“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” II Sam. 1:26
This relationship between David and Jonathan was a non-sexual, platonic relationship. It was so wholesome. And yet the mutual respect and emotional bond between David and Jonathan was so strong that it was greater than the love between a man and a woman.
It is interesting that David who’d had the experience of having many wives and being in the position of a king around many friends, only talked highly of his deep friendship with Jonathan. In fact, when talking about his friendship with Jonathan, he compared it as being better than any relationship he’d ever had with any of his wives. It is this deep relationship he’d had with Jonathan that we should have in our relationships.
A Cigna survey found 61% of Americans to be lonely. (63% of men and 58% of women) That’s 3 out of every 5 people feeling lonely! https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/01/23/798676465/most-americans-are-lonely-and-our-workplace-culture-may-not-be-helping
There has also been a steady decline of close friendships in America. 15% of men and 10% of women currently report “no close friends” at all. That’s a 500% decrease since 1990 in men not having a close friend.
And yet people who reported having “1 close friend” was just as lonely as people who reported “no close friends”. https://www.americansurveycenter.org/why-mens-social-circles-are-shrinking/
And 62.5 percent of married or partnered couples living with each other who were age 60 or older also reported experiencing loneliness. A 2012 report published in JAMA Internal Medicine
So having a close friend or being married for many years does not necessarily stop the feelings of loneliness. One could have a close friend or be married for decades and still not have that deep and meaningful connection that we were created for.
Sadly, over the years as a Pastor, I’ve experienced members telling me that they have no friends. I’ve even had members tell me that I was their only friend.
We are not even talking about not having a deep and intimate relationship like David and Jonathan had, or even about not having a best friend or a spouse/partner. But we are talking about people not having just 1 basic friend.
In a preliminary study from Harvard, “36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness.”” https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/reports/loneliness-in-america This is not just loneliness but “serious loneliness”! I cannot but help feel for the young mothers and especially for my daughter who is a Gen Zer. She has shared with me so much of the struggles that her generation goes through and even of her own struggles in trying to establish and develop friendships that are deep and meaningful.
According to a 2017 report by Harvard University, loneliness has a risk factor similar to that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it can shorten a person’s lifespan by eight years. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/loneliness-has-same-risk-as-smoking-for-heart-disease If loneliness is like smoking 15 cigarettes a day and losing 8 years of one’s life then why is this not also a health crisis both physically and mentally?
It has been said that we need at least 10 close friends. But in my experience, 10 close friends who are shallow still doesn’t address the core issue that we need, which is having deep and meaningful relationships. It’s not really quantity that matters in relationships, but quality!
The solution to this crisis according to the statistics and studies is not necessarily having more friendships or even getting married. But building up emotionally connected friendships that fulfill the deep longings of the soul.
In our counseling we use a therapy method called the “relational approach”. There are many reasons and benefits of using this relational approach method, but I’ll just share one of them here as it relates to loneliness. In using the “relational approach”, we develop a friendship where there is an emotional connection with our clients. This helps to fill the void of loneliness that they may feel and also gives them practice in establishing and developing deep and meaningful relationships with others.
Jonathan and David’s relationship is not just a good story for those who lived 3,000 years ago. But it’s also very relevant and timely for us today. It is a cry out to the wave of loneliness that is sweeping our world today. And it’s also a loud & clear call for us to establish and nurture deep and meaningful relationships now.
I want to work towards having more intimate relationships, so that I can then be emotionally healthy and so be better able to minister to those who are hurting around me, how about you? Keala
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