Have you ever gone through times when you have felt lonely? A little disconnected from everyone? Perhaps you wished you could call a friend but there was not a single soul with whom you felt like you could share your heart.
We have all been born with a natural desire for personal engagement with someone in whom we can confide and have a meaningful, heartfelt relationship. It’s how God created us.
There are more Americans living alone and aging alone now than ever before. And with a greater number of people networking online rather than in person, there are fewer face-to-face interactions as well. Without them, our intimate connections and social bonds begin to atrophy. Even for those with hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, there is no substitute for building human relationships the old-fashioned way…in person.
As American philosopher and psychologist William James wisely stated over a century ago, “Human beings are born into this little span of life of which the best thing is its friendships and intimacies . . . and yet they leave their friendships and intimacies with no cultivation, to grow as they will by the roadside, expecting them to “keep” by force of mere inertia.”
Cultivation requires effort and time, both of which many people are not willing to give. Over time, without meaningful friendships and intimacy with others, loneliness sets in. When left untreated, it can actually have serious medical consequences. Studies have linked loneliness and social isolation to depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and suicide.
Isolation and Loneliness
According to the former U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy loneliness and social isolation are associated with a reduction in life span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.
In May of this year, Cigna released the results of their national survey of over 20,000 U.S. adults aged 18 or older to evaluate their state of loneliness. They used a questionnaire based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, the scale most widely used by researchers to measure loneliness.
Nearly half of those surveyed reported sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. There were 27% of Americans who said they feel people rarely or never understand them. Another 20% said they rarely or never feel close to people or that there are people they can talk to. And 43% said they did not have any meaningful relationships or felt isolated.
This problem does not just remain in the U.S. Sadly, it has expanded worldwide. In Britain, loneliness is viewed as a major public health concern. This past January, Prime Minister Theresa May created a new position called Minister for Loneliness, hoping to develop solutions to reduce social isolation and improve their citizens’ state of loneliness.
The Koinonia Connection
God knows the importance of relationships and created us with a natural desire for fellowship because He never intended for us to live this life all alone. The word that best describes ideal fellowship and unity among those who follow Christ is the Greek word koinonia.
Koinonia occurs 20 times throughout the Bible. Its essential meaning is community, communion, joint participation, sharing, and intimacy. The first place koinonia is found in the Bible is in Acts 2:42:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Koinonia is a necessary part of being a follower of Christ. It is based on the koinonia we have with Jesus Christ. Believers are to be united in purpose, loving each other, and serving together.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2
Encourage One Another
Another important part of koinonia is encouraging each other in our walk with Christ. How can this be done any better than by taking the time to meet with a friend in person?
At times, you may feel like you are constantly encouraging others without getting much encouragement in return. But know that when you are doing God’s will by filling others up, encouraging them with God’s uplifting truths and a listening ear, He will make sure you are also filled up in the ways He knows will encourage you most.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Strengthen Your Bonds
Contrary to what you may think, not all feelings of loneliness are negative. They can be a good wake-up call that you need to be building stronger bonds with others.
If your relationships seem shallow, you may often experience feelings of loneliness. You cannot easily share your heart with someone you do not know on a deeper level. To help make your friendships more meaningful, here are a few ways you can strengthen the bonds between you and others with whom you enjoy spending time…
Think about ways you can celebrate others. Is their birthday coming up? Did they recently land a new job or get promoted? Buy a new house? Knowing what is happening in someone’s life allows you to be able to be intentional with your connection. When you celebrate them, you are expressing gratitude for the blessing their friendship has brought to you.
Do more than just send them a card to congratulate them. Ask to meet up so you can help them celebrate properly! Be enthusiastic about their good news and ask to hear about all the details. Responding to others in a positive way makes them feel more understood and cared for which definitely strengthens the bond between you and your friend.
It may have been a long time since you’ve seen one of your friends. Sometimes, it just takes a little reminiscing of fun times from the past to strengthen the bond again. Sharing and savoring memories brings people closer together. When you meet, perhaps you can take along a photo of the memory and enjoy recollecting the details and memorable moments during the time you spent together.
Often, the strongest adhesive between two people is the trust that develops after sharing fears, faults, or insecurities. Yes, it makes you vulnerable and may even push you out of your comfort zone a bit but it is worth the risk for the depth and closeness you will experience in your relationship. Of course, it must go both ways. Your friend needs to be able to share their heart with you as well, for that strong bond to occur.
The Strongest Adhesive
When I first began repurposing vintage costume jewelry into sparkly rings several years ago, I was using an adhesive to bond the vintage piece to a ring base.
Unfortunately, it was not nearly as strong as I thought it was. As a result, many of my rings ended up in two pieces as they detached from their bases over time.
I did a little research to find out the best way to bond them permanently together and figured out the problem. I needed to be using a two-part epoxy adhesive.
Two-part epoxy is made up of a resin and a hardener. Chemical bonds that form between the resin and the hardener are what controls the strength of the epoxy. Together, they are very stable and can withstand almost any kind of resistance.
The bond that forms between two people must also be ultra strong or the relationship will simply fall apart with time. The strongest adhesive between two people is when both are living for Jesus Christ. He wants us to make the time to create meaningful relationships. Those with strong bonds take time and effort with consistent connection.
Your relationship with God is the same way. When you make the time each day to talk with Him in prayer and read His Word, you are strengthening the bond between you and God. You are getting to know Him more intimately, learning to trust Him, and experiencing His deep love for you as you share your heart with Him. When you are completely connected to Him, you can feel His presence and no longer have to suffer from loneliness.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. James 4:8a
Need a few ideas to help you be intentional with a consistent connection in your relationships?
Text a photo of something that made you think of your friend. Send an encouraging note in the mail to bring a little sparkle to their day. Make time for an undistracted phone call so you can hear each others’ voices, laugh together, and share feelings that you would never be able to communicate accurately in a text or email.
Most importantly, take the time and effort to see your friend face-to-face for intimate, unified connection…koinonia. It is God’s perfect solution for loneliness as we encourage each other to walk closely with the One who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.
Sparkler #1: Prayer
Ask God to bring people into your life with whom you can experience koinonia, sharing the ultra strong bond of unity in Christ.
Sparkler #2: Action
If you have let your relationships go without any cultivation, take the time and effort needed to grow your friendships into those with strong bonds. This includes your relationship with God as well.
Sparkler #3: Challenge
Find a person in your life who has had a recent achievement or birthday and celebrate with them! Be an encouragement to them through your efforts and watch how God encourages you in return.
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com.
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