Helen Joanne Cox was a member England’s Parliament representing the Labour Party. She campaigned for a solution to the Syrian Civil War, and once elected, argued forcefully that the UK Government should be doing more both to help the victims and use its influence abroad to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. She was a humanitarian who had a keen interest in the welfare of all people, but she was also a secular humanist and supporter of the British Humanist Association.
Sadly, Jo Cox was fatally shot and stabbed outside a library in Birstall, West Yorkshire on June 16, 2016. Her assailant was Thomas Mair, a 52-year-old man with a history of psychiatric problems and links to a U.S. based neo-Nazi group. After her death, then-President Obama noted that “the world is a better place because of her selfless service to others.”
On January 16th British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a “minister for loneliness” to commemorate the life and legacy of Jo Cox. Tracey Crouch, minister for Sport and Civil Society, was designated to fill the newly-created role to head up the government’s work to tackle a problem that is believed to affect nine million people in the UK.
Loneliness is not just a problem in the United Kingdom, it is a worldwide problem. Psychology Today declares, “Human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. Evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically.
“Unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure and even undermining learning and memory…. A lack of close friends and a dearth of broader social contact generally bring the emotional discomfort or distress known as loneliness.”
I will never forget going to see the mother of one of my church members when I was pastor. The elderly woman I was going to see was not a professing Christian. When I knocked on the door of her home I was greeted with incredible warmth and hospitality. Miss Mildred said I was the first person other than her daughter to visit her in weeks.
She said, “I get so lonely sometimes I just call the movie theater to listen to their recorded messages of what’s playing at the Center Cinema.” I am happy to tell you that Miss Mildred trusted Jesus that day when I told her He could be her Savior and constant companion.
I am also reminded of the story of the orphanage in years gone by that was more characteristic of a prison than a nurturing refuge for homeless children. One day a small boy slipped outside his quarters and climbed to the top of the rock wall surrounding the compound and was seen dropping a piece of paper on the other side of the wall.
The young boy was caught by one of the employees of the institution and taken to the superintendent of the orphanage, who instructed the employee to go outside the wall and find the paper the boy had slipped over the wall.
Within a matter of minutes the man returned with the piece of paper in his hand. The superintendent unfolded the paper and on it was written the words, “To whom it may concern, I love you.”
We all need to love and be loved. Loneliness and isolation is not good. The very first thing that God said was not good in the Bible was loneliness. In Genesis 2:18 He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
At this point let me make a distinction between loneliness and being alone. They are two different things. One can be alone without being lonely. There are times when I need to be alone for study, writing, reflection, meditation, and prayer. Those times are sweet and precious, but I don’t feel alone at all.
In fact, Frank Colquhoun, an evangelical priest in the Church of England, wrote “when Christ saves a man, He not only saves him from his sin, but He saves him from his solitude.” That is why I wonder just how effective Tracey Crouch can be as the “minister of loneliness.” In my opinion she would do her best work if she became a personal soul winner.
Hubert Van Keller, prolific writer and sculptor, wisely said, “The soul hardly ever realizes it, but whether he is a believer or not, his loneliness is really a homesickness for God.” I have personally discovered that whatever the cause of loneliness, the cure is always the same – the comforting fellowship of Jesus Christ.
David knew the truth of God’s comforting presence. He wrote, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me” (Psalm 27:10). He also wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
In fact, “He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), who lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13-15), who has promised never to leave us or forsake us, and be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
John Wilbur Chapman’s hymn, “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” describes His faithful friendship best: “Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.”
I am glad that Tracey Crouch is willing to help alleviate the problem of loneliness in the UK. But if you are in the pit of loneliness, try Jesus.