Loneliness is a Silent Killer of Modern Society
Loneliness is a silent killer of modern society. I read a very interesting article on the Globe and mail written by Elizabeth Renzetti and in this article Amy Rokak, a psychologist and lecturer at York University who has been researching on this topic of loneliness for more than three decades. And she said “loneliness has been linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility, increased vulnerability to health problems, and even to suicide.” So loneliness, is not just loneliness, loneliness is very much connected and related to our health. The same research is done in United States and the director of the University of Chicago, center for cognitive and social neuroscience also says loneliness causes all kinds of health problems such as suppressing the immune system and cardiovascular function. And it increases the amount of stress hormone. And he says these changes in physiology are compounded in ways that may be hastening millions of people to an early grave. We’re talking about millions of people and loneliness they said is as bad as smoking or being obese.
I mean Loneliness has a serious health problems, but thing is, this is quite common. Forty percent of Americans are suffering from loneliness and that figure is doubled in 30 years, twice as many people are lonely now after 30 years. But even though 40 percent are saying they’re lonely they don’t admit it. They feel shameful to say that they are lonely. They never want to admit that they are lonely. Professor Wilcox says for 30 years, I’ve been doing this, and, and they are a readily admitted that they have schizophrenia or they’re depressed and things like that. They could admit it, but not a single person said that they are lonely. But in the course of conversation, they finally admitted that they’re lonely. In other words, many people don’t even know that they are lonely. There’s such a stigma about being lonely, so they don’t want to admit it.
Social Media puts on a Facade to Hide our Loneliness
They don’t want to say it but deep inside they feel deep loneliness. We have a very sophisticated, social media like Facebook and yet it does not help a people’s loneliness. I mean these days, even though we don’t meet physically in cafe or a restaurant or we can meet them through the Internet and Facebook, we can communicate. So we will wonder whether we are more connected with others, but the researchers say that they feel more lonely because of Facebook’s and all that It’s like Facebook is like a little hungry child looking through the window, of a family having great dinner, making conversation with each other and then saying to himself, “why not me?” Because in Facebook they put all the great things that they do, vacation, exotic vacation, and all the good times that they have. And then people who are lonely see their Facebook.
Jesus Experienced Total Abandonment
Everybody’s having a good time, but me, kind of feeling. So the loneliness becomes worse for them. In Today’s scripture we see Jesus coming into Jerusalem. It is a celebratory scene. People were ecstatic about Jesus and Jesus popularity was at peak. He was like a celebrity, you know, if he came in modern time and all the flashes everywhere, cameras and every hour and they were so excited about Jesus coming into Jerusalem. Look at what people did. If you go back to scripture, this is what they did. Many people spread their cloaks on the road and others spread leafy branches that they had caught in the field and those who went ahead. And those who followed were shouting, Hosanna blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna in the highest heaven. I mean they took off their clothes and then put it on the road and then they took branches put it on the road and let Jesus please come and walk. And then they were shouting with excitement, “Hosanna you are the king and please come and save us. That kind of atmosphere, ecstatic, celebratory scene. But I was wondering how Jesus might have felt. Would Jesus. Share the same excitement with these, with this crowd. Was Jesus so excited about going into Jerusalem?
I don’t think so. Jesus knew clearly that this exciting crowd will soon be scattered and the disciples would runaway in panic and then he will receive rejection, denial, betrayal, and Jesus will see the disappointment in people’s faces because Jesus will not do what they expected him to do. So Jesus knew that they will be very, very disappointed the problems Jesus knew all that as he entered into Jerusalem. I think Jesus felt all alone in the crowd. All alone.
No one was able to sense Jesus, total abandonment or loneliness in the midst of celebration. They were busy celebrating without really seeing what is going on in the heart of Jesus. You know, like, you went to a doctor and they just diagnosed that you have cancer and you have only three months to live and you came home and your family and friends gathered together to throw a surprise birthday party for you and you didn’t have a chance yet to tell them what you just heard from doctor. And you have only three months to live and they’re celebrating your birthday. You’re there, but you feel all alone.
