The radio station I listen to chooses a theme each morning, and callers request songs that go with that theme. Recently the theme was loneliness, and for the 20 minutes or so that I was in my car, I heard not only songs about loneliness, but also callers’ brief comments on feeling lonely. Lighthearted as the segment was meant to be, my heart did go out to them.
Loneliness goes much deeper than a theme of popular music. In fact, not long ago, loneliness was declared an epidemic in the United States, where Sen. Ben Sasse called loneliness the nation’s “number one health crisis.” In the United Kingdom, the seriousness of the issue prompted the appointment of a loneliness minister.
In thinking about loneliness, both on an individual and global level, I’ve recently found new inspiration in the Easter story.
It doesn’t start very happily. In the book of Matthew, we read that prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, his disciples fell asleep when he asked them to pray with him. Then one disciple betrayed him and another denied knowing him. Jesus went on to be crucified, hung on a cross to die between two thieves. His garments were given away, and his body was placed in a tomb sealed by a heavy rock. No doubt this was an extremely lonely series of events.
However, it recently struck me that this time in the tomb was a sacred time for Jesus – a time for him to commune with his heavenly Father, God. He rose from the dead, and as Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy writes in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “The lonely precincts of the tomb gave Jesus a refuge from his foes, a place in which to solve the great problem of being.... He proved Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate” (p. 44).
Jesus went through this inconceivably challenging experience alone, without any human help. However, in his “aloneness” with God, he had such a clear sense of God’s nature as endless Life and Love that it enabled him to rise above the world’s hatred of what he represented and to triumph over death. He fulfilled his God-appointed mission, proving for everyone, for all time to come, the absolute power of God and the promise of the capacity of divine goodness to overcome all evil.
Certainly we aren’t likely to experience anything close to these circumstances. But even on a much smaller scale, rejection, disagreement, or loss may make us feel isolated and lonely. Science and Health says, “Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love” (p. 266).
As Jesus’ days in the tomb were filled with the presence of God’s love, our days are already filled with that same love too. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). To me, the word “kingdom” implies fullness of life and activity. No one is forgotten or left out of God’s kingdom, and we reach this kingdom right within ourselves, through our individual prayers – our communication with God.
Of course, Jesus did not remain in the tomb, and no one is destined to remain in loneliness. Through a growing reliance on God, divine Love, we will be led naturally into new opportunities and fulfilling friendships.
Obviously, the focus of the Easter story isn’t about overcoming loneliness; it’s about Jesus proving the supremacy of God’s power over every argument that says our life is separated from God, including death itself. But I am struck by the fact that this perspective on the Easter story gave me inspiration and healing at a time when I was feeling particularly lonely. My family had gone through some significant changes, and I felt alone and scared. However, I began to see this as a time to get to know God better and to know myself more as God’s child, the spiritual expression of His infinite love, already having all that I needed for fulfillment and happiness. It wasn’t long before new opportunities for abundant activity arose, which included fun and meaningful interactions with others.
Whether we are praying to be lifted out of loneliness ourselves or we want to help lift this problem from the world, the ever-dawning promise of Easter can resurrect our thought from darkness and despair to light and peace. Then our theme will be that of fullness and joy as we sing praises to God.