Summary: Eighth in a series exploring life crisis, based on the promotional materials provided by Outreach in their "Who Cares" campaign. This message explores the life challenge of loneliness.
(Extensive inspiration for the sermons in this series derived from the sermon samples in the "Who Cares" promotional series by Outreach Ministries.)
(This message opened by showing the video "Never Alone" by Barlow Girl)
The song has a good title, "Never Alone." And in it, Barlow Girl echoes the words that we have all heard from the Bible. Words that are easy to read. Somewhat believable. And yet often leave us still feeling void, forgotten and alone.
The words can be found in Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
They echo the words spoken to Joshua, "Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you."
And yet, ninety-two percent of the Christians attending a recent Bible conference admitted in a survey that feelings of loneliness are a major problem in their lives. Feeling all alone. In fact, they indicated that they all shared a basic symptom: a sense of despair at feeling unloved and a fear of being unwanted or unaccepted.
Mother Teresa once said, "We have drugs for people with diseases like leprosy. But these drugs do not treat the main problem, the disease of being unwanted. The sick and poor suffer even more from rejection than material want. Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
Few emotions are more painful than the emotion of loneliness. It is especially common as each New Year dawns. The gifts have been opened. The parties have been given. All of the friends and family have returned home and the cookies have been eaten. Then, being alone after the holidays begins to cut through our being like the cold January wind. Disrupting all the layers of our warmth and security we had built up.
Loneliness. Feeling all alone. Picture the single person enduring the pain of a broken romance. Picture the divorced person who doesn’t know what to do with his or her time. Imagine the inmate behind the bars of solitary confinement, or the military person overseas. Think of the parents whose arms ache for a missing child. Look into the life of a widow whose table is still set for two. (Who Cares Video)
Then, after reflecting on all those scenarios, think of the person who may be around acquaintances everyday but still has no vital connection. Maybe you have been there. I have. We probably all have. The person who is a part of the crowd but not a community.
Just listen to the history of music over the years and hear the lonely voices crying out -
Paul McCartney: All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they belong?
Elvis Presley: Just take a little walk down where?...lonely street to heartbreak hotel.
James Taylor: Do me wrong, do me right. Tell me lies but hold me tight. Save your good-byes for the morning light. But don’t let me be lonely tonight.
Bonnie Rait: What can I do to get back to you. I’m feeling desperate and lonely.
Or Barlow Girl: I waited for you today, but you didn’t show. I needed You today. So where did You go? You told me to call. Said You’d be there. And though I haven’t seen You. Are You still there?
Many of us can remember the scene of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Eric Harris and Dylan Kleighbolt killed 12 students and themselves. Harris kept a diary, and his journal entries flesh out the picture of his life as a teen who felt excluded by other kids. "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things," he wrote. "You people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no no no no no don’t let the weird looking Eric kid come along."
The Gallup Poll says loneliness, feelings of being left alone affect more than a third of the population, and psychologist say that figure is rising. And the figures are rising not only emotionally, but even physically. Census figures indicate that the number of Americans living alone has tripled since 1960.
And you know what? I think Lee Strobel is correct when he writes: "People today will admit any problem - drugs, divorce, alcoholism - but there’s one admission that people are loath to make, whether they’re a star on television or someone who fixes televisions in a repair shop. It’s just too embarrassing. It penetrates too deeply to the core of who they are. People don’t want to admit that they are (sometimes) lonely. Loneliness is such a humiliating malady that it ought to have its own politically correct euphemism: "relationally challenged." Or its own telethon. Anything to make it safer to confess. Because right now it’s a taboo, an affliction of losers and misfits. And - to be honest - of respectable people like you and me."