“If I disappeared, would anyone care?” That's an all-too-common question. The Surgeon General says 1/2 of us are lonely. God says you were designed for 4 loving relationships: 1) God 2) Self 3) Others 4) Creation. So What’s wrong with us? Is there hope?
Our cultural moment has taken the problem of loneliness and put it on steroids.
1 in 5 say they felt lonely “a lot of the day yesterday”. The problem is greater for teens and young adults, a population that has historically been least likely to complain of loneliness. The ever-present screen has to get some of the blame. Relationships that are mediated by a screen are just, well, not as real. Ask anyone who lost a loved one to COVID and had to say goodbye through an iPad. The screen added to the trauma. This is not an anti-technology rant, but we cannot talk about loneliness without thinking hard about how our devices have connected more and more of us yet have, at the same time, made us lonelier.
Because of technology, we have relationships with more people than ever but people report being lonely at record numbers. You have probably formed “relationships” with the cast of your favorite show, with podcasters and Youtubers you like, or with people you play video games with. It’s easy to see why we run to online relationships, face to face relationships are messy! The trouble is you do not really know the person in that video and she certainly doesn’t know you. Even in cases where you’re talking with a known friend through a device, how much are you connecting? What’s his body language saying? Is he really paying attention or is he distracted? What’s the energy in the room? The screen distorts it all leaving us vulnerable to feelings of loneliness even while Snapping and chatting up a storm.
To go a little deeper on this and for good ideas for what it means to be Smartphone-Smart, we recommend “12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You” by Tony Reinke
If you’re feeling lonely, the good news is, Jesus came to solve the problem of loneliness.
God says you were designed for 4 loving relationships: 1) God 2) Self 3) Others 4) Creation. So What’s wrong with us? Is there hope?
Look at the ways Jesus heals your broken relationships as you trust in him:
Jesus restores your relationship with God. You were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever; being fully known and fully loved by your Father in heaven. The problem is you’ve made yourself unlovable in 1000 ways, big and small. Jesus is God’s solution to the problem of our rebellion. Jesus, though perfect, died to pay for the sins of anyone who trusts in him. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, only mercy and reward.
Jesus restores your relationship with yourself. Did you know you have a relationship with yourself? Did you know it too is broken? Without the gospel we end up thinking either too highly of ourselves or too lowly of ourselves. Many people live with an attitude of “I’m not so bad” or “I probably deserve the good things I have”. These people have no problem believing God loves them because they really don’t understand, or they just plain ignore, how sinful they are. They think too highly of themselves. On the other hand, some people believe they’re so bad or ugly or broken that they ought not to be loved; that they’re unlovable. This is equally false. The late Rev. Tim Keller was fond of saying “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Do you see how believing this about yourself has the power to change everything?!
Jesus restores your relationships with other people. The way Jesus does this is by engrafting you into a church. Yep. A church!! God is not interested in saving individual people so you can have 1 on 1 time with him forever. God does save individuals, but if he’s saved you, he’s saved you for the purpose of adopting you into his family.
The purpose of a church this side of heaven is to be a group of people who, living and serving together, look more like heaven than anything else in the world.
In a healthy church you will know and be known by friends who pray together, challenge one another, forgive, disagree without disrespecting, and worship God together. Not every church sees itself in this way, but we think they should. This is Jesus’ heart for his church, see John 17. If this has not been your experience with churches, please don’t give up! You are warmly invited to join us.
Jesus restores your relationship with creation. This might surprise you and we aren’t sure it goes along with the problem of loneliness, but it’s worth pointing out. Genesis 3 tells us the very creation is in rebellion because humans, who were made to care for the world, cursed the world instead. Colossians 1 says all things in creation were created by Jesus and for Jesus. It all belongs to him. The scripture goes on to say through Jesus, God is reconciling (that means fix the relationship) all things in heaven and earth to himself. Christians care for creation because God cares for creation, creation belongs to Jesus and creation houses us, God’s people, the bride of Christ. When humans remake heaven in earth in small ways; ie cleaning up pollution or healing disease, we are simply giving the world a glimpse of what heaven will be like.
Tim Keller on the Gospel, A Tribute