• You Were Created for Meaningful Friendships — Not Loneliness

    Surge Summary: Human beings were created to experience meaningful relationships with God and other people; yet there is currently a loneliness epidemic in society and social media isn’t the cure. The only answer if true friendships. 

    Bill Clinton says it’s his favorite song. It’s a Beatle’s classic still played 50 years after it’s debut. It strikes a chord with multitudes because we so identify with its theme.

    “Ah, look at all the lonely people. Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

    The spotlight shines on an aging woman then transitions to an unappreciated pastor.

    “All the lonely people
    Where do they all come from?
    All the lonely people
    Where do they all belong?”

    She dies. “Nobody came.”
    He officiates then meanders away.

    “All the lonely people
    Where do they all come from?
    All the lonely people
    Where do they all belong?”

    How could you not guess the memorable, “Eleanor Rigby”?

    A century before, Henry David Thoreau captured the same issue of loneliness. He stated, “The mass of humanity live lives of quiet desperation.”

    From a biblically-informed perspective, we know there are three basic needs of humankind:

    1. Transcendence – reaching beyond physical to spiritual
    2. Significance – having purpose in life
    3. Relationship – having human connectivity/friendshipGod designed us for meaningful human interaction. He stated in Creation, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

      Romans 14:7 tells us, “No man lives to himself, alone.”

      In civilized societies, the ultimate punishment for serious repeat offenders is long-term solitary confinement. Recently released Turkish prisoner Pastor Andrew Brunson said that weeks in this condition brought him to a place of despair and near suicide.

      The Loneliness Pandemic

      This year the United Kingdom made political history by instituting a new government position, “The Minister for Loneliness”. Facing a serious national health problem stemming from increasing social isolation, the initiative was launched because of alarming numbers of people experiencing dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and suicide. Social scientists postulated that the long-term health effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

      Cigna health insurance company conducted a nationwide study revealing nearly half of the respondents said they feel alone or increasingly left out. 40 percent stated they “lack companionship” and “their relationships aren’t meaningful”.

      Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published in the Harvard Business Review his same concern. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”

      We must face the brutal reality of  a serious crisis, a growing epidemic of loneliness in our society today. Ironically, research shows its most prevalent among younger people who feel they’re the most “connected” yet in reality lack meaningful relationships and real interpersonal support.

      Primary Reason for the Problem

    Augustine said, “Thou hast made as for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

    The father of our faith, Abraham, came into relationship with his Creator and scripture said he was not merely a servant but “the friend of God” (Jam.2:23).

    Likewise Jesus reassured His disciples they were not just coworkers but “friends” (Jn.15:15). Friendship is a basic human need designed by God and He intends for us to first and foremost find it in Him.

    What a difference this represents in Christianity from other world religions having a distant, angry “Allah” figure or multiple, mysterious “Krishna” entities that must be appeased by performance and good works.

    So in our society increasingly drifting from authentic relationship with the true living God, it should not surprise us when the void is left unfulfilled. “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every human being that cannot be filled by any human thing but only by the Creator Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ” said 17th century French theologian Blaise Pascal.

    “And in the naked night I saw, 10,000 people maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never shared. No one dared. Disturb the sounds of silence.”  – Simon and Garfunkel

    So we trot out reruns of favorite TV shows like “Friends” and “Cheers” and cry in our beer singing nostalgic songs like “You’ve Got a Friend” (James Taylor) all the while wrestling with nagging loneliness within.

    Friendships fizzle so people in desperation opt for other alternatives: perpetual singleness; LGBTQ alternatives; drug and alcohol escapism; suicide; or simply settling for the safe companionship of a friendly dog which the American Heart Association confirms reduces health risks and can lengthen lifespan.

    The Social Media Solution

    Mobility in society, casual divorce, dissolution of the family, deception of the “Gay” lifestyle, unsatisfactory promiscuity and “one night stands” all exacerbate lonely living and the continued quest to satisfy the friendship factor.

    “What about social media and the advantage of incredible connectivity?”

    Unfortunately the reality is the opposite of what scores have come to believe. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the many modern-day supposed friendship-building, connectivity-enhancing devices give scores the illusion of multiple friendships that are often simply superficial substitutes for human contact. This is not the same as quality interaction and intimate friendship.

    Real friendships take much more than simply “friending online” producing shallow relationships all the while deceiving us into believing we have thousands of Facebook “friends”. Authentic friendships require an investment of time, what Aristotle called “sharing salt together”- not just sitting together passing salt across the table but sitting with another across the course of their lives, sharing its savor.

    “The desire for friendship comes quickly; friendship does not.”    –  Aristotle

    Addressing an Addiction

    Admit it or not, Americans are distracted by and addicted to social media rather than socializing. Survey numerous studies that show similar findings: 33% would rather text than talk on the phone; 3 in 4 Americans bring their phones to bed; 25% say the last thing they see before retiring is their phone; 93% sleep with their phones within arms reach; 55% acknowledge they are missing out on valuable time with family and friends but still do it; and, 45% of Americans admit they have not made a new friend in five years.

    Defeating loneliness and developing substantive versus superficial friendships starts by repenting, receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then committing to obey His Word as revealed in Scripture.

    Next, we use our smart phones and computers wisely and purposefully. We make a quality decision to not let them become a substitute for real friendship building. We also purpose to drop the excuses for a lack of meaningful friendships like:

    •   I’m introverted.
      • I don’t like going to new places.
      • I’ve been betrayed/dumped.
      • Texting is more convenient.
      • Human interaction is risky.
      • I fear being rejected.Dealing with loneliness and developing meaningful friendships are significant for our emotional, mental and spiritual health.

      Jesus in His humanity modeled for us the need to grows in 4 major areas: Mentally. Physically. Spiritually. Socially. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with man” (Lk. 2:40 KJV).

      Here’s the deal: Because of the prophetic significance of this topic and the tremendous potential it affords Christians in helping hurting and hopeless multitudes, I plan to continue this commentary. I’ll provide you next week with a biblically-informed overview of the 10 characteristics of friendship and 10 proven ways to make and maintain meaningful friendships in your life.

      [Be sure to listen to Larry Tomczak’s 15-min.”Here’s the Deal” podcast daily on the Charisma Podcast Network for further insights and encouragement on this and other relevant topics for your life]

    These views are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge. 

    Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay 

    Larry Tomczak

    Larry Tomczak, with over 45 years of trusted ministry experience, has trained leaders and planted dozens of churches in the U.S. and abroad. He’s the author of 10 books including the 1/4 million bestseller “Clap Your Hands!” and the innovative, video-supplemented “Bullseye Challenge” which develops informed influencers in 30 days. His weekly commentaries reach millions on Charisma News, World Net Daily, Barbwire, The Christian Post, ChurchGrowth.org and Intercessors for America. He’s a speaker for professional sports teams and currently seen on the major Christian TV networks and heard weekly on “InfoAmerica” broadcasts.

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