Alone or Lonely?

small__5214451853Look upon me, have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. –Psalm 25:16

Alone and lonely are two distinctly different feelings.  Being alone can be great.  Alone with our thoughts and dreams, we can reflect on our lives or just rest from the noises of the day. Being alone gives us a time to pray, meditate, and dream.  Jesus would often go off alone to pray.  We all need time alone to recharge our batteries!

Lonely is very different.  Loneliness is not the same as being alone, and simply being around others does not guarantee we won’t be lonely.  At times, we can be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely.

The elderly, the poor, the handicapped, kids who are bullied, almost anyone that the general public considers different, share their feelings of loneliness.

According to Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, a pioneer in the study of loneliness, loneliness is the want of intimacy.  We not only want to be around others, but we have a need to be connected, intimately with others. And I don’t mean intimacy in the sexual way our secular society defines it.  But an intimacy that comes from totally trusting another.

In a 2010 AARP survey, slightly more than one out of three adults 45 and over reported being chronically lonely.  The loss of a spouse, a child, parent, or close friend can often lead to loneliness.

When my mom passed away, I can remember the deep sense of depression that my father experienced.  It was really a loss of intimacy with the woman he had spent his entire adult life with, the one person he could trust with his every thought.  His depression was just s symptom of his loneliness.  And, depression is just one of a variety of symptoms associated with loneliness.

What can we do if we feel this sense of loneliness?  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Realize that occasional loneliness is a near universal feeling.  We all have felt lonely at times.  For most of us, it’s temporary. Remember, that God is always with us.

No one can withstand you as long as you live. As I was with Moses, I will be with you: I will not leave you nor forsake you. –Joshua 1:5

2.  Get out of the house! Try to seek out activities that you enjoy and meet people with the same interests.  Join a gym, attend a bible study, or take a class on something you have always wanted to learn.

3.  Work on developing a more intimate relationship with Jesus.  Read the gospels, pray, talk with Him as you would a close friend.  After all, He is, isn’t he?

4.  Think outside of ourselves.  When we are lonely we often are fixated on our own problems, worries, and circumstances.  When we reach out to help others, our life takes on a new purpose. Consider becoming a volunteer for a cause that you believe in.

5.  Seek professional help.  Loneliness can be overcome and seeking help is not an admission of failure, but a positive step in your own mental and physical health.

And what about others who are lonely.  How can we help them?

  1.  Let’s reach out to those who have lost a spouse, a child or a dear friend.  Often times, they are comforted for a while after the funeral, then left alone.  Invite them to coffee, or take them with you to mass, shopping or a meeting they would enjoy.
  2. If you haven’t seen someone in a while, call them.  If there is someone at church, school or elsewhere that you haven’t seen for a while, why not give them a call.  They will be so glad to hear from you.
  3.  When young adults marry, there is always the one friend that is a late bloomer and hasn’t married yet.  They often seem to be left out of many gatherings simply because events are often planned for couples.  Include them in your plans.

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  –Matthew 28:20

Loneliness is something we all fear.  We don’t want to live our lives feeling lonely.  Sometimes, it seems that we are one intimate relationship away from overcoming loneliness.  Let that relationship start with Jesus, and then extend to others.

Trust God to never leave or forsake you.  Your happiness lies just ahead, if you take that first step.

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