Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
There’s a lot on television I’m not a fan of. I think there are better things to do with my time. But sometimes I like to watch good documentaries like the British hospital real-life stories. Do you know the ones I mean?
Cameras are placed in the emergency ward of a particular hospital, recording the comings and goings of one day and night. It’s life as it happens, and for me, it makes riveting watching.
It’s a fly-on-the-wall television series where the narrator says, “Love, life, and loss, all in 24 hours”. Some situations are serious, life-threatening and dangerous. And the question some ask is, “Am I going to live or die?” Unless you’ve been faced with this, I guess we don’t know how it really feels:
- Am I loved?
- Does anyone care about me?
- Will I survive?
- Am I alone?
You don’t have to be in an emergency ward to be alone. Many people feel alone. Loneliness isn’t a new problem, is it? Loneliness has been with us for a long, long time. Do you recall that in the Bible God created Adam and it was not long before the Lord said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him” (Genesis 2:18). Adam was lonely and God provided a companion to remove his loneliness.
Journalist Rudyard Kipling said, “The human soul is essentially a very lonely thing—we are born alone, die alone, and in the depths of our heart we live alone.” While I would not agree completely with what Kipling said, he does raise the point that loneliness is often one of the things in life that handles us and masters us.
I heard about a man who wanted to join one of those lonely-hearts clubs. He sent them his photograph and they sent back a note that said, “We are not that lonely.”
Maybe you heard about the fellow that went to a psychiatrist. He said, “Doc, I want you to give me a split personality.” The doctor asked why and he said, “So I’ll have someone to talk to.”
It’s rather strange in a world experiencing a population explosion that loneliness is one of people’s greatest problems. H.G. Wells—the noted British scientist, historian, lecturer and author, considered by many to be the greatest intellect of the 20th century—simply stated before he died, “I am lonely.”
Are you grappling with the giant of loneliness?
Billy Graham used to say that loneliness plagues more people today than any other single problem. Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe said this:
“Like many other feelings in our lives, it’s easier to experience it than to define it. Loneliness is being all by yourself even when you’re surrounded by people. Loneliness is a feeling of isolation even in the midst of a crowd. You feel unwanted. You feel unneeded. You feel as though there’s nothing to live for. You feel as though nobody really cares anymore. That’s loneliness. Loneliness eats away at the inner person. It saps you of strength. It robs you of hope, Loneliness, as it were puts a wall around you no matter how free you may be.”
Doctors are concerned with the number of their patients who are lonely: 50 per cent of patients who experienced heart operations were lonely before they were admitted for surgery. They didn’t have a close friend by their side.
Loneliness has emotional consequences. One study found that 80 per cent of the psychiatric patients who were interviewed said that they sought help because of their loneliness. I don’t think we fully appreciate how serious this issue is.
God loves you deeply and cares for you
There are many reasons people feel lonely. But here’s some encouragement: God loves you deeply and cares for you, so you are never truly alone.
Jesus was left alone, and yet he says he was not alone, for the Father is with me. The ultimate remedy for loneliness is to be aware of the presence of God. All other remedies give moderate and temporary relief, but this alone will ensure you will never be alone, regardless of what’s happening around you. It has to be said that only those who practise the presence of God can go through every experience and stage of life alone, and yet not be alone.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to be alone, yet not alone. He wrote in 2 Timothy 4:16-17: “When I was first put on trial, no-one helped me. In fact, everyone deserted me. But the Lord stood beside me”. Paul knew what loneliness was like.
The Christian, no matter how lonely, is never alone, for God is present, and this can make the difference between defeat and victory.
Playwright George Bernard Shaw, in his play Saint Joan, has Joan of Arc saying, as she is led away to the stake to be burned, “Yes, I am alone on earth. I have always been alone…But do not think you can frighten me by telling me that I am alone…It is better to be alone with God: His friendship will not fail me, nor His counsel, nor His love. In His strength, I will dare, and dare and dare until I die.” She went through great loneliness, but she did not go through it alone.
Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was not a Christian, but he had something to teach Christians. He wrote:
“I have never belonged wholeheartedly to country or state, to my circle of friends, or even to my own family. Such isolation is sometimes bitter, but I do not regret being cut off from the understanding and sympathy of other men. I lose something by it, to be sure, but I am compensated for it in being rendered independent of the customs, opinions, and prejudices of others, and I am not tempted to rest my peace of mind on such shifting foundations.”
Einstein found values in his loneliness, and he used his solitude to fulfil the goals to which he dedicated his life. A Christian, as dedicated to Christ as Einstein was to mathematics, will be able to face the reality of loneliness with a remedy for loneliness, and be alone, yet not alone.