Probably most of us would agree that the world we live in today is deteriorating at an alarming rate. But why? The answer to that question has obvious spiritual implications, doesn’t it? We can all agree, no doubt, that the god of this world, who is described as the “prince of the power of the air”, is furiously broadcasting his evil impulses as though he knows he has but a little time left before Christ intervenes in the affairs of men. All of this is a given, but is it possible that we could put a more personal face on it and thus see how it can relate to us in our own daily lives?
Is there a common denominator that ties many of our most pressing societal aberrations (anger, crime, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness — to name a few) together? A former internist who served as the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, believes there is. In his soon to be published book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World,” he points to loneliness as a huge contributing factor to much of our breakdown. He says, “Loneliness is both pervasive and destructive.” It is a significant enough factor that the health insurer, Cigna, has been surveying it in recent years. In their 2018 survey, they found that 54% of American adults were lonely. Their 2020 survey puts the current figure at 61% — a 7 point jump in just two years.
During his time as U.S. Surgeon General, Murthy interacted with many troubled people across the land and he was able to see a thread of loneliness through them all. He explained that those who feel invisible or abandoned can develop a lot of emotional pain. And that pain can transform itself into one of the many varied aberrations mentioned previously. That negative transformation is almost always fed with drugs, alcohol or deviant behavior. The more that the connection to others of sound mind is replaced with these crutches, the more one draws inward and the greater the feelings of isolation resulting in greater societal breakdown. It is a vicious cycle.
Murthy suggested a couple of practical ways that can help us break out of loneliness. He said, “Service is a powerful pathway of getting out of loneliness. It takes the focus off of you and puts it onto someone else. It also reminds you that you have value to add and give to the world.” So, it is a very positive way to overcome loneliness. The connection with scripture is obvious. Christ said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Service to others is a part of God’s very nature. As for feeling alone, Christ knew the time would come (at His crucifixion) that every one of His beloved disciples would leave Him to face His death alone. And yet He told them that He wouldn’t be alone because His Father would be with Him (John 16:32). There was a reason why His Father was so close to Him. He said, “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Service to others defines our Father’s way of life and it pleases Him to see us follow in Christ’s steps. So, even if we are left alone by other people in some particular circumstance, we won’t be alone. Service to others — filling their needs — is a large part of the antidote for loneliness.
Another very practical point that Murthy brought out is to talk to others daily. He said, “Be very disciplined about dedicating some time — even if it is five minutes a day — to calling or talking to someone you love.” Doing this affirms to us that we do have some vital connections in our lives. Again, we see the scriptural parallel. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:24-26). Paul’s instruction takes it a step further than Dr. Murthy’s. Our talking should be aimed at inspiring love and good works and in exhorting one another to hold fast to the truth so that none of us are drawn back into the world.
When you think about it, talking to one another is a form of service as well. Implementing these very simple concepts into our lives will go a long way in overcoming loneliness.