The headlines are eye-opening:
You and I are living in an era marked by a loneliness epidemic. According to
The Gospel Coalition
, former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy was the first to use this term in the context of loneliness. He called loneliness an “insidious type of stress” that leads to chronic inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Research suggests loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking – wait for it – 15 cigarettes a day!
What is happening around us, church? Well, 21
century western culture is marked by nothing if not rampant individualism. This means that as the primary view of self and meaning, we seek individual fulfillment – self-actualization, if you will – over community.
Is there a solution? I read a fascinating article in
last month that profiles Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brian Dynamics Lab at the university of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Based upon her late husband’s work, Dr. Cacioppo is continuing a body of research he was only beginning to explore: a pill for loneliness.
“It’s less science fiction than it sounds. A number of clinical trials – led by Stephanie and others – are already under way, targeting the ways in which chronic loneliness changes the brain, as well as the havoc it unleashes on the nervous system. If there are pharmacological treatments for other social pains like depression and anxiety, why not loneliness?”
Church, you and have lots to learn, but this much we know: we need each other! The church body, a community of grace, provides the very communalism we need to battle isolation and loneliness. We care for one another, because God cares for us. Our Savior models the perfect kind of in-relationship we seek: He saw us, and He moved toward us. The difference of course, is that in our Savior’s case, He first had to move toward the cross. But that battle has been one! The great chasm between us and God has been bridged by our Lord’s infinite sacrifice. So let us now in response see one another, and move toward one another in humility and community.
Toward a culture of care…