THE LONELY PLANET: If Thoreau’s observation was true in the past, it has become increasingly true in the present, and the prediction is that it will become alarmingly more so in the near future. We live on a very lonely planet.
• In 1950 there were only seven cities in the world with more than five million people. Only two of these were in the Third World.
• Today there are 34 cities with more than five million people, 22 of which are in the Third World.
• And by the middle of the 21st century, there will be nearly 100 cities with at least five million people, with 80 of these in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Most of the world’s population will be living in cities and the slums and squatter settlements of Third World countries.
People are alone in high-rise buildings that house tens of thousands; people are alone on transits systems that shuttle millions each day; people are alone in houses that are the size of castles as well as apartments that are the size of closets. Loneliness is no respecter of economics or status. Loneliness is not a stranger to more and more people around this city and across the world.
Charles Reich wrote in his impacting book a generation ago called The Greening of America, “Modern living has obliterated place, locality, and neighborhood, and has given us the anonymous separateness of our existence. The family, the most basic social system, has been ruthlessly stripped to its functional essentials. FRIENDSHIP has been coated over with a layer of impenetrable artificiality as men strive to live roles designed for them. Protocol, competition, hostility, and fear have replaced the warmth of a circle of affection that might sustain man against a hostile environment. America has become one vast, terrifying anti-community.”
So what are we to do the next time we see or feel the pangs of loneliness swirling around us? Think of the most described lonely person in God’s Word–his name was David, his discoveries about the Lord in the midst of piercing loneliness are recorded as testimonies in the book of Psalms. Let’s read one of the most powerful in Psalm 63. David chose to turn his lonely hours into times of worshiping God. Loneliness was as real then, as it is today.
We have come to a place in human history when people are lonely—yet surrounded by crowds. Life in the 21st century is very lonely for many people.
Though there are more humans than ever before alive and around us—many find less fellowship, companionship, and fulfillment each year. We move past, around and by, more and more people each day—but know fewer and fewer.
We often move faster—but not closer.
We often have more contact—but less touch.
We have more and more relationships—but less and less depth. And all of this leads to that aching hollow of the soul known as loneliness.
This common condition links Adam in the Garden before God made Eve, Ruth the widow, Job sitting in the ashes of misery, Elijah in the desert (I Kings 19), the Apostle Paul in prison (II Timothy 4), and Christ from Gethsemane to the Cross—for all were painfully alone.
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