Psalm 142 (NLT), “I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed, You alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. 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. Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me.”
Verse 4 (NKJV), “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no one that would know me; I had no refuge; no one cared for my soul…”
“Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental or emotional factors (Wikipedia).
“Being alone and being lonely are two different things. One can be alone without being lonely, and one can be lonely in a crowded room. Loneliness is, therefore, a state of mind, an emotion brought on by feelings of separation from other human beings. The sense of isolation is very deeply felt by those who are lonely. The Hebrew word translated “desolate” or “lonely” in the Old Testament means “one alone, only; one who is solitary, forsaken, wretched.” There is no deeper sadness that ever comes over the mind than the idea that we are alone in the world, that we do not have a friend, that no one cares for us, that no one is concerned about anything that might happen to us, that no one would care if we were to die or shed a tear over our grave” (http://www.gotquestions.org).
James Weldon Johnson’s Creation, from God’s Trombones, begins with this verse: “And God stepped out on space, He looked around and said: ’I'm lonely–I'll make me a world.’” Then in the eighth stanza he writes: “He looked on His world With all its living things, And God said: ‘I'm lonely still…I'll make me a man!’” (James Weldon Johnson, 1927)
That’s great if you’re God, but how does a mere mortal like me, who can barely make living, let alone a world, deal with the problem of loneliness?
THE REALITY OF LONELENESS:
Tim Timmons, in his book, Loneliness is not a Disease, writes, “Everyone is lonely, only the level of intensity of the pain of loneliness distinguishes us from one another.”
Loneliness is the core of most of the problems we face today: Depression, anxiety, anger and guilt are just a few of the popular masks worn by the real killer, loneliness.
Webster’s Dictionary describes “loneliness” as “A state of dejection and grief caused by the condition of being alone.” The Urban Dictionary defines “loneliness” as, “The feeling of despair and isolation suffered when you move to another location, have no friends, live alone far from any past family or friends. The feeling of constant pain and self personality criticism due to your situation and social inability to change your situation.”
These are not especially good definitions of loneliness. Granted, being lonely can cause dejection, despair, pain and grief, but these are results not causes. Loneliness is not necessarily just the condition of being alone, “We are all so much together, but we are dying of loneliness.” (Dr. Albert Schweitzer).
Paul Simon wrote and recorded this popular song in 1964:
Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again.
Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence.
In restless dreams I walked alone. Narrow streets of cobblestone.
'Neath the halo of a street lamp I turned my collar to the cold and damp.
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light that split the night,
And touched the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening.
People writing songs that voices never share and no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
Being lonely is the feeling that you don’t count. A feeling of being cutoff from other people, deserted or banished from their company. A feeling of isolation, even when others are close at hand. The result of the breakdown in the emotional giving and receiving processes that go on between people. It is not just the fact of being alone. Someone with hundreds of friends on Facebook can feel just as lonely, in some cases more so, than someone who avoids Social Media altogether. It’s possible to be lonely in any crowd, virtual or physical, because loneliness is an intense feeling of social isolation that persists despite the actual number of people in our lives.
Deep within each of us is a hunger for human contact, for acceptance, a sense of belonging, intimate exchange, support, love, a touch of tenderness. Someone you know needs a hug. We experience loneliness because these needs are not being met, and because we are sometimes separated from people and places that are important to us. God put these desires His creation, and God also placed within His children a desire to help to meet those needs. I miss my mom! She’s been with Jesus for many years, but I remember as a boy feeling lonely even when my mom was in the next room.
Even in our populous world, being alone is a real problem for many.
I hitchhiked all around America when I was 17-18 years old. I spent many days and nights standing on a lonely highway. Even as an avowed atheist, many times I prayed for a ride. Once I walked across Americus, Georgia. Many people spoke to me with a friendly southern “Hey.” I was certainly not alone, but I was lonely, nonetheless.
