We are the most technologically connected generation in history, yet perhaps one of the loneliest. Do a brief search on the topic of loneliness, and you’ll see the problems cataloged and covered from major news outlets with words and phrases such as epidemic, serious health problem, public health concern, and social fracturing of society. A recent study conducted by the health insurance company Cigna surveyed twenty thousand people and found that 54 percent of respondents said that they always or sometimes feel like no one really knows them well. And 40 percent of respondents felt like they “lacked companionship” and their “relationships aren’t meaningful.”

America is an increasingly lonely nation, and the statistics bear this out. Our face-to-face relationships continue to be on the decline, with the institution of marriage being a less popular institution today than it was in the past (today about 50 percent of adults are married, a decline from 72 percent in 1960). The average household is growing smaller as well. More than 25 percent of the population now lives alone, compared to 13 percent in 1960. We are isolating more and more, and it’s not good. Loneliness is prevalent in our culture, and it’s prevalent in our churches too.

Created for Deep, Meaningful Relationships

When God created the world and everything in it, He declared that “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). This declaration of goodness is echoed several times as we see God’s creative work, until we get to Genesis 2:18, where God declares, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (emphasis added). Thus, He set about making a “helper fit for him.” God singles out Adam’s aloneness and draws our attention to it as “not good.” We were not created to be alone; we were created for deep, meaningful relationship. And this should not surprise us, as it is one way that we bear the image of our Creator. God Himself is triune and exists in the most intimate relationship, an eternal relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our relationship with God and with others is central in creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

When we turn to Genesis 3, we see broken relationships at the center of the fall. Sin has entered the world and has broken our relationship with God and the rest of creation, which is visibly portrayed in Adam and Eve’s banishment from the garden (v. 24). Not only has the fall affected their relationship with God, but because of sin, their relationship with one another is broken and their relationship to the world is broken (vv. 14–19). It is a mess; paradise has been lost.

The immediate response—isolation and shame—is curious. They “hid themselves” from God (v. 8). The deep intimacy they enjoyed with God—walking with Him in the garden, being naked and unashamed—is now gone, and they realize their nakedness and shame, and they hide. They distance themselves from each other—blaming each other, blaming the serpent, and blaming God.

In order for deep relationship to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen by God, really seen.

Throughout the pages of Scripture, time and time again God’s people fail to draw near to God and turn away from Him. Israel was no faithful bride. Yet in the drama of redemption, we see God moving toward His people—unfolding a story of His pursuit of His people. The refrain “I will be your God, and you will be my people” plays out in God’s rescue of Noah and his family in order to begin again with a people who would be His own. It plays out in the call of Abraham to bless him and the generations after him. It plays out in God’s rescue of His people from slavery in Egypt. It plays out in God’s sending His prophets to call His people back to Him. And most powerfully, God’s love and pursuit of us is displayed in His Son. While we were still sinners and in disobedience, Christ died for us. The godly for the ungodly. The one without shame and guilt, for those who are filled with shame in guilt. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life we could not and died a sinner’s death so that we could again be brought near to God. He has restored our relationship to the Father, and He prays for the same restoration with respect to our relationship with each other, asking that we would enjoy the same intimacy of relationship that He enjoys with the Father: “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21).

Cultivate Deep, Meaningful Relationships

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we long for deep relationships with others. We may be tempted to think our longing indicates that something is wrong with us, that something is deficient in us, but I assure you it is not. That longing for deep relationship was placed in us before the fall. We are created to bond and to have deep relationships.

So, why are we so lonely? Why do we isolate ourselves? There are many cultural and sociological factors at play, from American individualism to social media and many others, but the primary answer takes us back to Genesis 3—we are afraid. We know we are naked and there is fear and shame in the idea of being that vulnerable with another human being—or worse yet, with God.

I once heard an analogy used to describe the difference between being transparent in our relationships and being vulnerable. Picture yourself as a glass house. You open all the curtains, clean all the windows, and allow people to see some of what’s going on inside. That’s being transparent. Vulnerability is when you open up that house and allow someone to enter the house. You give them permission to look around and perhaps to help move the furnishings around. That’s vulnerability, and it takes courage.

This is where we must start in cultivating deep, meaningful relationships. It starts with God. Are you transparent or vulnerable with God? Do you go to Him hiding and holding on to your stuff and not allowing Him to help shape and expose you? Vulnerability is not weakness. It is a display of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The greatest commandment calls us to this kind of love for God (Matt. 22:36–39). In order for deep relationship to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen by God, really seen. Not in the sense that we are invisible to God until we let Him in but in the sense that we confess to Him what He already knows about our sins and the longings of our hearts.

Moreover, the power of the gospel restores our relationship with the Father. We can now come into His presence boldly and without guilt or shame. But as new covenant people, we are also called into relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of our union with Christ, we are part of a new family, one in which we are called to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), rejoice with one another (Rom. 12:15), bear each other’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), and to love one another (John 13:35). We are a new spiritual family called to imitate the deep bond and relationship that the Father has with the Son (John 17:21). May God move in our lives to draw us closer to Him and to each other.

I Don’t Understand This Part

Life Is Beautiful