A Lonely Place
Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever just felt like you were all alone in this big world of ours? There are times that loneliness creeps into all of our lives. It is during that time of grief that one feels lonely or that time after an argument with those closest to you that loneliness sets in. It can happen right in the middle of a movie or concert that you realize that you are by yourself and no one really even notices that you are there. Loneliness can hit a person during a family reunion or a school reunion and at times you just stand there with the feelings of lostness.
The Bible gives us reasons why mankind has these bouts of loneliness. For instance, our own sin tends to isolate us. Psalm 81:11-12 says:
But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.
Paul the apostle says in Ephesians 4:17-19:
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Just in these two short passages of Scripture, we can see how sin causes loneliness in our lives. Granted, that feeling of loneliness comes from being apart from God because of our sin. When we refuse to let Him lead us and we become stubborn against Him, then we will simply walk in our own devices because of the hardness of our hearts toward Him.
Another reason for loneliness can be because of the remorse that we feel for our sin. Peter the apostle was lonely after betraying Jesus Christ three times and hearing the rooster crow just as Jesus said. Matthew 26:75 says:
And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Think of the loneliness that Judas Iscariot felt after betraying Jesus Christ because of the stubbornness of his heart. Matthew 27:4-5 says:
“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
Remorse for our sin can cause us to feel lonely, and this is very different from merely feeling guilty or shamed by what we have done. Remorse means that we have a gnawing distress arising inside of us from a sense of what we have done; it is from the Latin remordere which means to bite again. Very different from just mere guilt or shame.
Loneliness comes from a lack of friends. Psalm 142:4 says:
Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me; there is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul.
My best friend has told me something that his grandfather told him many years ago. He said, “If a man goes to his grave having had at least one best friend, then he is highly blessed and favored.” The psalmist here was speaking of a deep lack of friendship and how his feelings of loneliness played havoc with his soul. Loneliness takes a toll on a person. Paul the apostle even felt this way in 2 Timothy 4:16:
At my first defense no one supported me; may it not be counted against them.
At the most needed time for defense and support, no one was there to help Paul the apostle. Rather, his friends deserted him and no one from his family was there to rescue him. He was deserted.
Loss of identity also brings loneliness. People identify you as this or as that. With these identities, whether true or not, people will shun you. Consider Luke 8:27 which says:
And when Jesus came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.
This man had been alone in the tombs for years being possessed by a large group of demons. Due to this possession, he was prone to attack those who came by him in addition to hurting him physically, emotionally, and, obviously, spiritually. No one could come close to him. And even though they tried to bind him, the chains which they used were no match for the demons that possessed him. He was no longer identified as a man, but as an animal among the tombs.
When a person is discontent with their station in life, loneliness may also set in causing bitterness and dissatisfaction. Take for instance Ecclesiastes 4:8:
There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity and it is a grievous task.
In other words, because he was lonely, not having anyone to come to his side, everything for which he was working was useless in his mind. It reminds me of George Eastman who ended his life in his 70’s because he set out to do what he did and had nothing more after his last invention. Discontent, dissatisfaction with what you do and the reason you do it, may be the cause for loneliness.
Disease can cause loneliness. The Bible records in Leviticus 13:4:
But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and it doe snot appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate him who has the infection for seven days.
This was a case of leprosy and during the days of the Bible all who were affected with leprosy were forbidden to mix with those not affected. Illness, whatever type it may be, causes loneliness when others fear contracting the disease of the other or if they do not know what to say to the diseased. Many times, people will simply leave the diseased alone thinking that is the best thing for them, whether they can see the disease or not.
Another example of disease is that of mental illness. Depression, usually marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spend sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies lead to loneliness. People do not understand many times when and why some are depressed or deal with mental illness. If they had a broken arm or a cold or pneumonia they could understand the illness so much better; but when it comes to the mind that cannot be seen, nor can it be understood at times, people tend to flee from others. Psalm 43:5 says:
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me?
Again, the psalmist writes in 73:16-17:
When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end.
Micah the prophet even felt depressed and alone when he writes in Micah 7:1-2:
Woe is me! For I am like the fruit pickers, like the grape gatherers. There is not a cluster of grapes to eat, or a first-ripe fig which I crave. The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net.
So how can we handle loneliness? To whom shall we go when we have thoughts and feelings of loneliness? Jesus Christ experienced loneliness and we can learn how to properly handle it by looking to Him for the answer. Consider the following verses that speak of the loneliness that Jesus Christ felt, both Old and New Testaments testify to this:
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.” (Psalm 22:1-2)
Many scholars believe that Jesus Christ quoted the entirety of Psalm 22. The chilling words of Jesus Christ upon the Cross when He says, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” show us the despair and loneliness of Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
Matthew 4:1-2 shows us a picture of Jesus Christ in His loneliness while being tempted by the devil in the wilderness:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty night, He then became hungry.
He was on a mission and He was lonely. He was there to be tempted by the devil and He succeeded in not sinning against His Heavenly Father. Rather, He walked in obedience to His Father during this time. This shows us that we, too, may be lonely, but we can walk in humility and obedience to God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Another example of Jesus Christ being lonely is when He sent His disciples on their way and He went up a mountain to spend time in prayer. Matthew 14:22-23 says:
Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
This is a picture of being alone with God. Jesus Christ spent this time in communication with His Heavenly Father. He was communing with Him–alone. It can be good for us to be alone at times to spend in prayer, ever seeking God’s will and ever listening to the small still voice of God.
So there are positive aspects to loneliness. We have seen at least two different examples from Jesus Christ. Loneliness, when one’s perspective is that of Christ, can be positive as one may exercise his opportunity for communion with God. Jesus Christ even said in Matthew 6:6:
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Jesus Christ even encouraged His disciples to go to a secluded place to be alone to rest in Mark 6:31-32:
And Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
Loneliness, therefore, may not necessarily be a bad thing. It may be that we just need to have a better perspective on our times of loneliness. It could be that God is simply trying to get our attention since our attention so often times is stolen by the cares of this world. God may be trying to help us to slow down and to rest. He may even be trying to get us to turn to Him in our times of distress, disease, and depression. Whatever the case, loneliness hurts, but it does not have to hurt. We can rest assured that Hebrews 13:5-8 is for us today:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.