This last week our outreach group was up on the Muswell Hill talking with those passing by we asked a simple question: ‘Why, though we are more connected as ever, are we also as lonely as ever?’. The sum of our conversation is that technology has allowed us to instantly be available to a host of people. We can see our relatives face to face and talk with them though they are on the other side of the world, we can catch up with five hundred friends at once all day long from our phone. Yet for all this ability to be close to one another, we find that people are more alone than ever, more secluded and anonymous than ever. And this loneliness persists through life, we feel a wall as it were between us and others and it can seem impenetrable. We might reach out to others, might try to be in the community but eventually we recede from that to solitude. Memes such as forever alone and the grumpy cat make their money selling the idea that at the end of the day we actually want this aloneness and choose to embrace it. All of this might seem entirely irrelevant to a discussion on ‘religion’ but actually, the Bible has much to say about being alone. For the goal of God as revealed in the Bible is seek out fellowship with humanity who has, in his melancholy sad way, secluded himself far from his presence. Many people are angry at God, they say they are atheists but underneath it all, they feel frustrated at how he has run the universe. When I ask people if they would like to meet the real God should he actually exists, I often get a visceral reaction of distaste. It’s as if they are saying ‘I just don’t want to be known or know God, I’d rather have darkness and solitude.’ And this also extends to how we relate to others. We are okay with being around people, but we only let them get so far before we say ‘no further’ Actually, as we talked with people, this was a major theme; that it was better to be alone and unrevealed, then in a community and known fully, warts and all. The message of the Bible is that we are alone, from others and from God, because of shame, but that God wants to cleanse us wash us and enable us to be in His presence. And in fact, a major argument for God is this unquenchable loneliness that we bring on ourselves because although we want companionship we also must cover our shame and defects and so remain far from others and longing to be with God though we dislike the very notion of it. A few famous verses from John will suffice to demonstrate this:
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:9-14
This says that the real God showed up to his own creation and yet people didn’t recognize he was there and far worse wanted to have no community with Him. It is highly ironic that so many say they are unsure about whether God exists but this verse assumes many are uninterested. they don’t actually want to know Him, be in community, they would prefer darkness and solitude. Yet simply avoiding the light doesn’t extinguish one’s thirst for it. We can’t stop being lonely by forsaking community, that just makes it worse. Jesus came to make us sons and daughters, that is to put us into community with Him and each other. The quest to find God is a quest to let go of our own darkness and aloneness and know and be known by others by the power of God. So if you’re searching for truth, that is in some way, because you know you are alone. Pascal famously said that there is a God-shaped hole in each of us that only he can fill. No amount of hiding in the dark, secluding ourselves from His presence will solve the unquenchable thirst for His community. Keep investigating the truth.
Wilton Community will be hosting an event dealing with the topic of loneliness on 25th September at 11 AM , please see the website for more information