Christmas and New Years Eve are times when we like to gather and celebrate with friends and family. As humans, we are created by God to be socially interconnected beings. Social isolation and loneliness can cause depression, anxiety, and even suicide. They are both bad for our health, and bad for our soul. Find out why. Please read more.
According to an article on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes. It creates a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. In a study, social isolation was associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia, a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
Loneliness does not just come about from living alone. It is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. That same study indicates social isolation can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated.
Why am I writing about this at this time of year? I am doing so because isolation and loneliness are not just detrimental to our physical health, they are detrimental to our spiritual health. The start of the new year is an ideal time to resolve to make a change.
One of my spiritual mentors once told me, “An isolated Christian is an ineffective evangelizer.” Mother Teresa famously said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Spiritually speaking, we need each other. I have always liked the saying, “Christianity is not a solo sport!” Jesus sent His apostles out in twos. His desire is for us to live in Christian community. The paralytic man needed his friends to lower him down on his mat so that Jesus could heal him. We need good Christian friends to help us too!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” He believed that sin demands to have a man by himself. He wrote, “the more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.” He believed that it was through confession that the break-through to community takes place.
In essence, when sin is brought to the light through open and honest sharing between Christian friends, it loses it power over us. Sin kept in the dark poisons and imprisons us. When we build meaningful Christian friendships and openly share our spiritual successes and our spiritual shortcomings, we are no longer alone with the evil that dwells inside of us.
Mankind has the opportunity to share life with God through the incarnate Christ who came to live with us. Because of Jesus, God is no longer distant and far away. Jesus became the bridge between us and the Father. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are united in our relationship with the Father. This is why Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loves us. This is why we need Church, and why it is essential to live in Christian community.
The Bible also tells us that faithful friends are a sturdy shelter. It states faithful friends are beyond price. And most importantly it says, faithful friends are lifesaving medicine. I have found this to be true in my life. I have been a member of a weekly gathering of Christian men for over 34 years. We meet for about an hour and a half each week. We openly discuss our relationship with God and we share our struggles too. For me, being a part of a small Christian Friendship Group is as essential as breathing. Are you living out your life in a small group like this? If not, would you consider doing so?
If you want a sturdy shelter in which you can grow your faith during this new year and beyond, if you desire a spiritual tool that is beyond price, and if you desire lifesaving medicine for your soul, I highly recommend that you commit yourself to walking life’s journey in the presence of some strong Christian friends who gather together weekly to grow in friendship and to build a stronger relationship with God.
Start your new year off with a commitment for Christian community. If you are already in a group, that is wonderful. If you would like to start or join a group, I have a couple of resources that might help. You will find a guide to help you develop and maintain a strong weekly Christian Friendship group by clicking here. I have also developed a form to help keep your discussions on track. You can find it here. My hope is that you find the ideal group for you.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of friendship. Please help me find and sustain a close group of Christian friends to walk life’s journey with. Keep us always focused on your Son and on His teachings, and through Him draw us ever closer to you. Amen!
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