Summary: looking at the different times during life at loneliness
Read Mark 1:16-20
How many of you here today are experiencing the same thing Zebedee experienced?
When children are young, we teach them to tie their shoes, fix their lunch, and eventually how to drive and do their own laundry. We as parents spend our time teaching our children in hopes they will be independent, productive young adults. This is our goal right? But how many of you are struggling with each step your child takes as they venture out more and more on their own?
As a community, we are in full swing with the nest-emptying season. Our little kids have begun kindergarten; our bigger kids have begun elementary school, our big kids have started high school, and the really big kids have headed for campus all across our state, even our nation. And now moms and dads feel a loss accompanied with grief.
This is known as the “Empty-nest Syndrome”. This is when parents and guardians have a general feeling of loneliness.
Moms begin to feel a sense of uselessness, searching for something to fill the time once spent on chauffeuring, attending school events, hosting events at home for neighborhood kids and so on.
Dads begin to see that their relationship with their wife is losing common ground, there are less and less reasons to have conversations, unsure about how to spend so much alone time with her again.
For many, this empty nest is a time of grief, loss; not only from the absence of a beloved family member, but also a loss of purpose.
Today I want to show you that this syndrome isn’t limited to the parents when their children leave home, but it is far more reaching than that.
In his book Six Hours One Friday, author Max Lucado writes about taking a walk through an old cemetery in his hometown. Many of the graves were of people who lived and died in the 19th century. Many of the names belonged to children, bearing witness to the difficulties of life on the Texas prairie.
One grave he came across struck him sharply. It had no dates of birth or death, just the name of a woman and her two husbands. The epitaph on the grave read simply,
Sleeps but rests not.
Loved but was loved not.
Tried to please, but pleased not.
Died as she lived—alone.
You may say, “Well that was long ago Michael,” but the truth is just the opposite. Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions in our modern world. Even though we have a half-dozen ways to communicate with the outside world at our fingertips, people today are lonelier than they have ever been in history.
You don’t believe me? Look around. We see people throughout our city who are trying to fill this emptiness on the inside. Some compensate with food, drugs, alcohol, sex, material things, work, and even other people’s lives!
Everyone experiences loneliness at different times in life, and it is not always a bad or dangerous experience. There is something to be said for learning to be alone with ourselves and God. But loneliness over the long term can have negative effects physically as well as spiritually.
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
These verses reaffirm to me that the different stages of our lives will result in different kinds of loneliness.
We’ve talked so much about the parents’ experience of the empty-nest syndrome, but what about our kids? They are experiencing for the first time something we have all experienced being; the lonely single. There is nothing exciting about coming home to an empty apartment or rooming with someone that you barely know. My greatest fear, as a parent, is that the wooing from the singles bar and club scene will fill the loneliness my child may be feeling her first year off to college. Friends, this is a reality that even the beer commercials have grasped. When they invite you to partake of their product they’re not selling you a can of beer for you to drink alone. What they are selling is fellowship. Everyone is together laughing, talking, in a group of people. This is proof of how desperate our single people are to conquer loneliness. I pray that our children know, that as a Christian, God has provided spiritual resources for them to draw on in their times of loneliness.
Some of you here today have begun to experience, through the Empty-nest Syndrome, that lonely spouse feeling. It is in amazement to me that the institution God created to provide the greatest sense of intimacy often becomes a place of great loneliness. The sad news is that there has been a steady increase in the number of divorces among couples married 30 or more years. This is a byproduct of the Empty-nest Syndrome. Many long-term couple’s divorce one another after their kids leave home. It is sad that the very relationship God ordained to combat loneliness has become for many the loneliest place on earth.