Loneliness is a strong emotion. It is more enveloping than the darkness and more devastating than deep-seated fear.
It can happen in any stage of life. Children can feel lonely when they are homesick, left out by classmates or neglected by parents. Young people can feel lonely in unfamiliar surroundings, broken relationships, failure in an important undertaking or death of a loved one.
We can feel lonely in a city full of people, in a marriage if there is misunderstanding, betrayal or lack of communication.
Loneliness can cause otherwise intelligent people to do irrational things. A woman told me of a very destructive second marriage.
"How did you ever get into such a relationship?" I asked. Her reply, "I was lonely."
How many marriages have been destroyed or disabled because one of the partners was out of town, feeling lonely and became involved in a sordid affair? How many people have blamed loneliness for their excessive drinking, overeating or overspending?
How can we constructively handle such a universal feeling as loneliness?
First, we should remember there is a loneliness that can never be satisfied until we are in right relationship with God. St. Augustine describes this as he says: "Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."
Secondly, learning to be happily alone is one of life's most rewarding arts. Mary Ellen Chase wrote a wonderful little book titled "You Become Someone Alone." She suggested most of the great music has been composed and most of the great lyrics written by people who were alone.
Third, our own feelings of loneliness can sensitize us to the feelings of others. We can reach out in understanding to a newcomer in our community, to a visitor in our church, to a friend who is keeping a lonely vigil at the bedside of a loved one.
It was Jesus who taught us that the kingdom of God is not the kingdom of creeds as much as the kingdom of relationships -- to ourselves, to others, to God.
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.