By Chris WittsThursday 15 Oct 2015Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 0 minutes
Talking again today about loneliness, and what a devastating experience it is. Especially for the apostle Paul who was locked in prison in Rome, a terrible maritime dungeon, in a small underground hole in appalling conditions. and it is estimated he had spent 7 years altogether in prison in different places. AD 68 in the spring of that year he was in this Roman jail, alone and without much hope of getting out alive. And he writes his last epistle 2nd Timothy.
Interesting to read that this old man, alone and facing trial and death, was rejected by his friends. In 2 Timothy 4:14 we read “Alexander, the metal worker, has hurt me in many ways..” Bible scholars are not sure what happened, but this man may have even helped trap Paul ensuring he was imprisoned. But all his friends and colleagues had deserted him ..he was alone, and rejected . Listen to his heart cry in v16 “When I was first put on trial, no-one helped me. In fact, everyone deserted me. I hope it won’t be held against me”. You can almost hear the pain in his voice. Isn’t it true that rejection is the most difficult thing to handle? Have you ever been rejected ? Some people try to deal with loneliness by becoming workaholics. But that eventually takes its toll. Others try materialism. They buy everything in sight. They think, “If I can just improve the quality of my life, I’ll be happy.” But things don’t satisfy for long. The fact is you cannot buy happiness. Some people have an extramarital affair. Others turn to alcohol or drugs. Still others lose themselves in a fantasy world by reading novels, internet games or watching TV. But these are poor substitutes and take us further and further from God’s will.
What did Paul do to combat his loneliness?
1. Utilize your Time (2 Timothy 4:13 he says to Timothy ‘when you come bring the coat I left at Troas with Carpus. Don’t forget to bring the scrolls, especially the ones made of leather”. ). He refused to sit around and mope. Instead he said, “If I’m going to be forced to spend some time in prison I can use this time constructively. If I can’t visit the churches I can still write to them. I’m going to make the best of my situation. If I cannot be where the action is, I will create some action right here.” It is quite amazing that God can use loneliness for good. Many of Paul’s important letters might never have been written had he not been in prison.
So it seems to me the first way to combat loneliness is to utilize your time wisely. Try and make the best of your bad situation. Resist the temptation to do nothing. Loneliness has a tendency to paralyse you if you just sit around and do nothing, and often, lonely people don’t take care of themselves. They don’t eat right, they don’t exercise, and they ignore their personal needs. Paul resisted that temptation. He wrote, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13). He refused to sit around and mope. Instead he said, “If I’m going to be forced to spend some time in prison I can use this time constructively. If I can’t visit the churches I can still write to them. I’m going to make the best of my situation. If I cannot be where the action is, I will create some action right here.” God can use loneliness for good. Many of Paul’s important letters might never have been written had he not been in prison. But he was not bitter and angry or resentful. It didn’t do him any good to waste energy like that .. he wanted to forgive and be a better person, not a bitter person. How come? He recognized the strength of God. V17 But the Lord stood beside me. He gave me the strength to tell his full message so that all the Gentiles would hear it”. Paul was physically alone, but God was there in that prison with him. Do you know that there’s no place on earth where God is not present?. As long as you understand that, you’re never really alone. Prayer is a great comfort in lonely times. Talk to God and let him speak to you. When we are aware of lonely feelings it is a sign that it’s time for us to become better acquainted with God .. Paul was lonely and at the end of his life, and yet he never forgot his life’s goal: to win people to Christ, build them in the faith and send them to do the same – to win, build, send.
In the last months his constant thoughts and prayers were with the young churches he had helped to plant. In the last few verses of this beautiful letter, Paul’s concerns are with the needs of others, especially the sick. He concludes his letter with the words, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.” (2 Timothy 4:22). If you are feeling lonely this morning, instead of focusing inward on yourself, focus outward on other people. Look outward to the needs of other people and God’s grace will indeed be with you.
When Corrie ten Boom was a young woman in the Netherlands, she fell head over heels in love with a young man. But he broke off the relationship and married one of her good friends. Corrie was devastated. Nothing hurts more than being rejected and having someone else chosen over you. When Corrie got home, her father said something very wise.” Corrie, your love has been blocked, and he has married someone else. Now, there are two things you can do with a blocked love. You can damn it up inside and hold it all inside and it will eat you up – or you can re-channel it to something or someone else and can focus on other people’s needs.
Corrie chose to do the latter, and her story of a selfless life living under Nazi captivity and imprisonment is told in her book, The Hiding Place.
Instead of building walls we need to build bridges. We need to stop complaining, “God I’m so lonely,” and start saying, “God, help me be a friend to somebody today”. Because love is the antidote to loneliness.