A few years ago I conducted a funeral in a massive graveyard chapel. The historic stone and stained glass building struck awe and emotion in whoever walked through its doors. Both the famous and the unknown served as guest of honor in this chapel. The chapel that could easily seat 200 now dwarfed the crowd of 10. It seemed to be a sad state that no more than 10 people were able to pay tribute to a life well lived. The guest of honor did not have any children. She had outlived her husband, her family and her friends. At the end of her days she was alone.
The fear of loneliness strikes at each of us differently. In prison facing certain death, Paul sends out a letter of request, "Timothy, please come as soon as you can." At the time he was not completely alone, but he confessed he needed company. Paul reminds of us a simple reality ingrained in men and women across all of God's creation: We need others.
Battling loneliness demands intentionally building into others. Paul's request for Timothy's presence was an appeal built on a long-term friendship. From their first meeting they had become brothers in arms. He, being older, became a spiritual father, a mentor to young Timothy. Across our nation there are hundreds of thousands of men and women who have decades of experience that someone younger is begging to know. Look around. Is there someone you could have coffee with, listen to and invest in? You don't need all the answers and would be surprised at what you do know.
Battling loneliness demands intentionally allowing others to build into us. Most of us would rather fly into our fortress of solitude than reveal to anyone our weaknesses, struggles and strengths. It is vital to surround yourself with people who challenge, inspire, laugh with you and, when necessary, cry with you. Shedding your cape of heroism to risk being vulnerable can deepen the fullness of life that God has promised. Who is influencing you? Not just through books and television. Who is shaping you?
Loneliness can strike fear in the heart of us all. Loneliness is not a monster hiding in the corners waiting to lunge and devour. Loneliness can be battled head on by investing in others and being invested in by others.
Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at www.robhurtgen.wordpress.com.