Loneliness is part of the human condition, and we all experience it at times. It’s painful because we’re made to be in community. In contemporary individualist cultures, we experience loneliness far more often than people did when Scripture was written. Yet Scripture alludes to loneliness, and we know that no matter whether we are lonely or not, God’s presence is still with us.

Keep reading to learn about Christian counseling for loneliness.

Feeling lonely in today’s culture

Loneliness has a new meaning since the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time, many of us were forced to physically isolate ourselves from others. Although temporary quarantines were a common phenomenon even one hundred years ago, they are completely foreign to us today. Social isolation on a global scale, as we saw during March and April 2020, was unprecedented.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans were reporting high rates of isolation. According to the book The Loneliness Epidemic, just before March 2020, one-third of American adults reported feeling lonely at least once a day.

A report from Harvard since the pandemic began says that 36% of Americans report feeling “serious loneliness,” including over half of young adults and over half of moms of young children. “Not surprisingly, loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic.”

The elderly population, or those over age 65, are also vulnerable to loneliness – about 25% of them report being socially isolated. Social isolation, or “the absence of meaningful social relationships,” substantially increases the risk of anxiety, dementia, depression, heart disease, premature death, stroke, and suicide.

A study done by the BBC called The BBC Loneliness Experiment, did global research and found that “self-reported loneliness is highest among young people, men and those in ‘individualistic’ societies.”

Social media and loneliness

These statistics paint a picture of the world we live in now, one of hyper-connectivity through social media and the Internet, and yet one where we are increasingly alone in solitary rooms with our screens.

Social media does have benefits. It provides a way to connect with others who are similar to you, to create a virtual village, to explore new ideas, and even create real and meaningful friendships, some of which move offline and into the “real world.”

But, social media can have its drawbacks and indirectly increase social isolation, because more time is being spent in cyberspace and less time face to face.

Also, the way we interact with our screens can cause changes in our brain chemistry and structure. The constant hit of dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical, we receive from scrolling and swiping can leave us always searching for that next “hit,” and feeling a sense of emptiness and sadness without it.

To create healthier brain connections and less dependence and addiction to screens, we must interact with the real world and reap the long-term benefits of investment in flesh-and-blood relationships.

Loneliness in the Bible

Although the Internet and modern society didn’t exist in Bible times, the human condition was still the same. We still live in a fallen world broken by sin. Even when surrounded by other people, we may feel lonely and misunderstood.

The human authors of Scripture were writing to people who lived in collectivist societies. The necessities of daily life beyond cultural norms demanded that people live in constant communication and interaction with one another.

There weren’t many people living alone. Intergenerational living was common. You were probably more likely to feel crowded and weary by being around all the people than by being alone.

In this context, we often see Jesus withdrawing to lonely places to commune with his Father. We know that because of his miraculous power, he was often surrounded by unusually large crowds of people.

It’s clear in Scripture that while God has created us for community and for worshipping him in the congregational setting, he also made us to need solitude, particularly to practice the spiritual discipline of private worship.

With that balance of culture and solitude in mind, let’s explore the two themes in the Bible that combat loneliness even today: the promise of God’s presence and his steadfast love.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. – Psalm 25:16, NIV

In this prayer, David turns to God with his loneliness and asks for God’s grace and presence. This prayer is a wonderful place to begin if you are struggling with feeling lonely.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV

Here we see God’s steadfast love and presence going hand in hand as a promise to the Israelites. He goes before (leads), is with (present), and promises to stay (steadfast love). Because of these truths, fear and discouragement do not have to take control.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19, NIV

If you’re feeling lonely, reading statistics about the pervasiveness of loneliness can feel validating, but it can also be discouraging. If social isolation is a health risk and seemingly inevitable, how can you thrive?

In this verse we see that God will not leave us alone, floundering to meet our own needs. He loves us and has all the resources in the universe at his disposal. Because of this, we can draw near to him and know that he will meet us, even in our loneliness.

Practical help for loneliness

Spiritual truths about loneliness are powerful and real. Along with clinging to those truths, sometimes you need boots-on-the-ground strategies you can implement right away when you’re feeling isolated.

These steps can be taken in small increments, or by making more comprehensive plans. Even if you only have five minutes, you can put at least one of them into practice today. However, none of these are guaranteed quick fixes for the problem of loneliness. Rather, they can help you make consistent progress over time.

Don’t miss the small moments

“A growing body of research suggests that even seemingly trivial interactions with strangers – like chatting with a barista or cashier – may be able to keep loneliness at bay by helping us feel more socially connected.” – Psychology Today

Take advantage of the little interactions you have throughout your day. Of course, be sure to read others’ social cues and consider their comfort level; but, you will often find that other people are happy to interact with you in return.

If you make it your goal to show politeness and kindness to improve someone else’s day, you might be surprised at the positive effect that will have on your mindset.

Give to others or volunteer

Depending on your life circumstances, you may be limited in your options for volunteering. But no matter how much time you can give, cultivating a heart attitude of generosity will open doors you may not have anticipated. Serving others when you are feeling discouraged and isolated can help you get your mind off your troubles.

Make plans

It can be overwhelming to think of starting an entire social network and support system, so begin by making one plan at a time. Ask someone to have coffee, invite a family over for dinner, or in lieu of one-on-one plans, choose a social event you’re going to attend in the near future.

Get out in nature

If you don’t have the opportunity for face-to-face interaction, go outside. Dress for the weather, so even if it’s unpleasant you can spend at least a few minutes outdoors. Time in nature is healing for the emotions, mind, and soul.

Be intentional with your solitude

Sometimes we develop habits of reactivity in our alone time. Instead, practice intentionality. Choose what you’re going to do, instead of automatically following the same pattern each day. This can give you a sense of ownership over your solitude.

Christian counseling for loneliness

If you’re socially isolated, anxious, or dealing with feelings of loneliness in your everyday life, individual counseling can meet your needs for conversation and processing, give you ways to implement change, and help you gain hope for the future. Contact our office today or fill out our contact form to schedule your first session today.







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