Biblical Wisdom for Overcoming Loneliness in Your Golden Years
- Dr. Julie Barrier Preach It Teach It
- 2020 3 Feb
My Daddy was an extrovert. He never met a stranger. Dad, a consummate salesman, built a successful construction company from the ground up. Pop was a joiner: He served as a church deacon, a Rotary club member, and president of the Dallas Woods and Waters Club. Daddy knew every Baptist, businessman, and bass fisherman in North Texas. And he loved them all.
But as my father grew older, his world grew smaller and smaller. My Mom and Dad moved away from their hometown of 70 years to be near their kids and grandkids (who are precious, by the way).
Dad was a newcomer in this new town. Few people knew how beloved, gifted and successful he had been as a younger man. Most of Daddy’s friends were old and sick. Many had already gone to heaven.
Is Your World Shrinking, Too?
If your world, too, is shrinking as you age, join the club. You may be one of the 42.6 million older adults who experience loneliness every day. Shrinking social circles, poor health, financial limitations, life changes, and even transportation challenges can mean isolation for older adults.
Isolation can have a devastating on health and quality of life.
Jesus promised He would be with His children:
I will never leave you or forsake you. – Hebrews 13:5
When Christ ascended to heaven, He promised:
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. – Matthew 28:20
Yes, you should fully enjoy Jesus, but also learn how to develop a support system for those “golden years.”
Let’s look at the lives of two famous Bible kings. One knew how to build a life-long group of loyal friends. The other died rich, cynical and lonely.
King David Cultivated Friendships
King David cultivated deep friendships his entire life. Conversely, David’s son, Solomon, died a dour, depressed old man. How could the richest, wisest man in history fail to build a network of supportive pals?
A man who has friends must show himself friendly. – Proverbs 18:14
When you read the psalms, you’ll see that David knew how to express his feelings and to freely show love and joy. He sang. He wept. He worshipped. And he did all of it in front of others. David was an open book.
Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s dearest friend, should have been his mortal enemy. David was a war hero, anointed to succeed Saul as king. Jonathan was the rightful heir. Instead, David and Jonathan became best buddies:
By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend. (Read 1 Samuel 18:1).
David inspired great loyalty and trust from his army. His three mighty men risked life and limb to bring the warrior king a drink from his hometown well in Bethlehem (Reas 2 Samuel 23:15-17).
David fled from Saul’s sword and found refuge in enemy territory. King Achish, King of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10) was the sworn enemy of the Israelites. In just a few short months, David won Achish’s favor and trust.
Even near the end of David’s life when his son Absalom almost succeeded in overthrowing David’s empire, David’s countrymen still rallied around him (2 Samuel 17:10). Such devotion for one flawed man is astounding!
King Solomon Struggled with Cynicism as a Senior
Solomon must have observed a lot about friendship from watching his father, King David. But Solomon struggled to make and keep friends. He was richer and smarter than everyone. You’d think with 700 wives and 300 concubines, the king would find a few close companions!
Solomon’s only true friend on record was his Shunammite bride, his first love. She called him “my lover and my friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16).
Where was his beloved bride during his later years? In Solomon’s last writings, Ecclesiastes, we see a sad man, jaded and cynical, with many regrets.
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me….So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. Every day is pain and grief; even at night my mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 2:17-23 NIV)
Solomon was guarded. He was rich and wise, but not as approachable as David. He was often suspicious of the motives of others, as reflected in his Proverbs:
Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of a man who gives gifts. (Proverbs 19:6)
Wealth brings many friends, but a poor mans’ friend deserts him. (Proverbs 19:4)
Keep Making Companions throughout Life
Many of us spend our lives investing in projects instead of people.
Samuel Johnson said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life he will soon find himself left alone. One should keep his friendships in constant repair.”
My husband and I recently faced the challenge of retirement, relocation and isolation. Our health challenges and family needs seemed almost insurmountable. God was faithful. He gave us wisdom in hard times:
- Manage your expectations.
- Grieve your losses.
- Don't live in the past.
- Wait for God to reveal His new plans for you.
We determined not to live our “golden years” the way Solomon did. Roger and I joined a church and immediately began to serve and connect with small groups. We found prayer partners. We led Navigators programs on spiritual growth and evangelism. Roger continues to teach as a layman and joined the Gideons. We began a web ministry, teaching pastors and missionaries around the world. We worked to spend quality time with our children and all of our wonderful neighbors.
Believe it or not, pastors and wives are often introverts. You may be shy, too. Especially as the years advance and life can feel daunting some days. Stepping into a new life intentionally takes courage. Though rewarding, all of these activities require resolve, effort and perseverance. Living Christ's abundant life in the moment is key.
My Dad always said, “Old age is not for sissies!” He was right. Our world may shrink, but God’s grace grows and grows. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. And He will provide you with the friends you need and a ministry you can manage.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/asiseeit
Dr. Julie Barrier, along with her pastor-husband, Dr. Roger Barrier, have taught conferences on marriage and ministry in 35 countries. The Barriers are founders and directors of Preach It, Teach It providing free resources in 10 languages to 5 million visitors in 229 countries and territories. The Barriers pastored 35 years at Casas Church in Arizona, Julie has served as a worship minister, concert artist and adjunct professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. She has authored or composed of over 500 published works.