Summary: Both the pervasiveness and pain of loneliness is well known and documented. But what does the Bible and the Church have to say and do about it? Bottom line: loneliness can only e overcome through intimate relationships with Jesus and other people.
WRESTLING WITH LONELINESS
Part 2 in Series: “Does Anybody Know, Does Anybody Care?”
Rev. Todd G. Leupold, Perth Bible Church, Sunday October 5, 2008 AM
Paul McCartney famously sings: “All the lonely people, Where do they all come from, All the lonely people, Where do they belong?”
Ernie is a hard-working family man who has always blended in. He’s an average guy – except that he has a secret few others know about or even suspect. Lately, Ernie has felt very lonely. What makes it even more difficult is that he doesn’t understand why. This is not a normal experience for him, he has a loving family, people he is friendly with at work, people he is friendly with at church, and he is a believing Christian who knows that Jesus will “never leave nor forsake him.” Still, he can’t seem to shake this unsettling feeling of being disconnected and alone.
Annie is a single adult. She is generally a fun, warm, capable and bright woman. Annie has a lot to offer the world as a worker, friend, mentor and volunteer. Most people tell her she’d make a wonderful spouse and mother ’some day.’ But her pursuits just seem to lead to one dead end after another. Whether hers is a case of a love never lived or a love lost and seeking to reclaim, the hauntings of her loneliness are the same. Even in church, it seems everyone else already has their own group of friends and don’t need or want to add any more. Also, it seems nobody knows how to relate to a single woman.
George is a kind-hearted and sensitive man in mid-life. His whole life he has struggled with a seemingly natural melancholy – constantly feeling lonely and depressed, seeing life’s worries while overlooking it’s blessings. In whispers people have taken to calling him “Droopy Dog” and “Eyeore.” George knows this and struggles greatly with feelings of worthlessness and uselessness.
Finally, there is dear Shirley. Shirley is a wonderful woman in the sunset years of her life. For all but a seemingly distant few of those years, she has lived the ups and downs of life’s journey with her beloved soulmate, Fred. Not quite a year ago, God called Fred to His heavenly home. As a woman of strong faith, she knows that God is there for her, but she also is living with a stark reminder that we have all been created with a need for human companionship – to be with people in whose presence we can relax and be ourselves. Her loneliness has been deepening into depression and the temptation to just ’pull away’ from the world and await her own homecoming.
Do any of you here this morning know an Ernie, Annie, George or Shirley? Or, perhaps, you are an Ernie, Annie, George or Shirley? If not you, perhaps someone sitting near you?
David Burns referred to loneliness as “the world’s most common mental health problem.” Henri Nouwen described it as “one of the most universal sources of suffering.” In 1985, sociologist Robert Weiss conducted a landmark study of loneliness in which he estimated that a quarter (25%) of the American population feels extremely lonely at some time during any given month. Dr. Gary Collins writes:
“Loneliness is the painful awareness that we lack close and meaningful contact with others. It involves a feeling of inner emptiness, isolation, and intense longing. Even when they are surrounded by others, lonely people often feel left out, unwanted, rejected, or misunderstood . . . There may be an intense desire to reach out, but often the lonely person feels frustrated and unable to initiate, continue, or experience a close relationship.”
(Each of the above from Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, by Dr. Gary R. Collins, pp. 92-93.)
Far too often, our society’s response to others’ loneliness is a simple and abrupt “deal with it,” or “get over it,” or “stop being so selfish.” Even in the church, we may hear: “You just need to get right with God . . . buck up and have more faith . . . accept that it’s all your own fault.”
Loneliness can only be overcome through intimate relationships with Jesus and other people.
Consider what God said about this in the very beginning:
GENESIS 2:18 “It is not good for man to be alone.”
God declared this as a fundamental truth of His creation before sin and its consequences invaded the earth!
What about David, the man and follower God Himself designated as one with a heart like His?
People of God no less than Moses, Job, Noah, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ruth, Esther, Mary, & others had to confront loneliness at one time or another. Even Jesus, in His earthly ministry, often found Himself rejected and alone. At different points in His life, Scripture mentions His feeling rejected and/or abandoned by His own human family, His closest disciples, and even the Heavenly Father while He bore the world’s sins upon the cross.