The Loneliness Epidemic
Another great article to add more conversation on loneliness. This article on on Today’s Christian Woman’s website. You mighty need to get an account to read it for free.
Although loneliness is something the vast majority of people wrestle with, hardly anyone wants to openly address it, says John Ortberg, a Christian author, and pastor of the multi-site Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in the San Francisco Bay Area. “People will readily acknowledge being too busy because that makes them sound important,” he says. “But to say ‘I’m lonely’ is kind of like saying ‘I’m a loser,’ and nobody’s going to like a loser.”
Ortberg himself admits to having struggled with a deep, secret loneliness in his earlier years as a pastor. “It’s easy to hide and project an image, and pastoral ministry can sometimes actually reinforce that tendency and reward it if it’s done well,” he says. “What that leaves starved is the desire inside the soul to be fully known. And I can only be fully loved if somebody fully knows me. The degree to which I’ve felt unknown and unloved is the degree to which I have felt lonely.”
The holidays in particular can increase this sense of shame, Kinder says. “There’s so much stress and pressure about what we think Christmas should look like. Whether we’re part of the perfect Hallmark family, or have lots of gifts under the tree, or take the perfect vacation. We believe we’re not okay if we’re not having the experiences everyone else seems to be having.”
Ortberg believes one of the most effective cures for the drain that comes from a hurried, frantic pace in this technological age is to set aside regular periods of time to spend in solitude—an idea that, at first blush, people struggling with loneliness might fear will exacerbate their feeling of isolation.
“Ironically, one of the things you discover in solitude is that you’re not alone,” Ortberg asserts. “A big difference between Jesus and most folks in our day is Jesus was often alone but never lonely. We are often lonely but hardly ever truly alone.
“A lot of people wonder what they’re supposed to do in a period of solitude,” he continues. “The main point isn’t what to do, but what not to do. We don’t hurry or try to produce. Our bodies and minds realize we still have worth as human beings when we’re not doing anything, and we realize that God and the world get along okay without our striving. We begin to realize how much of our ‘to-do’ list is about our ego more than anything else. Eventually, our souls begin to rest, and we discover we’d rather live this way. Instead of obligation, solitude becomes a lifeline.”
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