Turn to me and be gracious to me,  for I am lonely and afflicted.

Psalm 25:16

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Loneliness

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<span style=”font-size: Loneliness has long been a subject of sad stories, poems and songs.  This sentiment was summed up in the following line in a song recorded by Karen Carpenter in the 1970s: 

“Loneliness is such a sad affair”

Superstar

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The dictionary defines “loneliness” as being

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<span style=”“destitute of sympathetic
or
supportive companionship”

and also uses the words “solitary, remote, desolate, bleak, and isolated” to describe this condition.

This is obviously not a pretty picture, and it is accurate to say that a person who is lonely is “suffering” from loneliness. 

In the creation account given in Genesis, Adam starts out alone, but in contrast to God’s pronouncements over all of creation to this point, the LORD declared that situation to be

“NOT GOOD”.

Then the LORD God said,

“It is not good for the man to be alone;”

<span style=”font-sizeGenesis 2:18a

As is generally the case when God sees a bad situation, He did something about it

“I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18b

and, of course, He created Eve. 

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There is a pattern here that we can learn from in dealing with the problem of loneliness:

1)    a person is alone, or “lonely”

2)    God calls that situation “not good”

3)    God provides a solution. 

Each of these three statements poses a question and that requires a response if we are to overcome the suffering of loneliness.  

First

“Why are we lonely?”

Second

“Why does God see this as bad?”

Finally

“What are the solutions that God provides?”

There are many possible answers to the first question. 

For Adam, the answer was simple.  He was alone because he was literally the only person on Earth!  Obviously none of us has this problem. 

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Why then are we lonely?

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The human experience has provided us with many potential causes of loneliness. The death of someone close, a divorce or the breakup of an intimate relationship, even “homesickness” for a person that has recently relocated are all possible circumstantial sources of loneliness.  It is important to note, however, that the loneliness brought on by circumstances such as these is generally temporary, and while the pain may indeed be acute, it is usually reduced by the passing of time and an eventual change in circumstances. 

In these cases, the answer to the second question is that God sees them as bad since He understands the pain of living in a fallen world. 

How does He understand this?

The answer is that He has personally experienced it when He walked the Earth in the person of Jesus Christ!  We are told that Jesus wept at the grave of a dear friend (John 11:35) and that He was not accepted or received by His own people (John 1:11).  Jesus also voluntarily suffered the loneliness of separation from His Father while He was on the cross (Matthew 27:46), a horror we may never fully comprehend.

Jesus also provides us with a solution to circumstantial loneliness.  These involve patience and endurance, reliance on God, and finally the certain hope of eventual victory. 

Isaiah prophesied that although He would be

“despised and forsaken of men;

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”

Isaiah 53:3

and He would be

“oppressed and afflicted”

He would

“open not His mouth”

even as He would be led

“like a lamb to the slaughter”

He would still patiently endure in silence.

Isaiah 53:7

This prophecy was clearly and completely fulfilled by Jesus as described in the Gospels. 

How was Jesus able to endure?

At first we might be tempted to say “well He was God after all”!  It is true that He was God, but He was also fully human, and Scripture tells us that He experienced all the trials and temptations of us “ordinary” humans.  (Hebrews 4:15) Scripture also tells us that He relied fully on His Father, and always did His Father’s will, even to the point of the cross.  (Matthew 27:39)  The story, however, does not end there.  Praise God that the pain of the crucifixion gave way to the joy of the resurrection.  (Hebrews 12:2)  We can find a certain hope for ultimate healing of all pain, not just loneliness, in the promises of God. 

The apostle Paul confirms this in his epistle to the Romans. 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time

are not worthy to be compared with

the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18 

So if you are in Christ and experiencing loneliness due to present circumstances, follow the example of Jesus, and patiently endure while relying on God and anticipating the hope of victory, if not in this present world, then in the world to come.

Another answer to the first question

“Why am I lonely”

may lead us to sources that are not circumstantial but are internal, and these are actually more troubling.

Included here are issues such as

anxiety in relating to others,

feelings of not being valued by others,

and feelings of worthlessness.

