Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
There was once an advertisement in a Kansas newspaper that read like this: I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for five dollars. It sounds like a hoax, doesn’t it?
But it wasn’t long before that individual who had placed the advertisement in the newspaper was bombarded by about 10 to 20 calls a day. The pain of loneliness for some is so sharp that they were willing to try anything for half an hour of companionship.
Lonely people often feel left out. They feel unwanted or rejected, even when they are surrounded by others—whether it be friends, family, or the congregation of a church. Have you felt that way? With loneliness, not only can there come this feeling of being left out, but a sense of worthlessness. In other words, people reason within themselves: Well, since nobody wants to be with me, I guess I’m not worth being with. It is important that we realise that loneliness is one of the greatest problems that 21st century society faces.
Loneliness and Solitude
There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Solitude is a voluntary withdrawal from people; loneliness is forced upon you, against your will you are made alone. Solitude can be a refreshing experience; it can be rejuvenating and even enjoyable—but loneliness is something that is painful, draining, and unpleasant. An American preacher named Vance Havner once said,
One of the worst things about loneliness is that you can’t run away from it.
Albert Einstein, who was not a Christian, said,
It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.
A giant of science, a giant of the modern age, yet affected by this scourge—whether you’re a giant in the world’s sight, or a giant in God’s sight. Like William Carey, the father of modern missions in India, who wrote these words in his diary: “O that I had an earthly friend on whom I could unburden my soul”. After the death of her husband, Queen Victoria said these words: “There was no-one left to call me Victoria”.
Coping with Our Loneliness
Dr Gary Collins, who is a professor of psychology and a Christian author, writes this: “We live in a loneliness producing society”. Isn’t that interesting? A loneliness-producing society, where rapid change and modern technology discourage intimacy and stimulate loneliness. Even in homes and churches people avoid each other—people keep to themselves, not willing to make personal contact.
I think it has got worse as the years have gone by. The big question is, How do you cope with your loneliness? Some advice given today by psychiatrists and psychologists is:
- change your job
- join a club; be positive
- get married; get remarried
- travel the world; move house
- use your hi-fi, turn your TV and your radio on
- read good books; take up a hobby
- expand your horizons; renew your goals
- volunteer for some good cause.
All of these things, good in themselves, cannot remedy the deep down pain, the problem at the deepest level.
I think you have to accept some things in life that will never change. You can’t change everything—it’s impossible. Learn that lesson, as the Apostle Paul said and recorded in Philippians 4:11 (NIV), “I have learned to be content whatever circumstances”. There it is—a great Biblical teaching. What we do need today is to realise that all the anxiety of struggling with accepting our circumstances causes more anxiety, more pain, more stress, and even accentuates our feeling of loneliness.
There are things in life that we cannot change, and therefore we must accept them in God’s providential dealings. He has allowed this to enter into our lives, and we must—as hard as it may be to take the next step—embrace it. Take a step forward, and you’re on the way to handling those lonely moments and hours when you are feeling terrible. What are you doing to move ahead? Do you make an effort to talk to others, and be a friend? Or do you prefer to remain in seclusion or isolation? That never helps.
God loves you and wants to share himself with you. That’s the best prescription for a lonely soul. And his Son Jesus Christ has said, “I am with you always even to the end of the age”. Tell him how you feel and spend time in prayer today.