Summary: Stuff Jesus Changed, part 4. Looks at the Biblical assurance that God is always with us. Key text: Isaiah 43:2
“I Will Be With You”
Stuff Jesus Changed, part 4 – Loneliness
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
April 29, 2007
Psalms 38:11 (NLT)
11 My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.
Psalms 88:18 (NLT)
18 You have taken away my companions and loved ones; only darkness remains.
Psalms 102:6-7 (NLT)
6 I am like an owl in the desert, like a lonely owl in a far-off wilderness.
7 I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
Psalms 142:4 (NLT)
4 I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.
What do these passages have in common? They’re all about loneliness. And they’re all about suffering. Loneliness is both a cause of suffering and a form of suffering. When was the last time you felt lonely? Was it this week? Perhaps you are sitting there feeling lonely right now, even as you are surrounded by people.
Our current series is one we kicked off on Easter Sunday, it’s called Stuff Jesus Changed. Last week we talked about suffering in the wake of what has happened recently in Virginia and I posed the question, “Where was God when this was happening?” and told you I’d talk to you about this today in our discussion of loneliness. In contrast to pretty, 3-point sermons, today’s message has only one point – that God is with us. Hopefully you can leave with that one point coming alive to you this morning.
The Psalmists were experiencing pretty crushing loneliness in the passages I read to you. But do you know what the Psalms actually are? The Psalms are prayers. They are prayers of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and yes – loneliness. That’s right, prayers of loneliness. Now if you think about that for a minute, that’s ironic.
Dear God, hear my prayer. No one listens to me. No one hears me. Dear God, I have no one to talk to. God, I am completely without anyone to give me companionship – when I talk I might as well be chewing gum, because no one is listening. You might ask the question, “If no one is listening, who do these people think they are praying to? How could they believe they have no one to talk to even as they talk to God? That doesn’t make sense.
Actually, my friends, that irony captures the essence of our relationship to God. God is the friend who listens to us tell him we have no friends. God is the one who loves us beyond limit, and who is there for us when we cry out that nobody loves us. God is the one who longs to satisfy our souls while we complain to him that we will never be satisfied. I want to show you examples of this strange relationship in two places in scripture.
First, a man comes to Jesus and asks Jesus to heal his son, who appears to be possessed by an evil spirit of some kind. The man tells Jesus what’s wrong, and says, “Do something if you can!” Jesus says,
Mark 9:23-24 (NLT)
23 "What do you mean, `If I can’?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes."
24 The father instantly replied, "I do believe, but help me not to doubt!"
I do believe. Help me not to doubt. The King James translation records that as, “I believe. Help thou my unbelief!” In this case, Jesus (a.k.a. “God”) is the person saying, “I will heal your son if you believe.” And this man is saying, “I believe, but I realize I don’t believe completely. Part of me believes, but part of me doesn’t.” Of course what I love here is that Jesus kind of goes, “Oh, you kind of believe, but kind of don’t? Well, that’s good enough for me,” and heals the boy anyway. I think my faith is more like this man’s than practically anyone else in the Bible, and it comforts me to think that God can be moved by the prayer that says, “I believe. Sometimes. I mean, usually. I mean, help me believe. I mean, I want to believe. At least I want to believe right now, if it means you’ll answer this prayer for me.” Wow. How honest is that? It seems God doesn’t need us to be as clear and consistent in our faith as we often think we should be.
Here’s another case of this strange kind of inconsistent belief, when Jesus is on the cross.
Mark 15:33-34 (NLT)
33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.
34 Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"