Remember the old Beatle song, Eleanor Rigby? They sang, “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? …where do they all belong?” A few years later, the group America sang, “This is for all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by.”
There seems to be a fascination with loneliness and lonely people (as well there should be). Songsters write about them, poets romanticize their plight, and preachers expound on the subject. I suppose we all find ourselves in lonely situations from time to time.
“The biggest disease known to mankind is loneliness.”
The Beatles had no answers (at least not in Eleanor Rigby). They simply pointed to her as a fictional example of the plague of loneliness. There was neither a glint of hope nor any silver lining in that song. It was merely a haunting reminder of how an empty life can end up.
America was a tad more positive. At least they urged the lonely people to keep plugging away. “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup and ride that highway in the sky.” In other words, you might be lonely now, but when you die it will get better (at least that’s how I read it).
Aloneness is a genuinely human condition. It can be almost disease-like in its insipidness. It can feed on itself until a person’s life is as empty as a discarded cardboard box. It can be experienced in a crowd or in a nondescript room. It can eat away at someone’s very soul.
Psalms speak of loneliness more than once. In that context, the answer to the Psalmist’s condition is God. In Psalm 25, the writer seeks the Lord’s comfort and refuge. His hope is in the Lord.
Psalm 68 refers to God as “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” who “sets the lonely in families.” These are good things for the lonely to know. But what about the rest of us? Friends, family, and the fellowship of other Christians constantly surround me. What do I know of loneliness?
“Do you even know someone who is lonely?”
It has always been my understanding that we are here to be the answer to someone else’s prayer. It’s a privilege and a high calling—an opportunity to be a vessel for the Lord’s grace and presence. Answering the cry of the lonely then becomes an opportunity for service in God’s Kingdom.
Do you even know someone who is lonely? You might actually have to go out of your way discover someone in that situation of life. After all, if you already know them, they probably aren’t lonely.
There may be someone in a nursing home, a neighbor down the street, or even a popular figure who is dying of loneliness once his or her bedroom door is shut. It may be someone you never even liked. You may have to bury a hatchet or mend a fence to be there for them.
Eleanor Rigby is somewhere in your life. Seek her out. It’s God’s opportunity for you (and her).
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]