I was a single minister and the annual graduate school Valentine’s banquet was rapidly approaching. I asked a young lady to accompany me. She said no; but later she changed her mind.

We arrived at the banquet hall and exchanged the usual colloquial pleasantries with those at the table around us. Then my date glimpsed her friends at another table. She bolted to converse with them—the whole evening.

The emcee asked everyone to name one thing nice about the person you were sitting with at your table. The mic was passed around. When it came to her, the young lady said, “I could be studying right now or doing something else. Instead, alas, I am here.”

The challenge

Have you ever felt hurt, confused, and lonely? According to NPR, health insurer Cigna took a nationwide survey in the United States of 20,000 adults. Fifty-four percent stated “they feel like no one actually knows them well. . . . Approximately 40% said they ‘lack companionship,’ their ‘relationships aren’t meaningful,’ and that they feel ‘isolated from others.’ ” Cigna chief executive David Cordani concluded, “Half of Americans view themselves as lonely. . . . I can’t help but be surprised.”1

The steps needed

For many single pastors and lay leaders, it can be challenging to face issues of anxiety and loneliness in a world where “two is better than one” and many church events are geared toward families and/or the elderly.

I would like to suggest seven steps to overcome loneliness and anxiety:

  1. R—Recognize that you are not alone in feeling this way. Acknowledge the One who is always there to listen. Jesus says to us, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5, NKJV). It is OK to pull away and take a break from social media and other things to reflect on your life’s purpose and calling in ministry.
  2. E—Expect to receive God’s favor and blessings because you are unique in His creation. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, KJV). Nobody else on earth can do things or affect people’s lives like you can. Prepare to be blessed, either tangibly or intangibly, ahead of time, making room for the Spirit of God to move.
  3. J—Just pray for others who are lonely and anxious in this world. “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10, NKJV). Sometimes praying on behalf of others can change our own outlook.
  4. O—Open your heart to all possibilities of meeting people. “For I know the plans I have for you, . . . plans to prosper you and . . . give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). Be fearless by making a list of opportunities God has given you and be willing to follow Him.
  5. I—Invest in using your gifts and talents anywhere that you can—from public events to family events. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men” (Prov 18:16, NKJV). The more you use what God has naturally given you, the more others appreciate you, and you begin to gain confidence.
  6. C—Cut out negative thoughts and people in your life. “Finally, brothers, whatever is pure, . . . lovely, . . . commendable, if there is any excellence, . . . think about these things” (Phil 4:8, ESV). Some people are just a sounding board of negativity to stop your dreams.
  7. E—Exhale all the stress away with laughter and relaxation with family, friends, a pet, or doing a favorite hobby. Jesus calls you in, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Rest, knowing that Jesus is working with you to help you be all you can be.

How many members of your congregation are suffering from anxiety and loneliness right now? What about yourself? Do not suffer in silence or find solace in vices. Do not drown in the abyss of superficial social media. God and the people He places in your path are standing by to help you sing a song of joy and fulfillment.

  1. Aric Jenkins, “Study Finds That Half of Americans—Especially Young People—Feel Lonely,” Fortune, May 1, 2018, https://fortune.com/2018/05/01/americans-lonely-cigna-study/.

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Anthony Chandler, MDiv, serves as a government analyst and part-time chaplain at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Columbia, Maryland, United States.

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