Jesus’ sentiment is well captured in the scripture. Scripture is not really writing all Jesus this or that they’re just throwing a certain words to capture the mood a verse 11, this is what the scripture says. “Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple and when he had looked around at everything as it was already late, he went out to Bethlehem with the 12.” It was late in the evening temple. Usually during the daytime, people come and give sacrifice and pray and all that. In the evening they all leave and so Jesus went into the temple all alone, and he looked around by looking around what would have, what would he have thought? Probably he would have thought about what would happen soon.
The disciples might have been with Jesus physically, but they didn’t understand what their teacher, and master was going through. They had no idea what Jesus was thinking or feeling. When I reflect on last week of Jesus’ life on earth, this one image comes to my mind, the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, being alone. That is the image that comes to my mind. Nobody was able to be with him. He was all alone. It reminds me of the phrase, “we are born alone and die alone.” That’s true. You’re born alone and die alone. As I said a few weeks ago when we reflected on Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane, Jesus was going through tremendous hardships, agony and difficulties and suffering. The disciples fell asleep. Disciples cannot be with Jesus. That was the reality of Jesus’ last moment. Being alone. Isn’t that our reality? Being alone? No one can understand us completely.
Distractions Does not Get rid of Loneliness
No one can be with us all the way. Deep inside, we are all alone. When we really look at our lives, we are alone. But loneliness and being alone are two different things. Not everybody who’s alone is lonely. Jesus was totally alone, but he was not lonely necessarily. All his life he was like that. He went up to the mountain all by himself. He was all alone in the mountain, but he was not lonely. Well we are different. Many of us are scared of being alone because we are scared of facing our loneliness. We constantly have to distract ourselves. We make ourselves surrounded by people and things to do. We make ourselves very busy all the time. We fill up our schedule as though as though that’s scheduled might fill up our emptiness. Just because you fill up your schedule, that doesn’t mean that you can fill up your emptiness. Distraction does not get rid of our loneliness. It just delays it. You’re just playing blind eyes to it. You don’t want to think about it. You don’t want to deal with it. You just delay it until you have no choice, but to face your own loneliness or aloneness. I mean, I can do that all the times. I can always call friends. I can always do something exciting and I can always do that.
Why? That’s escapism. That’s running away, I mean are stronger than that. What are we so scared of? I’d rather face loneliness or aloneness rather than continuously filling up with schedule so that I don’t think about it. I want to see what loneliness is like. I clearly see it and deal with it rather than glossing over it. I believe that loneliness comes from hollowness, an emptiness inside and realize that this hollowness and emptiness, will never be able to be filled up by making yourself busy or doing many external things. This hollowness and emptiness has to do with who I am and what do I want to do.
Who am I and, What do I want to do?
These two questions are very important questions and we have to always ask ourselves, who am I and what do I want to do? When these questions are not answered, that hollowness and emptiness will continue. It doesn’t matter how high you go up. Doesn’t matter how many friends you have. It doesn’t matter how great time you have in your life. When these two questions are not answered, your hollowness will not be filled up. Who am I and what do I want to do? The problem is the answer does not come easily. Nor can we find it from books or even life experiences. No. The understanding of who we are and what we really want to do is lifetime journey. It’s a lifetime journey, but unfortunately many people don’t think about this. They say they are too busy. Just an excuse. You’re just making excuses. You just are scared, scared, so deadly scared of facing these questions. We are scared of looking at our hollowness because you will be completely submerged into it because there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer, so people don’t make time to be unknown and also when they are alone they don’t know what to do. Okay, I’m alone. What am I supposed to do? We don’t know. Just being alone.
