Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
Mary’s only friend was her television. Called it her noise box. It drowned out the sirens and racket outside her apartment. At 93 years of age, soap stars had become her family. She fussed at them when they misbehaved and counseled them when they needed her advice.
Real human interaction was an infrequent occurrence. Occasionally, she pushed her walker into the breezeway of her apartment building hoping to exchange a few words with passersby. Her daughter visited once a week to buy her groceries. Even that wasn’t voluntary. Her daughter insisted on payment for her trouble.
Mary was a shut-in. Her only outings were in a cab to see her doctor. And her only unpaid visitor was me, her pastor.
She felt obligated to give me a gift; a jar of pickles, a pie, cake, or cookies. Mary loved to cook and although navigating the kitchen with a walker was difficult, she vowed to keep at it as long as the good Lord allowed.
Mary had a delightful personality and a wonderful sense of humor. But her advanced age and declining health had removed her from the outside world.
One evening, as we watched an Atlanta Braves’ game together, she told me about her biggest problem. It wasn’t her losing battle with rheumatoid arthritis. The sickness that troubled her most was loneliness.
It broke Mary’s heart that her daughter didn’t spend time with her. Her grandchildren were grown and lived out of state. “Never so much as a card,” she told me. “Why doesn’t anybody care about me?”
Apparently, Mary wasn’t the only senior who felt that nobody cared. According to a recent study at the University of California, 40% of senior adults experience loneliness regularly. Research also shows that separation and isolation from society has a negative impact on physical and emotional health. It can be as damaging as smoking 15 packs of cigarettes per day. Loneliness has also been linked to cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and stroke.
I answered her question with the typical pastoral response. “God cares. He’s always with you.” And we prayed about her concern at the end of my visit. Standing in her doorway I added, “Just open that Bible of yours when you’re lonely, and let God talk to you.”
But I never forgot her question. It’s not that I don’t believe God cares, and He is our 24/7 companion. Our Lord is completely dependable. Yet, too many people suffer from loneliness.
To be clear, it’s not God who abandons us when we’re alone. It’s people. And God works through His followers to help those in need. So it’s not God failing to live up to His promises, but those of us who still have our health and the ability to serve.
Now, I have no research to back up my next thought. Just an observation. It seems to me that today’s culture has a growing disdain for the elderly. If that is the case, then that is yet another sign of how far we are getting away from God. The Lord said, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly…” (Leviticus 19:32)
Now to our focus text from Psalm 25:16 in which we hear the plea of someone who is lonely. “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” If that’s you, then pray those words back to God. He remains the God of all comfort. He is our constant help in times of trouble.
If this devotion has made you think of someone who is alone — then reach out to them. Give a few minutes of your time to lift a lonely heart.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Incomparable Senior Care
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.