How do you handle loneliness? Like fatigue or hunger, loneliness is part of being human. A good night’s sleep cures fatigue, a delicious meal wipes away hunger, a close connection to the Lord lifts loneliness looming over our lives like dense fog. Does loneliness leave you with an ache for understanding? Some things we will never understand until heaven is our home, but with Christ as our companion, we can handle loneliness, sorrow or any situation that shows up at our door.
Most people suffer through seasons of loneliness. It may be you, a friend, or family member searching for answers to cure loneliness. Reading how people in the Bible handled loneliness gives help and hope to lonely hearts.
Mary comes to mind first. Imagine her loneliness when family and friends doubted her story, when stoning her to death seemed the likely solution to the sin she was accused of. Mary suffered seasons of loneliness with faith and integrity. Her pregnancy wasn’t a joyous journey, but she kept pressing forward and pondering in her heart. Her lonely times strengthened her and saved her from pits of depression and doubt.
Ruth was no stranger to loneliness. The death of her husband and two sons could have held her captive in grief the rest of her life.Not Ruth! Her choice to stay with her mother-in-law opened doors to blessings she never dreamed of after suffering such loss. Her tender words are shared in songs and sermons that tell of a love story where loneliness was conquered. “Whither thou goest, I will go … your people will be my people, my love” teaches commitment that keeps us close to one another and to Christ.
Jesus also felt the pains of loneliness; yet, there were times when Jesus chose to be alone, deliberately making himself unavailable so He could commune with His Father. He experienced loneliness and alienation. When the crowds grew bigger, as did the demand for His teaching and healing, He carved out “me time” from his busy schedule. He didn’t wait until He was completely drained and desperate; He took time to nourish his soul and spend precious time alone with His Father. What a powerful lesson by the greatest teacher of all time, a lesson we would do well to master. Yet even Jesus didn’t use his relationship with God as a substitute for human companionship. His friends were important. Spending time with his three closest disciples — Peter, James, and John — and in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus gave him joy. Jesus endured lonely times, asking his disciples, “Will you also go away?” Perhaps his pinnacle of loneliness was in the garden of Gethsemane. “Watch with me” —hese are lonely words. Are you thinking of a time when you uttered those words to a family member or close friend? Being alone in a time of trial or crisis escalates the pain. Jesus desired his faithful few to pray with him, to stand by him, to watch with him, but they didn’t. They fell asleep or denied him more than once in his time of need. Are we faithfully watching and praying with family members and friends who wonder if we will go away too? Stand firm by those you love, fall to your knees and pray with them, speak words of life over them and never leave them in their time of need.
What stories of loneliness have affected your relationship with family, friends, even your heavenly Father? Words from a favorite tune come to mind, “Are you lonesome tonight?” Bobby Vinton echoed loneliness in his hit song, “Lonely, I’m Mister Lonely, I’ve got nobody to call my own.” When times seem to tough to bear and we wonder why nobody’s there, we only have to look to the One who gave us life and loves us unconditionally. God will always be there to help us handle whatever we face. Some mountains may seem just too high to climb, some tragedies too terrible to overcome, some heartbreaks too severe to mend, but with Jesus all things are possible. He turns the bad meant to hurt and harm us into good that brings blessings and happiness. He makes it possible; we make the choice. Refusing to budge from lonely times and painful experiences keeps us captive and unproductive.
King David had every reason to stew in sorrow or shout unfairness in his quest for the crown, but he loved the Lord way too much to give in to pains of loneliness, despair, and downright unfair treatment. He made mistakes but never lost close contact with God. He continually asked for forgiveness and guidance. His long journey to reign as King was difficult, but he didn’t stop when the going got tough. He just got tougher and more determined to seek God’s will and way in his life. Surely, he was lonely in the caves that hid him from King Saul or bitter when his home was plundered and family attacked, but he was a man after God’s own heart who never stopped believing the promises God made would come true. And they did. God never, ever breaks His promises.
Loneliness will come to us even in the best marriages, the closest friendships and greatest child-parent relationships. St. Augustine once said our hearts will never be at rest away from the One who made them. That’s still true today. God created us as unique individuals and knows the best way to fill the empty places that become open doors where loneliness, depression, even sorrow can grow out of control and kill our happiness. Only God can fill our deepest longing and keep us singing as we go. He will never leave us, never fall asleep on us, never betray or belittle us, never replace us with someone he likes better, who promises never to leave us totally alone. He is the only One who wants to be and always can be the unfailing companion on our journey.