I phoned an associate once, his elderly mother answered the phone, I said, “I’m so sorry to disturb you.” To which she replied, “I love being disturbed.”
An 84-year–old woman, living in a run-down apartment in Los Angeles sent the following letter to the Los Angeles Times, “I’m so lonely I could die, so alone. I cannot write, my fingers and hands pain me. I see no human beings, my phone never rings. I hear from no one, never have any kind of holidays, no kind. My birthday is this month. Isn’t anyone else lonely like me? I don’t know what to do.” She enclosed some stamps and a dollar bill, hoping someone would call or write her. When a newspaper man called, she burst into tears.
We are not alone in our loneliness:
Psalm 142:4 (KJV), “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.”
Exodus 3, Moses spent forty years on the backside of the desert. Raised in the Pharaoh’s home he received honor and power. Torn from his comfort zone, Moses retreated to a desolate place and humbly accepted a position, far below his capability, to watch over his father-in-law’s flocks. Can you imagine, after palaces and servants the loneliness he must have endured?
Psalm 142 was written when David as hiding from King Saul in a cave (1 Samuel 22). The introduction to Psalm 42 reads: “A Contemplation of David. “A Prayer when he was in the cave.” He writes in verse 4, “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.”
Elijah: 1 Kings 19:3,4, “And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” Verses 9,10. “ And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’” Loneliness, despair, guilt, and he felt persecuted.
How do you suppose Peter felt after he had betrayed the Lord. Depressed, in despair, guilty, very lonely, Luke 22:61,62, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So Peter went out and wept bitterly.”
Paul in Rome’s Mamertine prison for two years. Access to the dungeon was gained through a hole in the floor into what was the sewage system. Paul was very alone for two years before his execution. His last words, 2 Timothy 4:6, “ As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.” Verses 9-13.”Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.” The book of 2 Timothy is part of what we refer to as the prison epistles. They are letters written while the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome awaiting his execution. From them we discover that Paul had to deal with an emotion which plagues all of us at one time or another, loneliness.
The Causes of Loneliness:
The Technology Crisis: There is a general depersonalization in our world. Our 21st century world seems to be controlled by electronics. Can’t enquire about your department store account until they consult the computer.
Don’t you just love, “Hello, we can’t come to the phone right now, after the beep, leave a message.” Ever get the urge to say something totally unkind? We are put on hold for long periods just to get a line so we can wait for another 10 minutes. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to get voice mail on 911, or even “Dial-A-Prayer.”
And people are starving for a touch, for a little attention, some tenderness and understanding, but we are just too busy to stop and feel the needs of others. I read of a Share and Tell in a kindergarten class. Little Bobby stood to share with the class, “My daddy came home drunk last night, beat up my momma, she’s in the hospital.” The busy teacher’s response, “That’s nice, Bobby, next!” Isn’t that sad?
My favorite play is Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Published in 1938, it is the story of a New Hampshire town. The story follows the small town of Grover's Corners through three acts: "Daily Life," "Love and Marriage," and "Death and Eternity." Near the end, little Emily dies in childbirth. At the cemetery she meets those who have died before. She is told she may go back home for one day. All of her friends and relatives try to talk her out of it, but she persists. She chooses her 12th birthday. In the next scene, she is seen bounding down the stairs in her pretty birthday dress, her curls bouncing. She is so happy because she’s a birthday girl. “Look at me, mama.” But mama is so busy preparing for Emily’s birthday that she doesn’t look at her. “Look at me papa, it’s your birthday girl.” But papa is so busy with his business, books, papers and making money that he walks on by without even seeing her. Her brother is doing his own thing and couldn’t be bothered with a noisy sister. Little Emily ends up center stage, and says, “Please somebody, look at me.” She goes to her mother once again, “Mama, please, just for a minute look at me.” But nobody does! Then she says something like this, “Take me back, I forgot how hard it is to be alive, nobody looks at anybody anymore.”
