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Lonely People and the Gospel

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

An expression that most people know bears repeating, that we do not know what is happening in the hearts and minds of people. In the 1976 ballad "I Never Cry", Alice Cooper (who became a Christian in the late 1980s) said, "I may be lonely, but I'm never alone." It was about his struggles with alcoholism.

That feeling of isolation can happen in a crowd as well as being physically alone. Sometimes loneliness can be overwhelming. Chuck Girard wrote "Plain ol' Joe" about a lonely person who ended his own life. People are complicated, where some want to be left alone, others are alone and want to let someone in. Yes, there are those who are masterful at putting on masks.

The Lonely Ones, Edvard Munch, 1899

As people, do we show interest in others and try to connect beyond superficial levels? I'll allow it's not easy because there are so many that cross out paths. Many build walls which serve to keep others out but imprison themselves. Then there are introverts who are just keep to themselves.

Yet another song to reference (which may have been the catalyst for this article) is the 1998 song "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls. It was written for the movie City of Angels and is probably their best-known song. The chorus speaks to me:

And I don't want the world to see me
'Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

As Christians, do we make an effort to connect? We are part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) and need to pay attention to the needs, hurts, and joys of others (Gal. 6:2, Rom. 12:15, Gal. 6:10).

Over the years, I have struggled with depression and had times where I wanted to end my life. A few years ago, I watched a Christian video about suicide and all it did was add guilt to my depression. My wife and I pretty much kept to ourselves, families were mostly uncommunicative and we had few friends. Charlene was my best friend as well as my wife, and I could be myself around her. Even so, she never knew everything I thought and felt. Does anyone?

When she died suddenly several months ago, I seriously contemplated ending it all. (I am being open about these things because I hope it can help others.) People didn't know what was inside me. I told pastors and others how I felt, and had some counseling. Those ideations are only memories now, but I still pray very bluntly and express my struggles, doubts, sins, lack of faith — and ask for wisdom. Sometimes my loneliness is profound, but I go to my job and have some outings in nature.

Now we take a fork in the trail.

Another song came to mind, something I knew from the 1970s that was published in 1967 is "Lonely Voices" by Billie Hanks, Jr. He wrote it focusing on "the city." I used to play it on my guitar and sing with feeling. It was difficult to find a decent version. Sure, George Beverly Shea was known for his great voice, but his version didn't work for me. Nor did something up-tempo that seemed like a happy march! What is embedded below is a choral version that carries some of the feeling that I think the lyrics and melody convey.

There are a couple of problems, however. One is that lonely people are better after they come to Jesus. Loneliness does not always evaporate upon salvation — as I have shown. It reminds me of the "Come to Jesus and you'll be happy" material, but many unbelievers are happy in their lives. People need to realize their need for salvation, humble themselves and repent, not just seek a tonic for sadness. The other thing that bothers me a little about the song is that it's about being lonely in cities. Loneliness happens elsewhere, and a nod to that would have improved the song in my view.

There are many lonely people in the world, in cities and elsewhere. Among those are people who wish to make a connection with someone. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is vital and goes a long way to solving problems of loneliness, but we Christians have a responsibility to reach out. Not just to lead them to Christ, but to help other Christians as well.