The Loneliness Epidemic is upon us. It is the rotten fruit of rugged individualism, the prison food of digital isolation, the sour stew of broken relationships. “Psychology Today” reports that in the last 50 years, loneliness has doubled in the U.S.
There is an answer for that Epidemic, and it’s not the CDC in Atlanta. It’s you. It’s community.
The late John McCain was a little less lonely in that Vietnamese prison camp than he might have been. They bound his arms with ropes as a form of torture. One guard surreptitiously loosened the ropes during his shift. Later, on Christmas Day, that guard drew a cross in the dirt with his foot. McCain understood that a fellow believer had taken a risk to relieve his burden. McCain did the same when he refused early release so another POW could go home.
Creating a loving community involves risk and sacrifice. The early church (Acts 2, 4) understood that. They sold their possessions to provide for those in need. Their crisis was persecution, but everybody has one – it’s the human condition.
Puerto Rico seemed a tropical paradise before Hurricane Maria. The devastation was so complete that counting the dead and rescuing the living was nigh impossible. In “Christianity Today,” Pastor Gadiel Rios explained that God “used these trying times to refocus the spiritual mindset of congregations everywhere, reshaping our understanding of the Christian life as it was intended to be: saved people living in true community, loving God, loving their spiritual brothers and sisters, and loving the lost souls. A few days after the hurricane, local congregations started to meet. A sense of shared community kicked in, and everyone started to look for opportunities to serve the most pressing needs.”
They rediscovered the building blocks of community. The Bible says it this way: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Does this not reflect Jesus words, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)? In his essay “Luggage of Life,” F. W. Boreham explains, “He only invited them that He might offer His yoke and burden. Here is something worth thinking about. Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders.” To carry each other’s luggage “is the law of Christ, the law of the cross, a sacrificial law.”
Loneliness and tragedy call for love. If you are like Jesus, you sacrifice your time or treasure for others, and find tangible ways to love those whose burdens are heavy. “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). Don’t wait for community to find you; create it yourself by following the law of Christ: love your neighbors by bearing their burdens.