Loneliness is prevalent and on the increase

A pet can alleviate loneliness

By Pastor Ross Helgeton

There is a veritable host of individuals who tell me that they are lonely. Consequently, three things seem to be apparent to me. First, everyone experiences loneliness at some time. Second, loneliness is not only prevalent but on the increase. Third, loneliness varies significantly from person to person in both frequency and intensity.

Certain personalities may be more prone to loneliness than others, but loneliness can encroach upon the shy, the gregarious and all types in between. Furthermore, a person can be alone and not be lonely, while another might be found in a crowd, yet experience intense loneliness.

Loneliness can move in stealthily and incrementally, or invade instantaneously through some catastrophic event. And it hurts! Loneliness has been described as a toothache of the soul.

People suffering with loneliness will go to great lengths to avoid, or ease the pain and discomfort of loneliness. These efforts may be products of the subconscious or pursued consciously. Some fill their lives with activities to take the focus off of their loneliness. While busyness can help, it is in and of itself, more of a distraction than a deliverance.

The self-rewarding practice of spending is also common. For those with limited resources this quickly leads to financial difficulties and debt. Even for the wealthy, the elation of acquiring new things soon evaporates, but the loneliness remains.

Substance abuse, drugs over or under the counter, sleeping as an escape mechanism and sexual promiscuity are other methods employed to stave off loneliness. People who have engaged in the aforementioned activities report that these escape routes and superficial relationships ultimately serve only to accentuate and intensify their loneliness.

Loneliness might never be entirely eradicated, but it can be diminished. Admission to the fact that loneliness is actual and real is the first step. Pain is a friend after all. As physical pain tells us to remove our hand from a hot stove burner, the psychological pain of loneliness tells us that we should take action and do something.

We shouldn’t allow loneliness to loop, playing over and over again. Repetitious rehearsals of feelings of desperation simply leads to more pain and greater despair. And the lonely need to resist the temptation to do nothing, which leads to emotional paralysis.

Reaching out to and interacting with other people and renewing interests and hobbies are beneficial. Therapists currently consider acquiring a pet to be one of the best treatments for loneliness.

Finally, and perhaps this should have been first, we need to reach up in recognition that God’s love is as eternal as it is unconditional. The apostle Paul, while incarcerated, wrote, “At first…everyone deserted me…But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… (2 Timothy 4:16,17 abridged).

Gospel singer Amy Grant, recognizing the inescapable nature of loneliness, but simultaneously experiencing the presence of God, said, “as I’ve experienced…loneliness, it has drawn me into a closer relationship and a deeper dependence upon Jesus than I ever would’ve been aware of without it!”

Pastor Ross Helgeton. Phone: (403) 742 – 3384. Email: revrh@telus.net.

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