Loneliness! One recent study found that over 50% of U.S. adults suffer from feelings of loneliness!! It also showed that loneliness is on the rise among youth and young adults and is a critical issue for older people! Another study found that 43% of older adults felt lonely even though only 10% actually live alone. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience states that sixty million people in the U.S. currently suffer from loneliness.
In an article, “The Searching Ache of Loneliness”, Dr. Susan Matthews asserts, “We are living in the age of loneliness. While we are more ‘connected’ than ever through social media, this so-called relationship enhancement technology further distances us from the intimacy and warmth of personal contact.”
Diana Butler Bass, sociology of religion professor and writer, asserts that Belonging is the #1 thing that we as Christ-followers need to be practicing. Jesus began his ministry not by asking people to believe in Him. When he began his ministry no one or very few people knew who He was much less that He was God among us! What was Jesus’ #1 action? He began by inviting people – ordinary people, fishermen, tax-collectors, etc., into a community where they could discover the life and mission they were called to be and do!!
Recently, I saw in a church in the entrance to its “Fellowship Hall” a sign that sums up one of the greatest gifts the church can offer to people in their loneliness, A Place to Belong!
CNN reporter and physician, Sanjay Gupta, suggests that we need to start viewing loneliness as a chronic disease.
When people are invited, included and loved for who they are, what happens? A multitude of things:
- We discover a safe place where we can connect with God, with ourselves and with others!
- We get outside ourselves and we get involved in a love that is contagious!
- We live longer!
- We are healthier! When we are connected with others, a brain chemical, oxytocin, is released! Oxytocin is called “the love hormone”. It is related, as shown by a 2015 study from BYU, to reduce stress, decrease activity in our reptilian, reactive flight-fight brain and to increase life satisfaction.
So, why not reach out to a colleague or a neighbor and invite them for a cup of tea? Why not invite a group of neighbors over and everyone bring a story of something significant that has occurred over the summer or fall? Why not invite a spiritual but not religious person to a special event at your church? Or... ?
Equipping Christ-Followers to Go into The Neighborhood,