The epidemic of loneliness

Unsplash/ Harli Marten
Unsplash/ Harli Marten

An epidemic of loneliness is sweeping our culture today. Ironically, social media has actually made us less sociable.

Research reveals that 3 out of 5 Americans feel lonely. One source says, “Experts have long known that loneliness and isolation have long-ranging effects on the mind and body, ranging from anxiety and depression to vulnerability to illnesses. Yet having just one or two friendships can dramatically decrease loneliness.”

A recent article in Vox states that 12% of Americans have no close friendships, compared with just 3% in 1990.

In this post-COVID society of ours, we have “automated,” doing much of our working, shipping, and socializing online. Our smartphones have become the primary portal through which we view the outside world.

But we still need living, breathing friends — not simply random people who comment on our posts. We need human interaction! God created us this way. We were not made to do life alone.

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We need godly friends

We have all heard the saying, “We become most like the people we spend the most time with.” Or “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”Look for godly people to become your closest friends. And be that godly friend to someone else! If your friend has no relationship with God and he or she is dragging you down, it could be time to part company.

In 1 Corinthians 15:33 (niv), the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” Again, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (niv), he said, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

That doesn’t happen automatically. Training your tongue to speak in a positive way takes discipline — and the moment-by-moment help of the Holy Spirit. One careless word, one negative comment can do more long-term damage than you might imagine. We can all remember some taunt or insult from years ago that we’ve never been able to shake.

I love the Carole King song from my generation, “You’ve Got a Friend.” The upshot of the lyrics is that you can call me anytime from anywhere with any concern, and I’ll show up at your door — winter, spring, summer, or fall.

A true friend will tell you when you’re doing the wrong thing or straying onto a risky path. You may not like it at the moment, but as time goes by, you may be very thankful for that counsel. Proverbs 27:6 (NKJV) affirms, “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy!” (TLB).

In my own life, I always want to go to the person who has an issue with me. I want to get my facts right before I give an opinion to anyone else. Proverbs 18:13 (TLB) tells it to us straight: “What a shame — yes, how stupid! — to decide before knowing the facts!”

Wherever you have a disagreement — whether in a friendship or in your marriage — take time to hear the other person. Let them speak and share their perspective. Really listen to what they are saying, rather than formulating how you will answer. Keep a level head when defending yourself.

Work toward a resolution. As the apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11, NIV).

When you fight, don’t fight to win. Fight for the relationship. Fight to resolve the disagreement.          

Jesus is the perfect friend

Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14-15, NIV). I think this is one of the most remarkable statements in the whole New Testament. Jesus, the Almighty Son of the living God, is calling us friends!

If you and I are going to call Jesus our Friend, there are some responsibilities that go along with that amazing relationship. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

So how do we demonstrate our friendship with Jesus? By doing what He says. If we don’t, we really have no right to call ourselves His friend.

True friends of Jesus obey Him continually. I won’t do it perfectly, but I will keep on trying. If I fail, I will repent, get back up and try again. You might say, “Who could live this way? Obedience like this is impossible.” Yes, it is — in our own strength. That is why the Bible tells us to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). God gives us the power for daily obedience.

Do you have a friendship with God? God longs to have a relationship with you. Jesus is truly the friend who sticks closer than a brother.  

Thinking back to that Carole King song I mentioned earlier, I wonder if she might have been thinking of Jesus without knowing it. All you have to do is call, and He will be there.

You’ve got a friend — and more than a friend. You have a savior.

Greg Laurie is the Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship and the speaker at the Harvest Crusades. He is also the author of Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus: A Spiritual Biography of Rock And Roll.

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