The Loneliness Epidemic - Ellisha Haythornthwaite

Ellisha writes an inspiring article urging us to show fundamental Christ-Like friendship during COVID-19. She suggests practical ways to emulate Jesus in being a true friend to others during this time.

I believe one of the most profound things that we can know is that we were created in God’s image.

To pursue a life of living as the hands and feet of Christ is merely how we can live as thankful followers of His kingdom. Even if the ways in which you normally serve have been affected, or this pandemic has prohibited that opportunity, I believe we have been given one of the best opportunities to serve God in this season: to be a friend to others and to lead by the greatest example, Jesus.

Our calling to serve others

Like many, throughout my time in isolation, I have had an immense amount of time to sit and think. When the nationwide lockdown was announced, my initial thoughts were how it would affect my normal day to day life and how I would have to adapt. The thoughts that quickly followed were those of concern for individuals whose lives could be far more negatively affected by this sudden change.

I thought of those who would be physically alone. I thought of those who might not be physically alone, but would still feel mentally and emotionally isolated. I thought of those in houses of domestic abuse, those who would be financially impacted, those who could not be with their families. The list goes on.

As much as the world has been heavily encouraged to stay socially connected, people may still find it harder to reach out for help or support. The unfortunate reality is that we won’t always know, or in some cases have the ability to completely comprehend, the struggles that people are facing in their lives and how they are coping mentally and emotionally. In this season, let’s be Christ-like in the way in which we reach out to others, show them support and most importantly love.

Being Kingdom minded

When I look at ways in which God is a faithful friend and stronghold in my life, I easily become overwhelmed trying to grasp how I could possibly come close to His example. John 15:14 explains “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends”.

Jesus will always be present, walking alongside us through all trials and seasons of life. His love is unconditional, He loves at all times without limits. He accepts us and wants us as we are, where we are. He is always ready and waiting to listen, waiting on our call and to hear of our troubles.

The examples are unending and I know that I am not always all those things to my friends. God shows us in the most real and exemplified ways of how friendship should be more of a covenant than a contract. He doesn’t leave when we don’t respond or react in ways in which He asks and He commands us “do not give up on your friend” (Proverbs 27:10). What a blessing that we can show the love God has for us to others and what greater time to make others feel wanted, supported, loved and accompanied.

Faithful obedience

Your resources or ability to do this in the ways you might want to may be restricted. But, I encourage you to find every opportunity possible to reach out to others and meet their needs in every way possible. Where there is a need, fill it.

God shows us in the most real and exemplified ways of how friendship should be more of a covenant than a contract.

2 Corinthians 9:11-12 states “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people, but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

In a season where the unknown can provoke fear, anxiety, and hopelessness in many, I urge you to use the ways that God has blessed you to be a light to others. One of my favourite bible verses sets a pretty great example of how we can be a Christ-like friend to others:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Let’s be the friends who have the compassion to understand and listen, allow kindness to temper our words and actions. Let’s be gentle in our response, with the emotions and feelings of others. Let’s have the patience to faithfully await the answers to prayers over these people.

I also believe that prayer is one of the most important things that we can do as a friend and as followers of Christ. We can look to people like Apostle Paul who was a faithful and loyal friend, praying for others consistently. One of the many times we are told this is in Colossians when he says:

"Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience."

Above all, love

As cliche as it may sound, silence truly is deafening and is becoming a sad reality felt by far too many even prior to the presence of a global pandemic and the nation being in lockdown. We were made for connection with one another, when we feel we don’t have that, loneliness can be such a destructive place.

I encourage you if you haven’t already: reach out to loved ones. If someone has been on your mind lately, ask how they are, how they really are. Allow others to know that you are there if they need to talk to someone. Ask what they are needing prayer for right now, don’t wait for them to reach out to you.

May we act with grace, empathy, kindness and love without limits. Let’s uplift and encourage one another. Let’s act as kingdom-minded friends, and work together to make Aotearoa a little brighter during this time of unprecedented uncertainty.

Ellisha has been going to Windsor Park her whole life. She is currently leader of a group of year 9’s and is on the connections team. She loves adventures and leaps at any chance she has to explore the country. She also really enjoys meeting new people and hearing what inspires them. You can reach her at ellisha_rose@icloud.com.

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