Pressure Points

Pressure points – Loneliness (part 2)

LONELINESS

[Pressure Points Series]

 

1.INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUST: Look in the local newspapers/ magazines and also some of the national ones. In the personal columns their are numerous Dating agencies, Friendship clubs, Match making agencies, Lonely hearts Clubs. Some have pages devoted to personal ads. looking for friendship/companionship. {Some are very seedy – simply sex dating ads}

 

But many are from lonely people who desperately want someone to be with. If we simply take the number in our area, and there are many, and multiply that around the country we begin to realise the vast numbers of people who are lonely. Often feeling unwanted, uncared for and unloved.

There are, of course, thousands and thousands of lonely people who don’t put advertisments in newspapers/magazines or join “Lonely-Hearts Clubs”.

 

More people live alone in our day than ever before. There are more elderly people as a result of people living longer and many no longer live with family as they may have done in past years. There are more young singles and divorcees.

 

2.LONELINESS: WHAT IS IT?

 

Are those who live alone the only ones who can be lonely?  Of course not!! Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lonely and lonely doesn’t mean that you are alone.

 

ILLUST: When I was 18 I went to the Army. Conscription. We travelled all night on a train to a place I’d never been before. There were thousands of other men there BUT those first few days were probably one of the loneliest times of my life.

 

Big cities where you are surrounded by millions of people are often the loneliest places on earth.

 

Loneliness and aloneness are not synonymous terms – there is a measure of overlap but they are not the same. The same is true of solitude and isolation. Often the one thing that we desire more than anything else is to be alone for a while.

 

ILLUST: Mothers with young children long for a bit of solitude.

 

In our busy, noisy world we need times of quiet solitude. Time to think, meditate, reflect. As Christians we need time away from others people to be alone with God.

 

3. THE REASONS FOR FEELING LONELY.

 

Loneliness through circumstances.

After the death of  a loved one, esp. a spouse there is a deep, aching void of loneliness. Someone is gone who cannot be replaced.

            If you move to a new location leaving the familiar behind you can also feel lonely.

If friends, family of colleagues don’t share the same concerns and interests as you, you can also feel a sense of loneliness.

 

Choosing to be lonely.

BUT you say, “No one chooses to be lonely”  Maybe in the past or even the present we have reached out to other people and have been rejected, disappointment, hurt etc and now we are afraid to get hurt again. Understandable but not necessarily right. It is often easier to withdraw to a safe distance than it is to risk disappointment. The known pain of loneliness is preferably to the possible pain of disappointment.

The problem with this kind of self-inflicted loneliness is that we end up isolating ourselves from people. OR we seek superficial relationships with others just so that we can keep our loneliness manageable. We don’t want to risk getting hurt so we don’t want to risk entering into deep and meaningful relationships.

 

4. CAN LONELINESS BE CONQUERED AND ELIMINATED?

 

ILLUST: If you are happily married with two wonderful children who love you and you have many friends – you enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.

Does this mean that you will not be lonely? [unless you circumstances change]

 

When God created men and women he did so with a capacity to fully enjoy each other and also to enjoy a full relationship with himself.

 

When sin entered the world and mankind was cut off from God a hole was left that no one but God can fill. Added to that, the relationship between Adam and Eve, which until the fall was perfect, now became marred. Now because we are all sinners, none of us is perfect, we cannot fully meet the needs in others of have our needs fully meet by them.

 

That is why even when you are content with your life and it is full of meaningful and happy relationships there can still be time of loneliness.

 

You may not feel intensely lonely right now! But are there not times when you feel lonely even when there would seem to be no apparent reason. ie.a loved one hasn’t died and circumstances are fine.

 

I can Hear someone saying!!! “If you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour then you will never be lonely”  Didn’t Jesus say”I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age” [Matt.28v20]

 

But relationships like God intended are not possible because we still live in a fallen and sinful world. Our relationships with God and with our fellow Christians are still not perfect because we are not perfect. [1 Co.13v12]

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirrior;

Then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part,

then I shall know fully,

even as I am fully known. [2Co.13v12]

 

It is true that God is with us always but that does not take away our feelings of loneliness. To say that God is all we need is TRUE! But all we need for what? He never promised to take away all our unpleasant feelings. What he did promise was to be with us and to empower us to face those feelings of loneliness in the midst of a sinful, imperfect world.

God’s grace is not a pain killer. It doesn’t stop us from feeling disappointment, pain, grief and loneliness. God’s grace gives us the power to cope in the midst of these distresses.

 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights [Hab.3v19]

 

God doesn’t always remove the obstacles [ the heights – mountains] What he does is give us goat’s feet so that we can cope. BUT he never gives us more than we can handle

 

5. HOW DO WE HANDLE LONELINESS?

 

One of the difficulties that we as Christians face is that we are already Citizens of Heaven BUT we still have our feet planted firmly in this world. We have not yet received all the has been promised. We live between the NOW and the NOT YET.

First danger – loneliness is a fact of life so just live with it. This attitude fails to grasp the hope that God has given us in Christ!

Second danger – says that because of this hope we have in Christ these so-called negative emotional feelings are ungodly. We must have faith and live victorious lives. We must never succumb to any of these “so-called weaknesses”. This attitude turns a blind eye to suffering and reduces FAITH to being one’s ability to numb one’s feelings. Stoical numbness is not faith.

