A convicted killer sat in the electric chair preparing for his imminent execution. The attending chaplain asked, “Is there anything more I may do for you to make this easier?”
The doomed man replied, “When they flip the switch, would you hold my hand, so I won’t be afraid?’
Wow! That’s asking a lot! Do any of us have a friend so close that he or she would hold our hand while being electrocuted?
According to a February report in Psychology Today, loneliness is “the newest epidemic in America” and “now affects up to 47 % of adults—double the number affected a few decades ago.” This has relevance because of its correlation with increased risk for early mortality, risk rates similar to those for obesity and smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Also, the findings relate to adverse health risks such as higher systolic blood pressure, body mass index, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Depression and suicide are also cited. Generation Z (those born after about 1995) was found to be the loneliest generation.
Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociologist directing a previous study, says, “Americans are lonelier because the average family has more adults in the labor force and people spend more hours commuting and working. By the time they get home, they don't have the energy and the time to go out and socialize with neighbor and church groups.”
Did you catch that last part? Church groups are important to us in developing true, close friends. If we get too busy for that, we lose out on one of the most important pleasures in life – good friends.
Maybe that’s why the earliest Christians got together, not just on Sunday, but “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).
Friendship requires face time. Smith-Lovin’s research found that, instead of enhancing friendships, our communication gadgets – phone, email, IM – actually diminish closeness by substituting for face-to-face contact. "We can communicate a much wider array of things by actually seeing somebody and their facial expressions," she said. "Those little smiley faces that you see in emails? Well, they just aren't the same as actually seeing someone smile when you tell them some good news."
It sounds like God knew what he was doing (no surprise there) when he commanded Christians to meet together. It’s not that he needs it; we do!
Looking for good friends? Look at church! There, you’ll find people who will hold your hand through the worst of times – and the best!