“I miss my teammates!” These are the words every retired professional athlete expresses after retirement. While in their youth, professional football players enjoy the environment, money and their teammates during their NFL career. However, life after the sport reveals “61 percent of former players said they found it difficult to adjust to daily life after their NFL career.”*
Of course the need for relationships are not just in professional athletes. Men and women across ever continent are build to belong. There are even health benefit for finding your “community.” One study discovered that a “lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%!”*
It is quite obvious (even without any statistics) we have been designed by God to live in relationships. There is an innate need everyone experiences to belong. So why do 1 in 5 Americans suffer from “persistent loneliness?”*
While everyone’s reason may be slightly different, what I do know is we have been designed for ?? types of relationships.
- Family Relationship: This is often our family of origin. They help provide our identity, and self-worth.
- Spouse Relationship: For most, we have a strong desire to “do-life” together with a committed partner who loves us for “better or worse”. Great security and connection is found in adulthood from this type of relationship.
- Child Relationship: At some stage in adulthood, there is a strong compulsion to have children of our own. The desire to pass something on, invest in a life, and live beyond ourselves is compelling.
- Heavenly Relationship: As I heard one author put it- there is a “God-size whole” in each of us that can only be filled when we come into a real relationships with our creator. While we can ignore or distract from this void, it exists in every human heart.
- Purpose-Filled Relationship: We want to believe that our life, our work, and contributions to humanity matter on some level. No one wants to get to the end of their earthly life with the regret of a meaningless existence.
Many of us experience brokenness in one or more areas of the above relationships. For some, we have never experienced a certain type of relationship (i.e., that of a spouse, or unable to have children). When this happens, there is loneliness that builds in our souls.
Since God created us with these needs (the need for relationship), he has also provided us with a context for relationship. God’s answer for Loneliness is the Church. The relationships we build in the church, while not perfect, provide a place to belong. Perhaps I can suggest some of the ways the Church meets the relational needs that are mentioned above:
- Family Relationship: While the church can never take the place of your family of origin, when there was an unhealthy or even an absent family in the younger, the church help provide that sense of value, and personal worth. For many, in adulthood, we have more interaction with our church family because we see them more.
- Spouse Relationship: First there is no better place to find a spouse than in the church. However, the church is not designed to be a match-making service. Not everyone will find a spouse in their church. However, if you invest in a spiritual community, “doing life together,” these Christ-centered relationships will see you through the best and worst of times. It is a place where you can commit to the well being of others, and also be the recipient as well.
- Child Relationship: Some of the most blessed relationships are spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers who invest in the lives of the next generation. While not related by blood, this relationship is both a blessing to the spiritual children, and to the spiritual parents.
- Heavenly Relationship: If the Church gets no other relationships right, I pray we get this one right. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 speaks of the Ministry of Reconciliation. Simply put… this is why Jesus came!
- Purpose-Filled Relationship: The creation can never find meaning or purpose a part from its Creator. When you became a Divinely-Inspired ideas in the heart of Almighty God, a purpose was attached to your life. You are not here on accident, and your existence is not random. Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
My prayer for each of you is that you will discover a life-giving church that will become a place to call HOME with people you call FAMILY! Relationships do take time, and they always require effort. However, the rewards are great and the benefits are worth it. We are Built to Belong!