Jesus Knew Exactly Who he Was
I’d rather have a party. I’d rather go out with friends so they always fill up again and again. Sometimes only this terrible loneliness is imposed on us. Once in awhile they never choose to be alone to the journey of understanding of who they are and what they really want to do. But if we take this journey boldly with faith in God our hollowness will not scare us anymore. God exists. God is here, so if we take boldly this faith journey to see our hollowness, then this hollowness will scare us anymore. This hollowness will not create devastating loneliness. Of course, the hollowness will never disappear, will never go away, but you will see God’s grace filling up this hollowness. That’s reality. As we boldly take that journey, this hollowness is being filled up by God’s grace, we are taking the wrong direction. Well, if I do better in career, if I do better with money, if I better with the friends, the relationship, this hollowness will be filled up. No, that’s the wrong direction. Our singing group, wrong direction, wrong direction, good name. You’re saying that. Let’s not do that, right? One thing great about Jesus is that he knew exactly who he was. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. That’s the difference. My goodness, when I look at Jesus. That’s who he was. He knew exactly who he was and exactly what he wanted to do. If you have courage and boldness and take this journey, then soon you’ll enjoy the process. You won’t get the result right away, but you’ll start enjoying the process of discovering who you are and what you want to do. You start enjoying when you continuously run away, you can never learn to enjoy this process of finding out who you are and what you want to do because Jesus knew clearly who he was and what he wanted to do. That was why he was able to take the last week of total abandonment.
The world abandoned Jesus. Oh my goodness. That’s hard. When you’re abandoned by the world, that’s hard to take. The world abandoned Jesus and he was able to take that because he knew who he was and he knew what he wanted to do. Henri Nouwen said in his book “spirituality of living”, that when Jesus was in the mountain, he questioned what did he hear and Nouwen’s answer is that he heard this voice. “You are my beloved son.” Nouwen said that Jesus must have heard that in the mountain. “You are my beloved son”, because that was a voice that he heard right in the beginning of the baptism. I think Nouwen is right. And then Nouwen continued with this knowledge of being the beloved Jesus could walk freely into a world in which he was not treated as the beloved.
That’s wisdom because Jesus was so sure that he was beloved. He was able to walk freely into the world where they abandoned Jesus completely. Jesus had a clear sense of who he was, regardless of how the world treated him.
But we are different. We have tremendous pressure to have to prove ourselves to the world. We have to prove our worth. Do you know how great I am? How worthy I am? To our friends, to our parents, to our company, and to even strangers? Do you know how great I am and we mistakenly think then, only then, people say will say that you are great and people love you.
We don’t even know how the world’s expectations poison us, they poison us. You got to be this kind of person to be loved, so we continuously try to meet that expectation just to be loved, how pathetic we are becoming. We don’t even know how this world and this corporate environment enslaves us and poisons us, how we are fooled by the praise of the people around us without even knowing who I am or what I want to do. We cannot continue in this poisonous environment. So this church, including myself, we want to protest against that kind of lifestyle. We don’t condone that. We don’t approve that as authentic living. We may not be able to get away from this world, but we need to come to our senses to truly see who we are and what we really want to do. As we started looking at who we are. Sometimes we may not like it. What you see, you may not like it, but still we have to continue.
Steve Jobs Anecdote
As I told you, Walter Isaacson’s, Steve Jobs, I’m slowly, I’m reading it I’m almost at the end and at the end of his journey, he called Walter Isaacson. And then Walter came to Steve Job’s home and then looked at Steve and then it was just bone he was dying. And then Steve said, “you know, I may not be able to read your book when you complete it, but you said a lot of bad things about me, right? And Walter said, yeah, I want to be as honest as possible. And Steve said, good. That’s maturity in a way, as we look at ourselves sometimes we may not like who you are, what we are like right now. That does not mean that we should give up. We continuously and courageously pursue this journey of finding true life. God will help us. These days when I look at people around me, both in congregation or outside, I feel this burden, pain. They don’t have to live like that, they could live much, much better life, and they deserve better life than that. If we are continuously running away from being alone, we cannot do this. We need to be strong to be alone without being lonely let us humbly and boldly. Take this journey of being alone and in our aloneness, God will speak to us and God will whisper to us and will experience our hollowness slowly being filled with God’s grace, that is possible. God created this hollowness so that we could relate to God and that hollowness is to be filled with God’s grace.