The loneliness epidemic (Week 4)

March 21, 2019

The Counseling Corner

By Rev. Judith T. Lester, B.Min. M.Th

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
― Mother Teresa

The Apostle Paul and loneliness

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” – 2 Tim. 4:6-8

Last week, it was noted that the Apostle Paul was a great champion for the cause of Christ, yet he knew something about loneliness. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul acknowledged that the end of his time on this earth was drawing near. Paul sent for Timothy because he longed for fellowship as he sat in a Roman jail under a death sentence. All of us have dealt with feelings of loneliness and isolation at some point. Like Paul, we want emotional support and comfort. After a long ministry of faithful service to the Lord, 2 Timothy 4 gives us a peek into Paul’s attitude during the final days of his life. Continuing from last week’s article, let’s look at how Paul handled his loneliness.

Paul encouraged others.

Even in times of loneliness as the Apostle Paul aged, it did not hinder Paul from encouraging others. Paul’s focus was on others and not on his circumstances and he looked for ways to encourage the spiritual growth of others he ministered to. Paul’s last letter is filled with advice for his young protégé, Timothy, and things he wished for Timothy to address during his ministry. One antidote for loneliness is to reach out and encourage others. You will find that when you reach out and encourage others (i.e., the elderly, sick, shut-in, etc.), you won’t have time to focus on your own loneliness.

Paul desired to read God’s Word.

Paul closed this letter with instructions to Timothy to “bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (v. 13). Winter was approaching and the cloak would be needed to warm the body of the aging apostle in a cold, perhaps damp, prison. The “scrolls” and “parchments” were probably some valuable manuscripts and choice works on Jewish sacred history. Nevertheless, Paul wanted the divine Word of God to comfort and encourage him during this time of loneliness.

Beloved, it is important to remember that being alone is not the same as being lonely. Many people choose to be alone. Many people are alone and lead very happy fulfilling lives. In fact, all of us should intentionally embrace times of solitude in order to grow in our relationship with God. There are, however, others who are empty, alone and feel unwanted and unloved. God created us as relational beings and the prolonged absence of the fellowship with others can be extremely discouraging. If you know someone who is experiencing loneliness, pray for God to present opportunities today for you to connect with them to help in some way to diminish their loneliness by either a phone call, visit or a regular word of prayer.

Next Week: Conclusion

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