Also,

a fear of intimacy,

often a consequence of

a fear of rejection,

is an all too common internal source of loneliness. 

In truth, loneliness resulting from these issues is

self-imposed.

For some,

this is a self-fulfilling prophesy. They feel worthless so they assume others will not value them and try to avoid pain by avoiding the people they fear will inflict it. 

For others,

they have been hurt in the past by someone close, and they try to guarantee that this will not happen again by intentionally not allowing a close relationship with anyone to form. 

This sentiment was expressed beautifully, but sadly, by a 1965 song by Simon and Garfunkel entitled

 

“I am a Rock”.

The song ends with the refrain

“and a rock feels no pain,

and an island never cries”.

 

How true, but these not only don’t feel pain, they really don’t feel much of anything!

 

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This leads to the second question posed above

 

“Why does God see this as bad?”

 

It is clear from Scripture that God feels, and that relationships are very important to Him.

There are many attributes of God that we humans will never share, such as omnipotence or omnipresence, but there many that we can and do. 

These include love, compassion, joy and the desire for fellowship. 

Indeed the Christian faith has been described as the faith of the “one anothers”, and Scripture knows nothing of the “Lone Ranger” Christian.  In fact, a special Greek word was used to describe the relationship Christians should have with one another, and by implication that they should have with God. 

 

This word is

koinonia,

which means

“communion by intimate participation”.

 

The Lord’s Supper was instituted as a symbol of this communion. 

This is a beautiful thing, and the Lord deeply desires us to experience it. 

So much so that Jesus actually commands it! 

In His teaching of the disciples the last night of His life He said

 

“This is My commandment that you love one another,  just as I have loved you”.

John 15:12

We obviously cannot fully experience the love of Christ if we cut ourselves off from others! 

 

So

“What are the solutions that God provides?”

 

Well we must first see that the fears and anxieties that often result in a self-imposed loneliness are really the consequences of seeking from others what we can ultimately only receive from God! 

As believers, we must realize that perfect love, acceptance and security will NEVER come from any human relationship, and can only come from God. 

This is a truth that Satan mightily desires to keep from the ones that need to believe it the most. 

It was stated above that these causes of loneliness spring from internal sources, and so to overcome them, we must internalize the truth that God loves us and accepts us totally. 

Knowing that, we can have the confidence to pursue relationships and risk the pain of human rejection.

In the 1600’s a monk named Brother Lawrence penned some letters that have been compiled and published under the title

 

“The Practice of the Presence of God”.

 

His words give us remarkable insight into this spiritual discipline.  For the one experiencing loneliness for whatever reason, practicing the presence of God will provide a healing touch. 

The following quote from the Brother expresses this beautifully:

 

“My King is full of mercy and goodness.

Far from chastising me,

He embraces me with love.

He makes me eat at His table.

He serves me with His own hands

and gives me the key to His treasures.

He converses and delights Himself

with me incessantly,

in a thousand and a thousand ways.

And He treats me in all respects as His favorite.

In this way I consider myself

continually in His holy presence.

 

Remember, being lonely and being alone are two very different things. 

 

We can be lonely in a crowd,

or

content by ourselves.

For the Christian,

loneliness is really a choice.

 

We can choose to be lonely in response to our fears and pain, or we can

practice the presence of God

and experience His love of as we go through life. 

 

The Apostle John tells us in his first epistle that

 

“There is no fear in love,

but perfect love casts out fear.”

1 John 4:18

 

Perfect love, however, can only come from God, and if we receive His love by faith it will cast out those fears that have resulted in our loneliness. 

 

Let’s take one last insight from Brother Lawrence. 

 

Practice is an active not a passive verb.

 

It indicates willful action on our part.  It also implies a consistent striving to achieve and maintain something. 

For the Christian then,

choosing to dwell in the dark shadow of loneliness or to move into the light of God’s love and fellowship,

 

is ultimately an act of the will.

 

Decide to practice God’s presence and loneliness will melt away like snow in the sunshine of spring!

 

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