A couple of days ago, while reading my blog, someone searched for the phrase “loneliness in church” using the search field at the top of the page. When I first saw that, I was heartbroken.
After praying for the person who searched for this string and for the believers that this person meets with, I began to remember times when I was in a church meeting with many other people and yet felt lonely. Times of solitude (being alone) are important, but solitude is not the same as loneliness.
I can remember times of sitting on a pew or in a chair, surrounding by many people, and hoping that someone would ask, “How are you?” More importantly, I was hoping that when they asked, they would actually be concerned enough to listen to my answer. I can remember being completely turned off by “fellowship” that was defined as “shake as many hands as possible while the piano and organ plays the next verse”.
I have to admit, also, that I have been on the other side of this kind of relationship. There have been times when someone has cried out for help (even cried out silently), but I only shook their hand or gave them a hug. Sometimes, I recognized right away the cry for help or a listening ear. Other times, I was so busy getting to the next person that I failed to notice until it was pointed out to me.
It was this type of reaction – uncaring, too busy, pat-on-the-back, next please – that convinced me (for a time) that no one really believed what they preached and taught. And, now, I find myself walking this same road all too often.
Loneliness in church… think about it. A group of people, indwelled by the Spirit, surrendered to the will of God, obeying Him in everything, loving one another, considering others as more important than themselves, accepting others who are different, bearing with one another, giving to those who are in need, encouraging one another… and, yet, someone could meet together with this group and feel lonely.
Certainly this works both ways. Those of us who are hurting should feel free to admit our hurt and need to our brothers and sisters. Those of us who are not hurting should be prepared to serve our brothers and sisters who are hurting and in need.
But, what is it that keeps us from sincerely practicing the “one anothers” that we find in Scripture? Why do we recognize that God gave us one another for a reason, then fail to share our lives with one another? Why do we recognize hurting people, but decide not to get involved? Why do we recognize loneliness in our lives, but decide not tell others?
Lonely people are real. Hurting people are real. Grieving people are real. Needy people are real. Hungry people are real. They are meeting together with us, singing the same songs as us, listening to the same teaching as us. They are our brothers and sisters. They are lonely… are we lonely with them? They are hurting… are we hurting with them? They are grieving… are we grieving with them? They are needy… are we needy with them? They are hungry… are we hungry with them? Why not?
[UPDATE: After writing this blog post, an anonymous reader left a poignant comment on a previous post. I believe that comment is one of the most important (if not THE most important) things ever written on my blog. My question and challenge to you is this: 1) Do you know other believers well enough to know when they are hurting or lonely? 2) Do you respond when God shows you that another believer is hurting or lonely? 3) Do you frequently give (of your time, money, energy) even when there is nothing for you to gain in return?]