happens.
But if your physical family is your primary solution in a time of difficulty, it may reveal that you need better friendships. Physical family can’t always meet all your needs, especially if they live far away. According to this verse, we need friends too.
“You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9 – Contemporary English Version
Friends help you enjoy life, no matter your circumstances. If you are feeling unhappy with your circumstances, ask yourself – am I trying to handle things alone?
Causes of loneliness
Retreating instead of reaching out
I think one of the biggest causes of loneliness is retreating from our friends when we need them most. I see this a lot in my own life; when I am overwhelmed, exhausted, or discouraged I tend to retreat instead of reach out. I feel embarrassed that I can’t handle the burdens in my life and I don’t like people seeing me “weak.”
Some friends shared this scripture with me recently, as I was feeling discouraged, stressed and overwhelmed:
“But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.”
1 John 1:7 TLB
They pointed out that according to the Bible, light brings wonderful fellowship (friendship) and joy. If I am not experiencing those things, I need to look at what areas of my life I’m not putting into the light. Am I letting God and others know how I am really doing? What I feel guilty about or ashamed of? How much faith I really have?
I tend to think that covering up areas of weakness will make me feel more secure, but God says the opposite is true.
The Scriptures teach again and again that spiritual relationships are actually a very important way God comforts, encourages, and renews us, especially in our times of weakness, guilt, discouragement, and need:
“May the Lord bless Onesiphorus and all his family because he visited me and encouraged me often. His visits revived me like a breath of fresh air…”
2 Timothy 1:16 TLB
“But God, who comforts and encourages the depressed and the disquieted, comforted us by the arrival of Titus.”
2 Corinthians 7:6 – Amplified Bible
“All this encourages us. We were also very glad to see how happy Titus was. You have all renewed his spirit.”
2 Corinthians 7:13 – New International Reader’s Version
When you are overwhelmed, discouraged, or burned out, do you tend to retreat or reach out? Do you tend to:
- draw closer to your spiritual friends or farther away?
- make more time to connect with your friends on the phone, or tell yourself that you are too busy?
- make more effort to get to church events so that you can see your spiritual friends, or start cutting these events out of your schedule?
God works through spiritual relationships to encourage us. When we retreat from God or our friends to handle life, we are revealing that we think we can handle life alone. The Bible calls this attitude “arrogance”:
“Love GOD, all you saints; GOD takes care of all who stay close to him, But he pays back in full those arrogant enough to go it alone.”
Psalm 31:23 – The Message
If you make decisions to retreat when you really need help, you will end up feeling alone and you will miss out on the care God wants to give you.
Solutions for loneliness
“The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them.  But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death.”
2 Timothy 4:16-17 NLT
In this passage, Paul describes a time in his life when everyone abandoned him. But he knew he wasn’t alone; God stood with him.
One of the most powerful solutions to loneliness is building a close, personal friendship with God. He goes with you everywhere you go. Even if the people around you let you down, you never have to feel alone. You will actually be able to be merciful with those people who abandoned you like Paul was in these verses.
If you would like help building this kind of personal friendship with God for yourself, get connected with one of our ministries near you or check out our recent set of podcasts and devotionals about overcoming insecurity.
The Bible also gives us tons of practical ways to be a good friend. Practicing being a good friend helps us beat loneliness by focusing us on others instead of ourselves. Many times in my life I’ve felt lonely because I was too focused on myself – what I felt, what I was going through, and what I worried people were thinking of me. Self-focused thoughts and fears leave us no room to think about anyone else and leave us feeling more alone.
Here are some scriptures that describe how to be a good friend:
- Be humble – Good people take advice from their friends, but an evil person is easily led to do wrong. (Proverbs 12:26 NCV)
- Stick with people in their bitter moments -The person who shuns the bitter moments of friends will be an outsider at their celebrations. (Proverbs 14:10 – The Message)
- Smile! A friendly smile makes you happy, and good news makes you feel strong. (Proverbs 15:30 – CEV)
- Say kind words -Whoever loves pure thoughts and kind words will have even the king as a friend. (Proverbs 22:11 – NCV)
- Be honest – Giving an honest answer is a sign of true friendship. (Proverbs 24:26 – CEV)
- Help during times of trouble -A friend you can’t trust in times of trouble is like having a toothache or a sore foot. (Proverbs 25:19 – CEV)
- Be reliable – Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat-refreshing! (Proverbs 25:13 – The Message)
- Love during good and bad times – A friend loves you all the time, and a brother helps in time of trouble. (Proverbs 17:17 – NCV)
Which of these aspects of friendship are you strong at? Which of them do you need to work on? Pick one or two to practice this week. Start applying some of this Biblical wisdom to your relationships and see how it changes your relationships and beats loneliness out of your life!