Men are so hardwired and socially conditioned to portray strength and confidence that we often don’t know how to be vulnerable. We are told that we must be tough and able to protect those around us, even if it means sacrificing our very lives.
While there is honour in this, it can leave us without the resources or self-awareness to tend to our own needs. We grow so accustomed to “getting the job done” that we can be pretty poor at self-care. We are either afraid to be honest about our weaknesses and needs, or we don’t slow down long enough to notice them until they are overwhelming.
Many men suffer from the soul-crushing and existential anguish of loneliness. Too many feel lonely in this world and lack the vocabulary to express just how deeply the pain of loneliness cuts.
We need to be intentional about addressing this issue.
Understanding the Problem
Loneliness goes far deeper than simply not belonging to a community; it impacts us at an existential level.
First, our God exists eternally in perfect unity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; John 10:30; 2 Corinthians 3:17; etc.). As creations of the communally Triune Lord, we are, by nature, also communal beings. We were created to be in fellowship with God and one another (2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 John 1:7). Within the fabric of our very being exists the need and yearning for community. We are, by design, intended for interdependence.
One of the first things God said about the lone Adam is that it is “not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). While God’s answer for Adam was Eve, God’s resolution to human loneliness is not limited to marriage. Adam and Eve were instructed to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). God makes marriages, marriages make families, and families make communities of interconnected people.
When we speak of God, we use very different language than when we speak of humanity. God possesses certain qualities that no other creature in all creation has (Jeremiah 10:6; Psalm 86:8). These are God’s “incommunicable” attributes. One of these attributes is called the “aseity” of God. This means that God is uncaused, uncreated and altogether independent or self-sufficient. If nothing else existed, God alone would be enough, and He needs nothing beyond Himself.
We humans are not like this at all! For me to be loving, there must be someone to be loving towards. For me to be merciful, there has to be someone towards whom I can behave mercifully. A father cannot be a father without having children. A brother cannot be a brother without having a sibling. We depend on those around us to draw a true sense of being and identity. We help define one another by providing each other a backdrop against which to act and be acted upon. So, at a foundational level, humans are never complete when alone because we were created to need one another. Loneliness is not just about not knowing where I belong but about knowing who I am.
A Proposed Solution
The greatest resource men have been given in our fight against loneliness is access to God Himself. He is a loving and omnipresent God. Psalm 145:18 says, “The LORD is near to all who call on Him.” He is “near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
But even Jesus surrounded Himself with friends during His earthly ministry (Luke 6:13). This brings me to what I believe is a valuable help in seasons of loneliness: the local church.
Loneliness lies to us. It makes us think we are the only victims hurting in isolation, but our presence is greatly needed in the greater Body. Our absence wounds others just as much as their absence wounds us. We are created for one another to enjoy the benefits of community…a mutual interdependency.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him.”
This analogy is taken further in the New Testament when the Church is likened to a human body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Every member matters and contributes to the greater collective. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for “the common good” (v.7), not for the individual. While our salvation is personal, it is never singular. We have been grafted into an eternal family and provided to each other as a gift. We must get better at welcoming each other and relearn as adults how to make friends with the men the Lord has put around us.
It is in this context that we can learn to “think of others as better than yourself” (Phil2:3). Here, we can learn to “bear with one another”(Col 3:13). The church is a place where a group of men who would otherwise never hang out can become brothers who “love one another deeply because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). So not only are our emotional needs met within the local church, but our spiritual and existential ones too.
But to do that, I have to show up, and I have to engage. I must seek out community from within the family the Lord has given me, and I must realize that when I don’t press in, it’s not just me who suffers—God has placed in my local church brothers who need my presence as well.
My encouragement is to intentionally cultivate genuine brotherhood from amongst your local church family. You may find that while you were seeking to resolve your own loneliness, you helped heal your brother’s, too.