Yesterday, if you were with me, I introduced the topic of loneliness. Dr Paul Tournier, a medical doctor and Christian counsellor said once that loneliness “is the most devastating problem of the age”. Yesterday morning I also said that some people can’t understand how you can be lonely. After all, if you have plenty of friends and a busy social life, why would you feel lonely? But the sad thing about loneliness is it doesn’t diminish in the midst of a crowd. You can be in a crowd of people and still be lonely.
I recall reading about Dr James Lynch, a medical doctor, who claims loneliness can actually shorten your life. In his book “The Broken Heart” he produces evidence to show that loneliness and isolation can literally “break your heart”. If the doctor is correct, we have a big problem in our society. We must find a way to master loneliness, or it will master us! It’s all about failing to connect closely with another person – it’s really an emotional pain we feel when we can’t experience an intimate relationship.
Perhaps you know something of broken promises, broken relationships, career disappointments, rejection, death in the family these and many more lead to loneliness. Loneliness can make you feel unloved, unwanted, socially inadequate, and convinced there is something wrong with you. But have you ever thought your loneliness can be a pathway to God? Jesus understands how a lonely person feels. Hebrews 2:14 says “He became flesh and blood by being born in human form”. Hebrews 4:15. “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses… let us receive His mercy and find grace to help us in our times of need”.
It’s a great comfort to know we have a God who understands all emotions. Jesus was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). His ministry on earth brought healing and blessing to many, but also brought rejection, misunderstanding and moments of loneliness.
Loneliness need not be a permanent problem. God our Heavenly Father can use those times of loneliness to forge new intimacy with Him, and this can help even in the most desperate moments. Perhaps loneliness has damaged your self esteem, this is the greatest danger. We doubt our own worth to God and others, feel alone and hopeless. Lonely people want to reach out to others but they feel unworthy, and say “No one is interested in me – I’m a nobody.” Not true – listen to God’s word in Jeremiah 29. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen” (v 11,12).
Sometimes we feel so lonely our view of God is mixed up. We can’t see the truth that our God, through Jesus Christ, is a wonderful Father and friend to His children, you and me. We may feel like giving up on life, but listen to God. “God is the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). You may say this morning you don’t feel God’s presence. But it’s not about how you feel – it’s taking His word as a personal promise of Jesus to you. If you’re still not convinced, read Psalm 139, a wonderful chapter of encouragement and hope. v3 “every moment, you know where I am”.
We have a compassionate caring God who knows the human heart, the feelings for loneliness. You’re not alone. He says “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). He knows, and He sees, and more importantly He cares. Don’t feel ashamed – you’re in good company. Job felt so misunderstood and rejected by his friends, he wanted to die. Elijah felt so alone, he also wanted to die. Because of his isolation, Jeremiah said he wished he had never been born. But God brings special people into our lives to assist us, and help.
Spending too much time alone can be a problem. Join a group and make an effort. It takes determination and discipline, but it’s worth it. Find a friend with whom you can share. Join a church where you feel welcome and make a step towards people who love Jesus Christ, and they’ll love you too.
We’re not meant to be alone. David had Jonathan, Moses had Joshua, Paul had Timothy and Barnabas. And when Jesus sent 70 of His followers out on a mission, He sent them in pairs. Pray that God will lead you to a friend who will encourage and help you. He will, if you wait on Him. Do something for someone else. It will keep your mind off your troubles and be the start or building a bridge of friendship to another Christian. Take one small step of faith, and God will bring you through your pain.