Before this study was a study, it was a question. In fact, it was the number-one question I’ve gotten from you all throughout the years. And it’s a big one: How do I make friends as an adult?
Of all the struggles we go through, this is the one that comes back over and over again because, let’s face it: we’ve all felt that loneliness. Especially living in our spread-out world, which seems tailor-made for isolation and individualism. We’re wondering: How do I get deep with someone? How do I build trust with someone? Why is finding and keeping my people so difficult?
And the kicker:
Why do I live lonely?
It’s a question that hurts to ask, because so many of us would answer that question with, There’s something wrong with me. I must be defective. Or, Because it’s the only safe way.
But listen. It’s not just you. This secret hurt and frustration is not so secret anymore. In this study, we’re going to shine God’s light on this place where we might otherwise remain in the dark—sad and isolated and missing out. We’ll seek out His plan for thriving instead of settling for surface and shallow. But first I want you to know:
You’re not alone in feeling alone.
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When I first started doing my podcast way back in 2016, the whole first season was about loneliness. I wanted to hit this topic out of the gate because it was clear it was at the front of so many minds, and there had to be something we could do about this together.
So I asked people to email me, and answer, straight up:
Why is finding and keeping your people so hard? Why do we live lonely?
And these were some of the answers:
“I reach out, but people can’t come over. They are too busy. I finally stopped asking.” — Amanda
“After being burnt, backstabbed, lied to, and betrayed, I have a hard time letting people inside my walls.” — Patti
“I don’t know how to get past the ‘getting to know you’ small talk.” — Emily
“I feel like a burden so I just don’t go deep.” — Molly
“I feel like I have to pretend that I am okay or be judged.” — Stefanie
“I have expectations of what I think ‘my people’ should be and they don’t measure up.” — Sandra
“I’m afraid I might need more than I can give.” — Kim
“I’m too exhausted from being a mom, wife, employee to be a good friend.” — Kennedy
“Staying friends after an argument is just too awkward. I don’t know how to move past it.” — Ella
“To be honest, it’s easier to do it by myself.” — Ashley
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
I know it does to me.
And for a staggering number of people.
In 2020, the pandemic opened a lot of our eyes to what we were lacking and missing in our relationships. But even before 2020, when people were sharing their stories with me, the pandemic of loneliness was in full swing. Taking us out. Killing our joy. Killing us physically and mentally. For so many of us, that ache has been there so long that you wonder if it is just the human condition and has no chance of going away.
But I don’t think this is the case. I think, in this moment, something is being revealed to us: when it comes to community there is something fundamentally wrong with how we have built our lives.
We tuck into our little residences with our little family or our roommates or alone, staring at our little screens. We never want to trouble our neighbors for anything, so we build a small little crevice in the world with everything we could possibly need. We may feel comfortable, safe, independent, and entertained, but also, we feel completely sad.
I get it. Everyone does it. But this thing that everyone does is just not working for anyone. Research says that more than “three in five Americans report being chronically lonely,” and that number is “on the rise,” stats that are costly and grave.1 Anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts are all on the rise.
Is this living? Is this how life is supposed to go?
Before we get into all of it, let me skip to the answer. NO. IT ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY!
There is a way to live life less alone. There is. It costs something, sometimes more than most are willing to pay. But it’s worth it; it’s doable; it’s possible. Stick with me.
It is possible to live life connected — intimately connected — to other people. And no, we’re not going to spend the next seven weeks figuring out how to build a new group of best friends.
Here is what we are going to do:
- We are going to look back at how almost every generation has lived until us — and how we are living differently.
- We are going to talk about community and all the ways it can be in our lives that maybe you’ve never thought of.
- We are going to look at what God meant relationships to be and how we have hijacked that.
- We are going to dream of a new way to find our people and to do life with them in more intentional ways.
My dream for you, God’s plan for you, is to build a culture of community in
every part of your life.
Why do we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives? We think our acquaintances should just magically produce our few best friends. Then our relational needs will be met. Back in the day, people found their friends from their larger village of interconnected people. Think village life, small-town life, or agrarian life, or tribes.
People’s needs were met because of the way they lived: close. But because we see community as an accessory, not the essential fabric of life as our ancestors did by default, we are lonely. We are looking to plug a gaping hole. The hole is bigger than a couple people could ever fill, and so we live constantly disappointed, and we further isolate ourselves. It’s time to break that cycle — on purpose.
THE BIG PICTURE
We’d all love to make a few new friends. But I have a bigger vision for you. God has a bigger vision for you.
I want us to trade lonely and isolated lives that experience brief bursts of connectedness for intimately connected lives that know only brief bursts of feeling alone.
Think I’m crazy? I’m here to tell you I’m not. I’ve experienced what I’m fighting for. I have observed with my own two eyes. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. You can’t not fight for this kind of life.
But most everything in your life flies in the face of what I am about to invite you to do along our journey together. Specifically:
- Your routines.
- The way that you buy groceries.
- Your housing situation.
- Whether or not you live near your family.
- The church you choose to be part of.
- What you do this weekend.
- And deeper still: How open you choose to be about your sufferings. Your anxiety. Your pain.
- And whether you’ll ask the hard question of the person you love who is drinking too much.
- And if you’ll forgive and fight for the people who have hurt you deeper than you could ever imagine.
It’s a risk. It’s all a risk to go deeper into this with me. But if you feel that ache for connection, you’re in the right place.
1 Elena Renken, “Most Americans Are Lonely, and Our Workplace Culture May Not Be Helping,” NPR News, January 3, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/01/23/798676465/most-americans-are-lonely-and-our-workplace-culture-may-not-be-helping.
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