 

Three ways NOT to handle loneliness.

1. DENIAL – “I never think about it really, I just get on with my life”

2. MINIMIZING – “I get lonely occassionally, but I must be thankful for the friends God

has given me”

3. TRIVIALIZING -” Okay, so I feel lonely sometimes, doesn’t everyone?”

 

Spiritual maturity is not seen in our ability to numb our feelings. God doesn’t call us to deny our loneliness [and our other feelings], but to acknowledge these feelings and enter into them knowing that we have a caring, loving God who calls us to trust Him in the midst of unresolved loneliness.

 

Responding positively to loneliness.

 

* We need to acknowledge loneliness as a reality of Life. [degree of loneliness varies].

* Don’t compound your loneliness by feelings of guilt about being lonely. Loneliness is a natural human emotion. We are needy people. We were created as relational beings. To deny our neediness is to present ourselves as having the resources we need to live life on our own. Such a view sidelines God.

* When we are hurting our natural inclination is to get rid of or relieve the hurt. The question we should ask, and it is tough, is not “How can I get rid of the pain ?” BUT  “What can I learn through this?” We certainly need God’s help to respond this way. Jesus understands what we are going through and he will help us cope!

Therefore, since we have a High Priest

who has gone through the heavens,

Jesus the Son of God,

let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

For we don not have a High Priest

who is unable to synpathise with our weaknesses,

but we have one who has been tempted in every way,

just as we are – yet without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,

so that we may receive mercy and

find grace in time of need [Heb.4v14-16]

 

* Look for support in your loneliness, but don’t demand to be relieve of it. As Christians we are responsible to support and care for each other.Bear one anothers burdens”  We can not demand from each other what we are unable to deliver.

We can and must be caring, loving and supportive we don’t want to add to loneliness. BUT we can’t remove that deep inner sense of loneliness that we all face to a greater or lesser degree and will continue to feel until we are made perfect in heaven.

 

As Christians together within the body of Christ, we are not just there to hold each others hands. Or to get toether in a HOLY HUDDLE and have a pity party.

Since we are part of God’s household:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,

for he who promised is faithful.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on

toward love and good deeds. [Heb.10v23-24]

 

We are to share together our hopes and our hurts.

As Christians our goal is not simply to be another support group for hurting people. Caring and support and togetherness is not the goal of the Church. The Church is about Jesus Christ.

He has called us and wants us to follow him. To bring our wants and needs into subjection to his will. It is in seeking to be faithful to Christ, both individually and togther, that this sense of belonging and togetherness is found as a by-product of obedience to Christ’s lordship.

 

ILLUST: It is as we follow Christ that these other needs are met. God’s work always involves people. Working with people, caring for people.

 

Lamentations 3.We often quote the verses about God’s great faithfulness. [And we sing :Great is your Faithfulness] But we forget the context in which it was written.

Jerusalem had just been destroyed by the Babylonians. Jeremiah was grieving over the lost. He had devoted his life to warning the Jews about the pending disaster if they didn’t return to the Lord, but they had not listened, The disaster he predicted happened. The fact that he was right brought no joy.

 

[illust: A parent who warns a child of trouble ahead grieves when the advice is unheeded and the predicted happens]

Jeremiah was sitting on the smoking rubble of the city with dead, wounded and starving around him. He must have felt pain and fear and loneliness. He feels alone. Cut off from God and from his people. Yet he writes

Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love

we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself,

“The Lord is my portion

therefore I will wait for him.

[Lam.3v21-24]

 

Inspite of his personal pain and loneliness he knew his God. He knew something of God’s purposes. He didn’t ignore his pain and anguish. It was very real. But he transcends it. He has a hope. He has a correct view of God and that puts his own situation and feelings into perspective.

 

You see there is something more impotant than my struggles, and my pain, and my loneliness.The Glory of God is more important. It is not that our struggles and pains are irrelevant but it is surprising that when we choose to move out towards others in the midst of our struggles that we find unexpected joy.

Listen to James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers,

whenever you face trials of many kinds.

because you know that the testing of

your faith develops perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work

so that you may be mature and complete

not lacking anything. [James 1v2-3]

 

 

6. HELPING OTHERS.

 

It is all too easy, when we are hurting, to turn in on ourselves! Sometimes the greatest help we can receive is by helping others!

It doesn’t mean getting into heavy discussions or preaching mini-sermon at them.

– a phone call;

– making an effort to speak to new people at Church;

– spending time talking to and elderly person who is house bound.

– taking a plant to a new neighbour.

– writing a note of encouragement.

– inviting someone for tea/meal

The list is endless; down to earth acts of kindness motivated by the desire to share the goodness of God with those who are lonely. Because, we too, know the pain of loneliness.

 

This kind of caring springs from hearts that are confident of the goodness of God. God wants to work in us and through us inspite of our loneliness.

We have the sure hope that one day this deep loneliness will be replace by an eternal, perfect fellowship with God and with each other.

 

Let us not deny our feelings of Loneliness. At time it may seem unbearable. But through our expeiences may we learn of God  and learn to love and care for others better.

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