Solitude or loneliness?

Pastoral Ponderings—Solitude or loneliness?  SEP 21

I don’t do a lot of social media—too much negativity in the virtual realm.  It’s one of many intentional choices I make to focus on thriving rather than just passing through (and it makes it easier to live Philippians 4:8, encouraging us to focus on the Good Stuff!).  But one of the few blogish things I regularly follow is on church leadership from Carey Nieuwhof.  In today’s post, he pointed out “Solitude is a gift from God.  Loneliness is a tool of the enemy.  Leaders, you’re only as lonely as you choose to be.”

He also talks in today’s post that though it’s never been harder to lead churches, that with all the loneliness, divisiveness and broken community in these days of the COVID crisis, “the church has never been more important.”  Combine those observations with a bit of Army wisdom that Soldiers live by, that EVERY Soldier is a leader, perhaps we have a growing thought to share here.

A lot of times people look to the pastor and a few others to be “church leaders,” which is certainly true in a sense.  But we are also children of The Reformation which began more than 500 years ago, based largely on “the priesthood of all believers,” the assertion that every follower of Jesus is also a leader for Jesus.  So when Nieuwhof points out to leaders that “you’re only as lonely as you choose to be,” he’s talking to all of us.

When a lot of the fallout from the COVID crisis is how it has been eroding relationships and community, falling into a sense of loneliness is too easy, almost as if it is a natural, unavoidable thing when our human contact is limited.  But it’s also a choice because of how we choose to respond.  Karol and I were making deliveries for her church last week, and at one stop where the family was outside, Karol had a long conversation with Nicole (outside with proper social distance!) while I reconnected and had a long conversation with Travis.  This morning I had a face-to-face (without getting too close) with my neighbor across the street when we were both heading out to work (marveling that we’re already getting FROST!).  I sometimes have a visit with folks out on the street walking their dogs, and when we go to a restaurant (ONLY with patios!), we often connect with the servers and ask how we can pray for them.

Now of course we all have our comfort levels, but even praying for someone and sending them a personal card or note in the mail is a way to connect and build relationships and community.  After all, while God created snails, earthworms, bears, gophers, spiders, and so many other critters to function well on their own, that’s not how God created the human animal.  The yearning for connection and relationship God instilled into the human heart, is God’s sneaky strategy to keep us seeking Him.  St. Augustine described this reality so well centuries ago: “Lord, You have made us for yourself, so that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Sure, it’s harder to build relationships and community now than before COVID.  But Jesus never said anything about making our lives EASIER—more like “take up your cross and follow…” But as with Esther in the OT book that bears her name, “perhaps you were made… for just such a time as this” (Esther 4: 14)

Keep getting creative in being a blessing!

Rev. Jim

Link to the whole post if you’re interested:

Why You Shouldn’t Quit Ministry Right Now, Even Though You Feel Like It

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