“Once I knew a little girl who spent her own money to buy a box of gold stars and stuck every one of them on a paper with her name on the top.” –Splinters in My Pride by Marilee Zdenek
We long for a touch, for approval, for a kind word, for love or even for a hug. Genesis 2:28, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
Right this very minute, go call someone, tell them, “I love you, I appreciate you, you are valuable, you are important to me.” Determine right now that you will call or visit someone, an elderly person, a long-forgotten relative, et al. Dedicate your life to lifting burdens!
The current world crisis: With the instability of governments, crumbling nations, wars and rumors of wars, we are faced with feelings of hopelessness!
Energy, inflation, unemployment, there is no lonelier feeling than to be out of work with a family to support. Crime is epidemic! We don’t feel safe in or own homes. With carjacking’s and attacks, we feel unsafe going out. In some communities children have to be watched on their way to school. All too frequently we hear of children being abducted. Schools need armed guards and metal detectors. With locks, bolts, burglar alarms, mace, guard dogs, we are a frightened people, a feeling of hopelessness prevails.
The Family is in Crisis:
There is little stability in our homes. Rabbi Kushner was asked to change the wedding vows from, “Till death do us part,” to “Until we stop loving each other.” He refused, of course. The divorce rate in America for first marriages is 41%, second marriage is 60%, third marriage is 73%. And 1/3 of teen marriages will end in divorce within the first five years. And that statistic is a little misleading since so many people do not get married, but just live together.
Young people are saying, “We don’t not want to bring up children is such a messed up world.”
Family break-ups have taken their toll on self esteem and feelings of belonging. There is no lonelier feeling than being deserted by a mom or a dad.
Our traditional marriage concept has been replaced with, “Mr. Mom.” Independence and excessive independence has caused loneliness, and feelings of despair.
Every year in America, forty-million people move to a new location. There is very little stability!
Smart phones, television and the internet are robbing our families of any real communication. We don’t look at each other or listen to each other anymore.
The Church is in Crisis:
Airports are lonely places, I have sent far too many hours in airports. But airports are supposed to be lonely places, they are not designed for friendliness. Unfortunately, many churches are as lonely as airports. A weekly experience at church may result in more loneliness than when you arrived! Some churches are emphasizing: Numbers, Bible versions, facilities, money, schools, politics, corruption in the world, how to act, how to dress, how to speak (Christianeze), business, pot-luck’s. ice-cream socials, wiener roasts and watermelon feeds. And our hurting soul goes out anguished and our lonely soul goes unattended and we go out as empty as we walked in.
Where are the interpersonal relationships? Many church-goers sit side by side in long pews, but never touch each other. They look, smile and greet those around them, but never really get to know the pain behind the smile, or the agony of their soul, or the loneliness in their life.
Church can be the loneliest place of all because we expect to be touched by God; to be warmed by the Word of God and the fellowship of other believers. What should a church be doing? Helping hurting people. The church is a fellowship of believers, meaning, common ground or a commonness that results in a true spirit of togetherness. The word “Fellowship” in Greek, “Koinonia,” means, “communion, joint participation, or sharing.” It identifies the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ. Simply put, “THE FAMILY OF GOD.”
Leprosy is a terrible disease! It results in a deadening of the pain-censors. They have to do body checks frequently to be certain they have not been injured. Is Christ’s body suffering from leprosy? One member can have pain, and other members cannot feel it. We are part of each other! “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:4,5 NLT).
Many preachers preach “sermons,” but not with their people in mind. Many are so academic, it is more like a college classroom, and they never touch their hurting audiences. Many teachers teach “lessons,” But not children.
Look at the “One Another’s of Scripture:
•Mark 9:50, “Be at peace with one another.”
•John 15:12, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
•Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind toward one another.”
•Romans 14;19, “Edify one another.”
•Romans 15:17, “Receive one another.”
•Romans 16:16, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (The traditional greeting of the time period).
