ILLUST: Look in a newspaper and in personal columns there are numerous Dating agencies, Friendship clubs, Match making agencies, Lonely hearts Clubs. Some have pages devoted to personal ads. looking for friendship/companionship.
There are, of course, thousands and thousands of lonely people who don’t put advertisements in newspapers/magazines or join “Lonely-Hearts Clubs”.
More people live alone today than ever before. Elderly, singles, and divorcees etc.
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.
ILLUS: 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. Illus.: Croc. Dundee – in NY “Must be friendlinest place in world w. so many people”
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. Christians time away 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 someone 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 won’t risk entering into 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. Gen. 2 “ … it is not good for man to be alone…”
When sin entered the world and mankind was cut off from God a hole was left that no one but God can fill.
Also, 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 nor 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 times of loneliness sometimes for no obvious reason. – awake in night!!
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]
It is true that God is with us always but that doesn’t mean we will never feel lonely. He never promised to take away all our unpleasant feelings. What he did promise was to be with us and to help us to face those feelings of loneliness in the midst of a sinful, imperfect world.
God’s grace is not a painkiller. 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?
Difficulty for Christians is we are Citizens of Heaven BUT still have to live in this world. We are not yet in heaven – perfect.
1st 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 Jesus!
2nd danger – says that because of this hope we have in Christ these so-called negative emotional feelings are ungodly. We must have faith. 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 occasionally, but I must be thankful for the friends God has given me”
3. TRIVIALIZING -” Okay, so I feel lonely sometimes, doesn’t everyone?”
God doesn’t ask us to deny our loneliness [and our other feelings], but to acknowledge these feelings and to trust Him in spite of our feelings.
Responding positively to loneliness.
- We need to acknowledge loneliness as a reality of Life. [Degrees of loneliness]
- 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. BUT also should ask – “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!
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 do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathise 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]
Trusting God when life is smooth and pleasant not too difficult but what about when it is tough – We love the hymn Great is your Faithfulness
Based on Lamentations 3. context ???.
JEREMIAH. 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.
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]
In spite 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 sees past it. He has a hope. He has a correct view of God and that puts his own situation and feelings into perspective.
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 / or wherever;
– spending time talking to someone who is house bound.
– taking a plant to a new neighbour.
– writing a note of encouragement.
– inviting someone for tea/meal …….. endless; down to earth acts of kindness.
True we don’t get accepted by God thru’ works BUT still required to do them!
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 times it may seem unbearable. But through our experiences may we learn more of God and learn to care for others better.