The author of Being Mortal, Atul Gawande, identified the three plagues of old age as #1 Loneliness, #2 Dependency, and #3 Boredom. Much could be done to alleviate those three plagues! See if you agree with me.
Consider Plague #1—LONELINESS.
I once asked my ninety year old grandmother what she considered the most difficult aspect of growing older. Nana was an educated woman of many interests—a retired teacher who began oil painting at age 50, she also took up square dancing in her second marriage. Nana traveled, and she wrote poetry. For sheer joy, she played her organ for hours without even glancing at the sheet music. This “can do” woman did not hesitate to answer my question. “Losing all of my friends,” was her succinct answer.
Surprisingly, loneliness has been a hot topic in the news. Per the former Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, Loneliness is increasingly being considered a hazard to human health comparable to obesity and smoking. While the experts debate whether or not we have an epidemic of loneliness and/or the veracity of the data being studied, the British have appointed a Minister of Loneliness. I’m personally satisfied with my grandmother’s input. My question is—what can we do about loneliness?
When a dear friend of mine died in 2004, it hurt dreadfully. I would not have missed this friendship to avoid the pain of loss. In fact, I began to consider how many other potentially wonderful people I might have already missed by being self-protective, reclusive, shy, and private. My conclusion was—too many! I also remembered my grandmother’s comment—losing her friends was the most difficult part of aging.
I decided to BE MORE ADVENTURESOME IN MAKING FRIENDS. In view of Nana’s input, I also asked God for younger friends. Since then, He has enriched my life with dear people, and some are young enough to be my children! I am so glad I decided to be more outgoing and connect with other generations. In youth, a few years difference in age makes a huge difference. When I was dating, my younger brothers were still shooting rubber bands at each other! In adulthood, however, the age difference melts away. The perspectives and experiences differ widely, but I find the ability to relate to one another is often present without any family connection at all. I am also willing to be the younger friend. One 94-year-old friend lives three thousand miles away, but we stay in touch by laughing and chatting regularly on the phone! What relational treasures we miss if we persist in socializing only with those in our own season of life. Please join me in avoiding the plague of loneliness for ourselves as well as for those we befriend.
Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away. Proverbs 27:10
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
PRACTICE HOSPITALITY. May I assure you I am not a Martha-Stewart type hostess, nor do I have a chance at winning the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. However, I find friends are delighted to be invited into our home as opposed to meeting in a restaurant or a coffee shop. Last week we were the recipients of hospitality—a couple at church invited us to follow them home for dinner. What a joy it was to swap stories and get better acquainted. Hospitality is not a competition, but a boost to friendship that is scriptural! What a fun way to be obedient!
Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13b
ENTER INTO THE PRESENCE OF ONE WHO WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU. With Jesus, we are never alone, so we need not be lonely—ever. Psalms 100:4 is a crash course on how to connect with Him—thankfulness and praise open the door to experiencing the presence of God. If this is new to you, ask God to speak with you as you read your Bible. Learn how to be still and listen for the still, small voice encountered by Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). John likens this interaction to that of sheep recognizing their shepherd’s voice (John 10:4). Connecting with Jesus defeats the plague of loneliness.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
Be still, and know that I am God! Psalms 46:10a
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. John 14:16 NLT
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39