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Loneliness: Not God’s Design

It’s never good news when our neighbor, Bill, texts late at night.  A couple of weeks ago we received a 10:00 pm text explaining the ambulance and police car outside.   Bill and Deirdre live in-between us and a mentally ill man who had become a hermit.  They’ve lived in their home for eleven years and have only seen this man a handful of times.

Bill explained that for several days he smelled death.  He scoured their beautiful yard and landscaping for a dead animal, to no avail.  Finally, Bill ventured near the mentally ill man’s house; the overwhelming stench confirmed his horrible suspicion.

After an awful, awkward call to the non-emergency number our neighbors watched as emergency workers spotted this poor man dead on the living room floor, busted down the front door, and almost fell over as the putrid smell accosted them.  For hours the police investigated and in the middle of the night they finally rolled his body out of his home and into the ambulance, the stench of death filling the yards of several neighbors.

The night’s events deeply disturbed and saddened my husband and me.  It’s devastating to think about a man in his seventies living two houses down from us that literally had NO relationships.  We never saw his face (though my husband once saw him from behind as he slipped into his house before dawn) and none of the neighbors knew his name.  Though many attempted to speak to him, his sickness caused the ultimate isolation.  He was utterly alone in his life and in his death.  His lifeless body lay in his home for several days and there wasn’t anyone who missed him or who came to check on him.

I’m sad that this man was ill.  I’m sad that he likely endured some sort of trauma that led him to a life of such extreme phobia.  I’m sad that he was enslaved to his home and his distorted thoughts.  I’m sad that he didn’t know the simple but profound joy of friendship, of companionship, of community.  But the thing that saddens me the most is that his sickness kept him from living life as God designed.

You see, the triune God created us as an overflow of perfect, holy friendship.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existed from eternity past joyfully enjoying one another until the time came and God said, “Let us make man in our image.”  At the end of each day of creation, God declared His work “good.”  But in Genesis 2:18, after creating Adam, God said “It is not good that the man should be alone.”  This is profound because Adam was in the Garden of Eden (a.k.a. Paradise).  God declared Adam’s state of loneliness “not good” before sin entered the world.  Adam enjoyed unfettered fellowship with God Almighty, but he didn’t have any friends.  And God declared that something must be done.  God designed us with relational needs.  He made us for friendship.

The illness that ransacked my neighbor’s brain crippled him from living life as God designed.  It’s devastatingly sad to think about the prison of fear this man lived and died in when God made him to love and be loved.  As you interact with acquaintances and neighbors and friends and family today, thank God for their presence in your life.  I suspect that your relationships might be as imperfect as mine, but the reality that we’re connected to others—that we give and receive love—is a life-giving, God-designed grace in our lives.  Let’s refuse to take our relationships for granted today.

Ashlee Johnson

Ashlee is the wife of a pastor, mom of two busy little ones, and a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary. She is passionate about communicating the truths of Scripture to women and magnifying Jesus as the All-Satisfying Treasure and Almighty Redeemer. She has lived in North Carolina for most of her life and loves making the most of the sidewalks and parks in her 1940s neighborhood. Ashlee enjoys healthy eating and exercising, but finds it nearly impossible to resist homemade cookies!

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2 Comments

    Lori

    3rd Oct 2016 - 5:47 pm

    So true, Ashlee. We were meant for community. We’re either moving towards healthy relationships, including God, or we are moving away towards the abyss of isolation. That was never God’s intention. God help us to be aware of the lonely and invite them in! May we learn a thing or 2 from this sad story.

    Shirley Whitaker

    5th Oct 2016 - 1:10 am

    This is such a touching letter, it shows me that sometimes, we need to ring a person’s doorbell just to see if they might need something from the store or just might to see a friendly person. We don’t always know another neighbors plight but at the same time we find us saying that person acts weird, just because they don’t interact with the neighbors.
    Reading this brought to my mind a neighbor that lives on our little tiny block very seldom comes out. Has any of us taking time to check on him? (No) I think we just take forgranted that he wants to be alone. Thank you for this post because I am going to ring his bell just to say hello! It might not be received the way I want it to go, but at least I will try. Who knows this just might be what the doctor ordered. By the way he’s not bad looking either lol
    Just joking Nick

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