This week, among the many Persians we are teaching, we have met with several other wonderful souls who have pressed upon my soul a topic that pains me to speak about, and is unimaginably painful to endure. It is loneliness.
Loneliness is a trial that is as vast as it is heart wracking. Exceeding in worldwide spread over all diseases of the body, this tumour to the soul brings with it a host of symptoms ranging from depression to premature death. It can attack the widow, the orphan, the single mother or father, the spinster, and even those with spouses and parents but whose emotional line between relationships has been cut. It carries on it’s back the life sucking parasites of hopelessness, fear, bitterness, apathy, mistrust, and faith deterioration. When left unattended, loneliness can eat away at it’s victim until they are but a sulky sullen shadow of a human, dementor stricken shell.
Humans, it has been proven countless times, are not meant to be alone. After Adam came Eve, as God’s most wondrously divine crowning act of creation, for “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18)
We need company on life’s journey. We need loved ones in our life, for love is not only the fuel to the universe but the fuel to our very souls. But still, even though, in God’s plan, we are not to be left alone, it is evident from time to time he has us face a period of existence, ranging from a few miserable months to a long suffering lifetime, in which we are to endure loneliness.
In my work here in Sundsvall, I have come to admire three wonderfully strong women who have had to face a degree of loneliness that pains the soul to even try to comprehend. One is an investigator left to raise three young girls by herself in the wake of divorce. Another is a member who lives an hour from church with a husband leaving the church, children fading into inactivity, no means to visit church, and no one in her life to believe in her. The last is an investigator with a terribly abusive (in every degree) and unfaithful husband who robs her of her money, her self worth and her hope for life. All three are painstakingly alone, lacking those who are supposed to be the loving support and comfort in their lives. They are three truly remarkably special souls with incredible talents and hearts of gold, but the parasites that attend loneliness convince them otherwise.
I’m not writing to condemn those whose duty it was to love and cherish the now rendered lonely. Loneliness is not cured by vengeance. What I am here to write about is our duty to love and cherish the lonely. By “our duty” I do not mean simply the missionaries’ duty….. I mean everyone’s duty. Your duty.
Here is a truth; if everyone were to live the gospel of Jesus Christ there would be no lonely people. All of the Eleanor Rigbys and Father Mckenzies will not necessarily be promised spouses and children and a life of rainbows but they will never truly be alone because if we all loved the gospel of Jesus Christ we would follow the beautiful words of James; “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
I do not believe when James said the fatherless and the widows he was referring to only those technically classified as widows and orphans. What is the common link between widows and orphans? They both are missing a key figure in their life that is meant to provide essential love and comfort. Therefore, we ought to visit all those who are missing a key figure, everyone who has a hole that needs filling with your love and company, anyone who is lonely. Our religious purity is dependant on our attendance to the lonely.
So any Latter Day Saint, Christian or indeed any decent person anywhere upon this globe, should not allow anyone within their circle of influence to face life alone. Life is already hard enough as it is…. No one deserves to face it alone. Not you and not your neighbour. Who is your neighbour? The widow, orphan, the single parent and broken hearted. The despairing. The love lacking. The hurt and wounded. The lonely.
Maybe the lonely in your sphere of influence require a little more than a charity basket of food and a lawn mowed for free. In fact, every lonesome soul needs much more. This is where the necessary gifts of the Holy Ghost, pure love of Christ and the ever important art of listening are required. As we listen to the lonely hearted, (and listening in and of itself can do a great deal of healing) pay close attention to the Holy Ghost’s guidance and than act with a sincere love for them, we can be miracle workers in their lives. (if you don’t feel you love them just yet I suggest listen a little longer, this time without thinking of what you’re going to say next.)
So can everyone this week who reads this, please think of someone who is lonely? You can just start by selecting one…. and pay them a visit. Do something for them. Lighten their week. Listen to their burdened soul. Love them. This has been the command of Thomas S. Monson, the prophet who has truly dedicated his entire life to visiting the lonely. At times he even prevented suicides by visiting a lonesome ward member when the spirit inspired him to do so. This has been the command of prophets of old including Alma whose disciples had “their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21)
And this will always be the command of our Saviour Jesus Christ who, as Jeffrey R. Holland acknowledged in his brilliant conference address, None were with Him.
“For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.” He, who faced the greatest act of mankind, even the atonement, without disciples or friends beside him, and even temporarily without the very Spirit of His father, so very much knows exactly how your loneliness feels. Remember that He bore it for you. And “because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone,”we do not have to do so.
So for Christ’s lonely journey from Gethsemane to Calvary, for his perfect sacrifice in both locations, and for every lonely heart aching soul who has lived and died without hope and utterly alone, please make someone less lonely. They’re silently crying for some company. Please let God lovingly direct you to them.
By doing so, I can promise that you will be blessed. I am blessed with multiple bonus grandmothers because of it. Who can say no to a Swedish grandma who cooks you salmon and makes you pancakes every Thursday? They just want someone to love! And don’t we all love being loved….and getting free pancakes?
Please be the means by which “The Lord relieveth the fatherless and widow” Psalms 146:9Please love and serve the lonely around you.