Most people who are lonely and isolated often blame their lack of relationships on others. Rarely do I hear lonely people take personal responsibility for their loneliness. It is easier to shift the fault of the way I feel on our families, friends, churches or something impersonal, like our society or culture, than to accept that I might have something to do it.
Loneliness is often a sign of godlessness for one simple reason: we were created in the image of God, who is never alone. From all of eternity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have been in loving fellowship with one another. Now God is calling us as His image bearers into fellowship with Himself and into fellowship with one another.
We get glimpses of this call throughout Scripture. Perhaps some of the most poignant verses are found in Jesus prayer for the church in John 17:23-24. After Jesus prayed that we “would be one” as He and the Father are One, Jesus then prayed this, “Father, I desire that they… may be with me where I am and may see My glory that you have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Within these two simple verses, we discover a call from God to be in relationship first God and then with one another.
When we learn to abide deeply in Christ, we will then yearn to also be in fellowship with God’s people. As we learn to commune with God through His word and prayer, we will then long to be with others, that we may love them and fulfill all the “one another’s” of Scripture. When a person is lonely, it often means they are first not in communion with God and have not learned the discipline of loving others.
The key word here is learn. That is what it means to be a disciple, to be a “learner" of Jesus. Loving others has many difficult lessons attached to it. It requires a tremendous amount of grace. When we follow Jesus, He calls us into relationships which will often make our lives uncomfortable and require sacrifice. But when we learn to pick up our cross of discomfort and sacrificially love others (even when it hurts), an amazing thing happens: we go from being “lonely” and “isolated” to being filled with God and the lives of others.
It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul prayed for the Philippian church that their “love would abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment so that they may approve what is excellent.”(Phil 1:9-10) Here was a church that was struggling with conflict and needed to learn that love would be difficult as they practiced forgiveness, grace, peace, kindness, and love. (Phil 4:3)
As we come out of this season of COVID, let us heed to the command of Hebrews 10:24-25, “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…” The haunting part of this command is that some believers have developed the habit of “neglecting” fellowship with other believers. Now as we begin to open the church, may you hear God’s call to come back into fellowship with others, that your life would be filled with God and filled with the life of others!