•Galatians 5:13, “Serve one another.”
•Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
•Ephesians 4:2, “Bearing with one another in love
•Colossians 3:13, “Forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
•1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Comfort one other.”
•1 Thessalonians 5:15, “Always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”
•2 Thessalonians 1:3, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren.”
•James 5:16, “Confess your sins to each other.”
•1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Several frustrating problems come to mind:
The Problem of Ignorance: Do we ever stop to think that other people have problems? What have you done for ME lately seems to be the cry of the church. Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” How can we rejoice or weep if we do not know what is happening in other’s lives?
The Problem of Not Caring: Our love must be like God’s love with “Mercy.” Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…” “Mercy,” is “Love in action.” John 3:16, “For God so loved that He gave…” James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
The Problem of Selfishness: Our lives are so busy we don’t have time to fit anyone else in. We work all day, come home for dinner, sit and watch television for four or five hours and go to bed, only to get up tomorrow and do it all over again. Our weekends are spent, as well they should be, doing things with our family. So we play, barbeque, go to sporting events, watch television for all the extra hours…I guess you’re right, just not enough time to care for others. I hope you realize that Jesus was very busy, but He found time to care about you, can we do any less for hurting people? By the way, everyone has 24 hours every day!
Let’s begin today to dedicate ourselves to helping hurting, lonely people. Do you realize that with just a word you could bless the life of another? That aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, or long almost forgotten friend could get a new lease on life with a e-mail, a personal note or a phone call from you.
Young Christians have asked me many times, “What am I gong to do with my life?” Allow me to make a suggestion: There are about four-hundred-thousand churches in America, about four-hundred-fifty-thousand ordained Ministers, still, there are ten-thousand towns in America with no Gospel witness, not even one church. And you can be assured there are many, many hurting, lonely people in those towns. People who would welcome just one concerned, friendly person to knock on their door, to say, “God loves you, His Son Jesus is just waiting to be your constant companion, you need never be lonely again.”
To you seasoned believers: Become someone’s pastor! Commit yourself to finding just one person to disciple. Ask God: “Lord, lay some hurting, lonely person on my heart, and help me to share Your love with them.”
Discipling others is simply, burying your life into another, until that person can do for others what you are doing for him.
A friend of mine, a Youth Pastor, told me the story of Steve: Steve was in Middle-School when he started attended the Youth Department in their church. He was incorrigible, would not listen, and disrupted the Sunday School class regularly. So my friend decided that he must go to his home to tell his parents Steve could not come back to church. What he learned about Steve was shocking! His treatment at home was brutal. Once his mother, for some childish infraction, covered him with green paint. Another time, in the heat of summer, she tied him to the clothesline and made him stay for days. Dogs received better treatment than this boy.
Well. My friend knew he could not forbid Steve from what he needed most, spiritual direction and friendship, most of all he needed Jesus. So the teens in the church began to pray for him, befriend him, and include him in their activities. The Youth Pastor taught them to love him to Jesus.
When Steve graduated from High School, he was named the outstanding young person in their church. What a transformation! And it was just because people loved him to Jesus! Phil Johnson
Won't Somebody Love Me
The boy's name was Steve he wasn't quite five
And when they found him that day he was barely alive
Just an old pair of jeans, a face filled with fear
Dirty bare feet and eyes filled with tears
And what he said, still rings in my ears
He said, “Please won't somebody love me? Please won't somebody love me?
I've been all over town and I still haven't found anybody to say, "
‘Come over to my house and play
Please, won't somebody love me?"
Does it ever make you wonder, how my Jesus must feel
Every time He sees somebody like Steve?
O you might be surprised if you only knew
How often the Lord feels the same way too
And how many times He's cried out to you
Crying, ‘Please won't somebody love me
Please, won't somebody love me
I've been all over town and I still haven't found
Anybody to say, 'Come over to my house and play.'
Please, won't somebody love me?"
Words and music by Phil Johnson
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).