The Church, “Open Doors” Community Project
Contacts and Links
Most of us experience loneliness at some point in our lives. It can creep up on you gradually over time. It may be a familiar feeling that seems to have hung over you for most of your life. Loneliness is serious. It gnaws at our sense of reality and it can draw us towards depression and a sense of hopelessness. It makes you feel empty and sad. There may have been a specific incident which happened to you to make you lonely, such as a divorce and you are now faced with the stark reality of your own company. We are not meant to be alone. In Genesis 2:18, we read God's own statement that "It is not good for the man to be alone". This hangs so true. The company of God Himself is not enough as Adam had permanent access to God's presence in a perfect world. We need to interact with people to stay sane and, more than that, to enjoy life properly. We need friends.
Loneliness itself is a painful and deadening feeling; it is daunting. For lack of friendship, a need has been denied, and you feel a deep emptiness. One thing that may help to combat loneliness is to deal with inactivity and boredom. Positive action, such as a hobby or voluntary work, can help. However, this is obviously not enough. Unless your activities involve other people, then you are still on your own. Even if you are spending time with other people, unless this includes some genuine friends with whom you can relate in a meaningful way, again you are missing out on the human stimulation that you need. Assuming that you are a Christian, you might consider changing church, or even moving area to go to a better and more friendly church. It may be worth investing some time in researching different churches and finding one which will bring you some genuine friends - just test the water by seeing who will be friendly to you. Bear in mind, however, that it takes time and effort to build friendships. Another idea is to find, or set up, a Christian community. Living in this way can be very beneficial, particularly for a time, as it can enable self-confidence and peace of mind to be restored. Hopefully, you can develop some new, healthy friendships. It is important to be very cautious before joining any Christian community or group. Discover a full picture of what the group' s values are and how they operate. Some groups require members to give all of their money and possessions up, or to declare some sort of exclusive allegiance to that group, so beware.
Dealing with rejection
When you have experienced rejection from others, it can be hard to trust again. Because we are all human, people (even friends) let us down. This can be very hard to accept because, if you are being a good friend to someone, you don't expect them to let you down, use you, or "drop" you when you are not needed. Even as you develop good friendships which are going well, it is wise to keep these friendships in perspective and to guard your heart from hurt, so if (or when) you are let down in some way, you are still secure. You will still be hurt, but if you depend on God, you can face this and put it into perspective. Our expectations should be realistic and limited.
The sense of rejection and worthlessness that you feel is very significant. It can act to stifle your confidence. This would make communication hard. People may think that you are shy or "a loner". They may also pick up your negative feelings and be threatened by what they sense and, consequently, react against what they perceive as weakness. This is very sad, particularly when we find it in the church, which is where we expect sympathy and warmth. But still, try to find friendship wherever you can. Through experiencing loneliness and then really appreciating the value of friends, you should be sensitised to noticing others around you who are experiencing this need for friendship.
Meanwhile, if you are experiencing loneliness at the moment, turn to God in prayer and to His Word. The Bible can be so encouraging as it reminds us of God's love for us, and that He is with us and for us. Singleness is a big issue for many Christians. It is fine if you are happy being single, but if you are desperate for a companion - as many are - well, it is so hard. Please be wise if you use internet friendship or meeting point sites, Christian or otherwise, as you don't know who you are communicating with. In the case of any meeting, always do so in a group for safety reasons, perhaps at a church function or a public place.
Losing someone is hard to accept, but we do not have any choice about it. When someone you know dies, it stuns you. You are forced to face the reality of death, and to try to comprehend its meaning. If the person that has died was very close, you can feel like part of yourself has died. It takes time to recover from the shock and the pain, so give yourself time. Because the loss is permanent, the aspect of our lives that that person represented is permanently affected.
Despite our hurt or our fear we always have hope in Christ, no matter how we feel. We can know the comfort of God, as His Spirit comforts us and stays close to us. Welcome the Lord in to your deep feelings. Invite Him to help you make sense of your emotions and to define how you felt about the person who you have lost. He understands your situation - the complexities of your past experiences and all of your thoughts. He can help mend the gap that you probably feel inside.
