Years ago the Beatles' popular "Elenor Rigby" asked, "All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?"
Dr. Miriam Parent writes, "In a world of e-mail, videoconferencing, voicemail, and other inventions the keep people instantaneously connected, many people still succumb to the age-old problem of loneliness. From the Garden of Eden to the present day, people have struggled with a sense of loneliness."
Psychologist Dr. Timothy Clinton said, "Loneliness is a heavy burden; people can feel lonely even when surrounded by people."
Loneliness is a growing and serious problem in this generation. Sometimes loneliness can be so great that people feel like strangers even in their own families. We feel isolated and alone.
Sometimes loneliness can be caused by a particular set of circumstances.
It is not uncommon to feel lonely when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation where we don't know anyone and the surroundings may be new to us - like a young person's first day at a new school.
Other times feelings of loneliness can be caused by rejection by our friends or peers. Those feelings may result either from people actively turning from us because of something we may have said or done, or they may simply be feelings we suffer because no one seems to be actively seeking our friendship.
I think this is one of the issues that has found expression in the form of school violence perpetrated by young people who are angry at being marginalized by the majority.
Then we feel lonely if we feel inadequate or small. Failure brings loneliness, or, if we don't perform as well as some or aren't as good looking or pretty as some, the result may be feelings of loneliness.
Psychologists have different views on the subject. Some refer to the prevailing sense of loneliness as "existential loneliness," that is, a loneliness of the moment. You can be in a crowd, you can be among friends or at a party, and all of a sudden, for a fleeting moment there is an overwhelming sense of being alone, and you don't know where it has come from.
Other psychologists refer to the issue as being a cosmic loneliness; a recognition of smallness set against the vastness of the universe.
Many of you are too young to remember the first moon landing, where the astronauts sent back the picture that was soon dubbed "Earth rise." It was a beautiful picture of the earth set against the blackness of space.
I don't remember who the commentator was, but when that picture first flashed across our television screens, I recall him commenting, "We know now that we are alone in the universe. How dark and hopeless everything is."
That comment fully expresses the concept behind what some psychologist term "cosmic loneliness."
Now, that commentator was wrong. We are not alone. There is God and he loves us and promises never to forsake the person who will come to him by faith.
I think the cause for loneliness is a loneliness for God. We were made by him and for him and without him there will always be feelings of loneliness.
Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, philosopher and physicist who lived from 1623 to 1662, said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."
If you are feeling lonely, may I suggest you give God a try? The Bible says, "God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6 NIV). He can help you.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org