Summary: First in a series from J. Ellsworth Kalas’ book, IF EXPERIENCE IS SUCH A GOOD TEACHER, WHY DO I KEEP REPEATING THE COURSE?"
The Lessons of Loneliness
By Rex S. Wignall, Chaplain, Valley Christian Home
Introduction to the Series:
A few years ago, a teacher of preaching named Ellsworth Kalas wrote a book with a catchy title: If Experience Is Such A Good Teacher, Why Do I Keep Repeating the Course? Dr. Kalas’ book is about the lessons all of us must learn from life, no matter how much or how little formal education we may have. There are common experiences that will teach us valuable lessons – if we will only learn from them.
Over the nine or ten weeks, we will look at a series of “teachers” in life’s “School of Experience.” Here is some of the Faculty who will be teaching us:
LONELINESS Is a Private Tutor (How Else Can You Get Such Personal Attention?)
FRIENDSHIP Is the Loveliest Teacher (You Can Easily Miss The Lessons)
PAIN (Don’t Seek Pain, But If It Comes, Embrace It)
LOVE Is A Beautiful Teacher, But Lessons Are Not Always Easy
REGRET Is A Humanizing Teacher (But Don’t Stay in the Class too Long)
SUCCESS (A Fun Course, But You May Not Learn Much from It)
DEFEAT (A Required Course, Not an Elective)
ENEMIES (You can Learn from Them)
DEATH (Learn from It, Before It’s Too Late)
Today we focus our attention on Loneliness – something all of us deal with at some point in our lives. Two questions come to mind. 1) What are the lessons we can learn from our loneliness? 2) What does God say to us about loneliness in His Word ?
Here are the (three) important lessons we learn about loneliness – looking at both our personal experience and what Scripture teaches us
1) Loneliness is Universal
2) God Understands our Loneliness
3) We are Never Really Alone
I. Loneliness is Universal Genesis 2:8-9, 15-25
As long as there have been people, there has been loneliness. To understand just how long loneliness has been part of the human experience, let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 2 we read the following:
8Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had created. 9And the LORD God planted all sorts of trees in the garden —beautiful trees that produced delicious fruit. At the center of the garden He placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A few verses later, we continue in Genesis 2:15:
15The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it. 16But the LORD God gave him this warning: “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden 17except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.”
18And the LORD God said, “IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THE MAN TO BE ALONE. I will make a companion who will help him.” 19So the LORD God formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird. He brought them to Adam to see what he would call them, and Adam chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, birds, and wild animals. But still there was no companion suitable for him. 21So the LORD God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adam’s ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam.
23“At last!” Adam exclaimed. “She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of a man.” 24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. 25 Now, although Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame.
Before the Fall – before the first sin, Adam was lonely. God surrounded man with all of the lush, spectacular beauty of His perfect creation, and still man was lonely. John Milton (1608-74) noted that up to this point, with everything God did, He said, “It is good.” But when the Lord saw that Adam felt lonely, God said, “It is NOT good that man is alone.”
Sometimes, we are tempted to think we are the only ones who struggle with this burden. Ellsworth Kalas tells the discovery that Thomas Wolfe the fine American writer made about loneliness:
Wolfe was a lonely man. He once thought that loneliness was something suffered especially, perhaps even uniquely, by the young, so he wrote an essay titled “On Loneliness at Twenty-Three.” For a time he thought of himself as perhaps the loneliest person who ever lived. But gradually he came to a broader conclusion. He wrote,