Please excuse us that we have not written a great deal for you if you have been bereaved. Quite often, people who have been bereaved appreciate space and reflection, and so perhaps it is appropriate that we do not have too much available here to read. However, under “Contacts and Links” below, we have listed some web sites and contacts that provide more written reflection or other help, which we hope will be useful.
The Role of the Church to Comfort
I always feel that leaders of churches carry so much responsibility. They have a responsibility to both teach the truth, and also to actively guide their church members in correct ways. They also have pastoral responsibility for the members of the Church. This does not mean that the leader should provide all the pastoral time and attention that every member of the Church requires.
The poor leader does not have the time to do this, unless they are single and the Church is very small! However, the leader should delegate pastoral responsibilities between himself and others in the Church, so that for people in need in that Church, there are people who will do their best to help.
It is so easy to overlook needs, and this can happen if structures do not exist which enable those in need to come forward for help. Home group leaders should be taught and trained to be sensitive to the needs of the members in their group. If Church members truly love God, then they can be guided and encouraged to be pastoral in their outlook. Where this is not happening in the Church, we need to pray that people are challenged by God, so that their hearts can be changed to be more loving and sacrificial.
The “Open Doors” Community Project
We have come up with a suggestion of how to make sure that lonely or needy people in the Church might not be overlooked. It is also a great way to evangelise to non-Christian members of your local community. We have called it “Open Doors”. The idea may be more relevant or feasible in a larger church. If your Church has its own building, then this makes the project a lot easier to implement. We thought that for every day of the week (or if not, at least on 2 or 3 days each week), the church could open its doors in the afternoon and/or evening, to those in the church, and outside it in the local community, who want to spend some time with others. Particularly we refer to those who are lonely or isolated.
It might also include people who are unemployed or just plain bored. An afternoon might be more relevant for elderly people or those who find public transport in the evening difficult or undesirable. Evenings would provide for those who work during the day. The idea is that people who are in need can talk to others, to build friendships in a group. People can also receive more direct Church help and support. Perhaps Christians could pray for their brothers and sisters, and any non-Christians who came would be treated warmly, and have the Gospel explained to them as they are open and at their own pace.
If your fellowship does not have a church building, then hopefully different families could open their homes to the project on a rota basis. Each Church would have to assess the need for their project in their particular situation and locality and adjust the project according to need. Even if there were only one or two people who were lonely in a Church, it is important that the Church make practical provision for these people, enabling them to participate and integrate through different means.
I realise that some people can be over-demanding in wanting (and needing) the company of others. Such people may take some time to recover from the frozenness of their isolation. Alternatively, some may need to face personal issues of past hurt or emotional insecurity. Whatever the case, all who are in need in our churches should be taken seriously, and treated in their best interests. Also, there needs to be a balance as far as pastoral ministry facilities is concerned. People resources have limits.
Finally, however, we must recognise that those in need in our communities, whether that is physical, emotional or spiritual need, must have a place to go. If we cannot care for those within the Church, what sort of a loving fellowship are we? And if we do not desire to see the needs of those outside the Church in our local communities, have we not failed to “love our neighbour”? (Luke 10:25-37). Those who do not know Jesus need the Gospel, and they need our genuine friendship. It means sacrifice, but we must change the way we think, and start to act - or continue to do so if we are active already. It is our calling to spend time and energy in caring for others, both inside and outside the Church.
Contacts and Links
www.griefshare.org - support groups for grief.
www.geocities.com/Heartland/Falls/9648 - Resource for Christian parents who have experienced the death of a child.
www.bereavement.org.uk - secular site focused on London and UK, with helpful content.
www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/3634 - Information and guidance concerning marital/family problems; addiction; bereavement; crisis and/or stress related issues.
Child Death Help line (UK). Tel. - 0800 282986 (free phone).
The Compassionate Friends. Tel. - 0117 953 9639 (Bristol, UK), Tel. - 0208 332 7227 (London, UK).
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