It seems as though this past year I’ve been convicted as never before about how many really lonely hurting people there are all around us.
There are lonely hurting people that come to our churches.
There are lonely hurting people that live right next door to us.
There are lonely hurting people that have such a bright attitude and smiling demeanor that you’d never even know they are hurting. That is, unless you take the time to talk to them.
This year for the first time I volunteered at 2 camps for foster kids, which was definitely a stretch for me. I discovered a lot of the kids put on a hardened exterior which makes them seem aloof. Why? They’re afraid they’re going to get hurt once again – emotionally, physically or both. But once they see that you really care about them, you start to see cracks through their exterior – you see how vulnerable they really are, and how they’re just looking for someone to accept them.
Years ago in my Bible studies I came across James 1:27 which says we’re to look after orphans and widows. I was so convicted that I started looking around the sanctuary wanting to reach out and come alongside any widows that I saw.
I started watching one widow, who had such a joy about her. She was hilarious, beautiful and helped out at the church often. I ended up asking her to a movie and lunch one day, and we had a wonderful time. But I discovered even though she spread joy wherever she went, she was lonely. It was hard to have lost her husband and still be around her friends who were happily married. My heart broke.
Recently I was at a Christian women’s writer’s conference, and I noticed a young woman come in who had cerebral palsy. She was walking with a walker, and there was a lady who came in with her who helped her get settled at the table, and assisted her however she could.
However that friend wasn’t there with this young gal 24/7, and I started noticing that when the friend was gone, this gal sat alone until she came back. However later that afternoon another young woman came and sat down beside her, keeping her company the rest of the day.
Having a child with cerebral palsy myself, I should’ve been more sensitive to her loneliness. So the next day during lunch break when I noticed the other young woman accompanying the young gal with cerebral palsy out in the patio area, I knew I needed to go and chat.
The three of us started getting to know each other, and after a bit the young woman with cerebral palsy opened up and stated that the previous day her caretaker/friend had to pull her out of the conference for an extended period of time because she just couldn’t stop crying. She’d just felt so alone. Everyone else was walking around introducing themselves to one another; but she had been unable to get out of her chair.
My heart broke… I asked if the three of us could pray together, and the next thing I knew I was sobbing uncontrollably, grieving at how even among other Christians, sometimes people are just so alone.
And what about at church? How often do you hear that people visit a church – or even attend for a time – but no one ever reaches out to them? People walk through the doors hoping to get a glimpse of friendship, love and acceptance, but oftentimes no one even says “hi.”
Loneliness is hard. Throughout my teen years I was lonely and felt alienated a lot. I had few friends and wondered why no one liked me. So why do I forget so often to reach out and extend a smile to people that cross my path? Don’t know…
Life is full of lessons, isn’t it? And God’s grace is never-ending, which I’m so grateful for. So I guess the prayer for myself is that I’d never forget to try and reach out to others, just as Jesus reached out to me. I want to be His hands and feet, extended.
How about you?