Tag Archives: cs lewis

All The Lonely People

 

It’s been called an epidemic, a threat to our health that could be worse than smoking or obesity and it can make you prone to depression.

No, I’m not talking about alcohol or drugs.

I’m talking about loneliness.

Not only do over a million elderly people in the UK feel lonely almost all the time, but one third of 18-34 year olds list loneliness as a concern. If the recent BBC documentary “The Age of Loneliness” shows anything, it’s that we aren’t alone in feeling lonely.

And if we don’t like to talk about loneliness in the elderly, we’re often even more reluctant to face the loneliness of young people.

Amplified by the instagrammed perfection of Taylor and her #squad, and the endless stream of images from nights out, in a life which is increasingly being lived online and alone.

And it seems to me that this is a stark contrast to the way we were made to live. Isn’t it written in Genesis, right at the beginning “It’s not good for man to be alone”?  C.S Lewis writes:

“We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, and intellectually. We need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”

We were made for relationships; family relationships, friendship, romantic love. That’s why loneliness feels so difficult.

Studies have shown that the lonely have lower self-esteem, sleep difficulties and even play a part in the development of illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

So what can we do about it?

1.Limit social media

It might have ‘social’ in the title, but watching other people’s filtered lives can increase our own feelings of loneliness. Instead of spending an evening on Facebook, why not heading out to a local community event or ‘phoning a friend or family member?

2.Volunteer

Whether it be helping out at a youth group or taking a meal ’round to new parents, volunteering can boost your employment chances and help you to connect with your local community. For more information, head to http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/campaigns/end-loneliness-in/.

3.Get Active

The gym might not be for everyone, so why not try a team sport or exercise class to get you out in the evening, raise those endorphin levels and meet some like minded people.

4.Peer Support

If feelings of loneliness are impacting your mental health, investigate peer mentoring and peer support schemes such as your local Mind group.

5.Make the Most of Alone Time

Tackling loneliness is as much about dealing with being alone as it is getting out and about. Use the time you are on your own to watch your favourite box set, do some reading or cooking a nice meal for yourself.

 

 

Watching

I’ve been reflecting on the problem of pain, recently. It’s a question I return to time and again because there is no satisfactory answer. Theodicy just about makes sense. I can nearly reconcile the all powerful and all loving God who sees more than we can ever imagine weaving a more beautiful tapestry with our darkness and His light. I’ve spent much of my working life thinking and reflecting on the problem of pain and evil. It’s formed parts of dissertations and essays, blog posts and articles.

Academically speaking, I get it.

And yet: Greater than academic theories of theodicy which argue an all-powerful and yet self-limiting God; an idea that the pain is part of our soul-making journey heavenwards.

Greater than the pain which permeates every pore and Greater than the questions which shake the firmest foundation of faith.

Greater than the most robust academic argument is the person of Jesus. It is the picture of a weeping and broken Jesus that allows me to trust in an invisible God in the face of life’s pain.

When I can feel the blankness steal over my gaze and the lump lodge itself in my throat – it is not the academic that comforts; but the truth of God made flesh who was scarred and slaughtered for our sake. It is the tears of Jesus as he weeps for his friend which enable me to trust when my understanding has reached its human limit. My trust in God must be greater than my understanding because there are still so many questions and so much I cannot comprehend. Whilst part of me knows that I will never be able to understand until we’ve reached heaven – I still cannot help but wonder: How can God watch? It is this thought which buzzes in my brain like an incarcerated wasp – how can He watch the agony of the starving, the acts of cruelty, the needless deaths and lives ravaged by mental illness? Nicholas Wolterstorff voices beautifully some of this questioning in his memoir “Lament for a Son”:

“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song–all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.”

All too often it seems, humanity’s song is a sob, a wrenching cry that asks “Why?” in the face of loss. And yet. In the questions and the crying and the regrets; there is something more. Something which cannot be adequately explained and something which would surely not satisfy logic. Wolterstorff continues;

“We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.”

The tears of God, are the tears of Jesus and they are illustrated in CS Lewis’ “Magicians Nephew” as Aslan’s fall in the face of Digory’s grief. They are the tears cried by Jesus when he is confronted with the death of his friend and his own private agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. I cannot find an answer which satisfies my desire to know how God can watch the pain. I cannot rationalise the suffering – but I can see the tears. And I have to believe that it is enough. It is enough to know that God cannot bear to watch our pain; but He does watch and He weeps with us; arms open wide with nail-scarred hands. I do not know how God can watch. I can know that God does care enough to watch.