Recently we moved to another state and had to start over finding friends, a church, doctors, repair people and all the things you take for granted when you lived somewhere for a while. Moving is challenging. You quickly realize the loss of community and the need to belong.
This universal need to belong goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2, one of the first things God declares is, “It is not good … to be alone.” Sadly, whether it’s due to a break-up, divorce, illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, a move, or some other reason, there are times in our broken world when we feel alone and even lonely. Yet we long to belong.
As a country, we have an epidemic of loneliness. Millions of people understand the pain of loneliness despite living in the most technologically connected world ever. But technology doesn’t substitute for that physical human connection. It isn’t conducive to being vulnerable and truly known by another. That requires intimate face-to-face relationships.
This need to belong is powerful. Psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel describes a meeting he had with the leader of a tribe in a war-torn country experiencing famine and disease. He asked the people of the tribe why they were so happy. Their reason? They belong not only to each other in their community but also to the Earth and to God. Yes, we belong to God when we choose to follow Him. And the church is the community in which to live out that belonging. Psalm 68:6 tells us that the church is to “set the lonely in families” to a place to belong.
One of the most powerful steps you can take to move from longing to belonging is to know Christ and become one of His. There is no risk to belonging to Someone who is trustworthy, will not abandon or reject you, and accepts you as you are. From that strong foundation of security, you are then able to build other relationships.
If you attend a church, make space for other people. Don’t be self-focused, rather include others in your life and create opportunities to develop new friendships. Look, it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of our own lives and not think of others. But a core value of the church is to serve other people. To do this, be patient with others. Focus on similarities, not differences that tend to divide us. Remember it is the enemy who divides and isolates us, not God.
As I write this, I am reminded of The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) that reads:
Q: What is your only comfort in life and death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ . . .
What a powerful reminder that we belong not to ourselves but to God, and through him, to his people. In Christ, we’re fully known and fully loved. He is the One who fulfils our longing to belong.