Along with so many things affected by Covid-19, relationships have taken a substantial hit. Single people have struggled with an extreme amount of touch deprivation and even presence deprivation. Even those who aren’t single haven’t had the same amount of community available to them, and they are feeling lonelier than ever before.
People are attending in-person church and other gatherings much less. Many students are doing online school, and workgroups are meeting over Zoom. Even counselors are seeing more clients online than ever before. Though many have seen their close relationships deepen in the pandemic, many have noticed even those relationships fading. This virus has wreaked havoc on relationships by isolating people.
Extreme loneliness can be a factor in depression and other mood disorders, along with suicidal ideation. People have not had the same access to others they once had before the world shut down.
It is more evident today how much humans need one another for survival, for holistic living. Christians throw around the word community a lot, telling their congregations how much they need it, and how to get involved in small groups or volunteer teams to get that community they need.
Community simply includes the people in one’s life who love, support, challenge, serve with, and help grow. This could be in a local church setting, but it can also be others, like neighbors, coworkers, and family. These could be local friends or family, or more physically distant. There is no magic formula to it.
The idea of community is this simple. Though simple, it can be hard to find, especially when someone is looking for a more local community and are struggling to find it. A good community is essential to one’s spiritual, mental, relational, emotional, and physical health. People weren’t made to be alone or do this life alone. They need one another.
Why do we need community?
People need encouragement. They need to be built up, not torn down. They need someone cheering them on in life, praising their efforts, giving hope when a person feels hopeless. When someone is alone, they aren’t getting this. Someone can say all day long they don’t need the encouragement or praise from another, but really, they are lying to themselves. People need encouragement from others.
People will struggle with sin much more when there is no one to hold them accountable. People need someone they can trust, who is safe, and who will ask them hard questions about their sins and struggles. People need people praying for them and with them to overcome these sins and struggles. Without accountability, people fall repeatedly into the same negative patterns of behavior.
Simply put, people need friends. They need people to serve with them, go on a mission with them, talk about life with them, and eat at the table with them. As soon as Jesus knew it was his time to begin his earthly ministry, he found the twelve to go with him as his disciples. He is God. He could have just come and done everything on his own, but no. He chose a small group to do it with him. People need companionship.
Being with others can be painful because of all the potential or past hurt there, but it can also be healing for someone who has walked through the dark night of the soul. Community is healing. It reminds people they aren’t alone, that others love them and can help meet their needs. A good community can restore a lot of damage in one’s life, especially when that damage was relational.
What prevents us from having good community?
People just get so busy with working forty-plus hours a week, taking their kids to a thousand different games and practices and events, volunteering at church functions, traveling, cleaning their houses, and all the other things. People are so busy in western culture. They rarely prioritize fun and rest.
When they are this busy, they have little to no time left for others outside of their immediate family or people they encounter on a daily basis. There is no time for small groups or prayer with a friend. There is no time or energy for long, in-depth conversations over coffee.
It’s been said that one’s calendar is a good indicator of their highest values and priorities, but sadly, spending time with their community doesn’t always make the cut. If people would see the high value of community in their lives, maybe they would begin to carve out time in their busy lives to spend uninterrupted time with a friend.
People often are afraid of what could happen if they invest time and energy into relationships, into building community. Could they be rejected? Could they be forgotten? Could the person leave, and all their efforts were for nothing?
It’s scary to reach out and try to build something new, so start with something already in front of you. Start with the people you know and trust instead of working to build something from scratch. Simply lean into the current relationships in your life with more intentionality.
Lack of trust
People struggle to trust for many different reasons, but it is a common struggle across the board. People have been betrayed, abused, manipulated, controlled, used, and deceived by people they thought were trustworthy. Because of that, they can’t trust today.
There is no quick and easy solution to this, and it’s encouraged to seek out professional counseling if having a hard time moving past old hurt and moving forward into new relationships. The only perfect one who is always trustworthy is God, but that doesn’t mean relationships with people can’t be safe, too.
How can we find good community?
There is no simple or right answer to this, but there are some things you can try today. Remember, it is very rare for good community to simply fall into your lap. This will take bravery and honesty and a lot of effort on your part, but if a deep relationship comes out of that, it will all be worth it.
Start with who you already know – close friends from college or high school whom you haven’t talked to much lately, an old small group you used to attend, a group of people online who share similar interests.
Start with who you know and lean into those relationships more. Send a message to check in and see how they are doing. Ask them if they’d want to grab lunch or coffee to catch up soon. Start the conversation. If they are people who don’t live close, then just check in on them every week, asking them how you can love them and serve them.
Ask them to be your weekly prayer partner. Then start branching out into new territory that may be more uncomfortable. Sit with someone you don’t know at church and make it a point to say hello. Volunteer on a team at church and start up conversations with people serving with you.
Join a small group and be intentional with getting to know some of the members. Have conversations with your neighbors and spend more time in the front yard than the back. Say “yes” more when people invite you to things. Apologize if you’ve been more isolated and withdrawn or avoidant, and work to engage more consistently.
When you can have deeper conversations and spend more quality time with someone, don’t let fear hold you back. Be brave and share more of your story and what you’ve been walking through. Allow others to see the real you and allow them room to show you who they are, too. No relationship will be perfect or hurt-free, but the rewards can outweigh the costs in amazing ways.
“Fellowship”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Buddies”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Meeting in the Middle”, Courtesy of Shane Rounce, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Greeting the Sun”, Courtesy of Chang Duong, Unsplash.com, CC0 License