Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted

Dear friends,

Captain Sir Tom Moore has launched a new campaign to get people walking, in order to help support those who feel “lonely and frightened” during lockdown. His challenge encourages people to log their walking on social media using the hashtag #WalkWithTom, and through this he hopes to raise money for his foundation, which aims to combat loneliness and support those facing bereavement. The facts on loneliness in the UK are truly alarming. Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all, and 45% of all adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty million people and does not include the many children and young people who also feel lonely and unloved. (Check out https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/ for more information). Captain Tom says that, ‘we are in a difficult situation but we’ll get through it if we all join together,’ and after already raising millions for the NHS he knows what he’s talking about!

We looked up references to loneliness in the Bible (we used the New International Version but other versions gave much the same results) and found only four references, so we wonder if this concept was alien, or at least not experienced much, in the society into which Jesus was born. Like most ancient cultures, and many which still exist today, life revolved around family and times of worship, agriculture and festivals, rites of passage and community. Jesus travelled with a group of friends and had to physically remove himself if he wanted some time alone; provision was made by relatives and friends for widows and orphans so that they could still be part of community life and the earliest Christian believers lived communally… all things we either let the state do or find a bit strange today! But our urge for independence and autonomy has left a trail of very real loneliness in its wake, and we have a duty as Christians to ensure that all those whom God has placed in our community do not feel isolated, alone or even forgotten.

In Psalm 25, King David wrote ‘Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted’, so even for a man after God’s own heart, loneliness could strike. David was a soldier and was often on the field of battle, especially in his youth, so he knew about fear and the isolation it brings. But he also knew that his refuge was in God and that his ultimate companion was the Lord who could relieve the troubles of his heart and free him from anguish. On this Remembrance Sunday, we give thanks for all those who gave up so much that we could have the freedoms we enjoy today, and we recognise the fear and isolation they must have felt so often. They fought against oppression for the sake of their families and friends, and in so doing mirrored the sacrifice of Jesus, who, in isolation and pain, exemplified what He had taught his disciples: ‘My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:12-13)

We might not be called to lay down our lives amongst gunfire and mud, but God expects us to live sacrificially for the sake of each other’s well-being. Ending loneliness is a battle worth fighting, and God does not leave us to fight it alone.

With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline