Loneliness

09BengaliDhaka lone treeIt is one of the most powerful negative forces in the universe.  It is the primary motivator in the 2000 or more suicides that occur every day around the world.  In China someone takes his/her own life every two minutes and in America every 17 minutes, making suicide the 8th leading cause of death here.  In fact, suicide deaths in the USA outnumber the homicide deaths three to two; that is, annually for every two murders there are three suicides.

Such deaths occur across the spectrum of socio-economic success.  Think of the Robin Williams or Marilyn Monroes that have more money, fame or power than most of us ever dream of having.  While more suicides occur in lower socio-economic strata, could it be only because there are more of us living here?  There has been very little examination of rates of suicide compared to wealth, most studies focusing on mental health and familial support systems.  The fact remains that material success bears almost no relation to the sense of loneliness that eats away the feelings of living.

It is that sense of loneliness that precedes almost every suicide (exceptions made for altruistic suicide, i.e. suicide for a “cause”).  “No one ever has suffered as much as I am suffering, no one understands my losses, my stress, my problems.”  This is the common thinking just prior to a suicide.  “No one  .  .  .”   I am all alone.

DisappointmentLoneliness has a way of sapping the life out of your innermost being.  It leaves you exhausted after a full night’s sleep; it haunts you in a crowd of laughing friendly faces; it shuts out the light that should brighten a day; it deflates you like a balloon with a tiny pin-hole, slowly but certainly exhuming any breath of life.

But the truth is that no one is really alone.  The Bible tells a different story: No temptation* has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted* beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted*, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13;  *The word translated most commonly as a negative “temptation,” also carries the positive concept of “test” or “trial run.”  As a wise friend says, Don’t be impressed; you can look it up. 😉 )

From the very beginning of earth history, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)  But because of our willful sinfulness we became separated from That Source of Life and loving fellowship, and now we often find ourselves feeling very much alone.  Job felt it deeply when he was under oppression by the enemy of men’s souls:

Job without comforters11 “Therefore I will not keep silent;
    I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that You put me under guard?
13 When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint,
14 even then You frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine.
16 I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.

17 What is mankind that You make so much of them, that You give them so much attention,
18 that You examine them every morning and test them every moment?
19 Will You never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?
20 If I have sinned, what have I done to You, You who see everything we do?
    Why have You made me Your target? Have I become a burden to You?
21 Why do You not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?
    For I will soon lie down in the dust; men will search for me, but I will be no more.” (Job 7:11-21)

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“If any man besides the Lord Jesus was ever alone, Job was it!  Feelings of bitterness, abandonment, worthlessness, and hopelessness filled his days.  His highest reach was to die and escape the misery of this life, though he refused to sin against God and take his own life.  But his emptiness of purpose, of meaning, and of real companionship, not to mention his physical ills and all the misfortune that had fallen on him, were draining his very life away.

“However, God’s plan for us, for you, is to not merely survive, but thrive.  Many times that I have been asked the polite question, “C.A., how are you doing?”  I have responded, “Surviving; it beats the alternative. 😉 ”  But there is actually a better alternative: to thrive!  The dictionary defines thriving as blossoming, developing, flourishing, successfully growing, to shine!

Another Bible author who experienced intense feelings of despair penned an entire Lamentation of his pain.  Jeremiah, often called The Weeping Prophet, summed it up in Lamentations 3:19-20:I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”  However, instead of wallowing in the despair and humiliation that had been heaped on him, he went to God’s words revealed in previous prophecies and most of all to his own relationship with The God Who Is There.

Then he proceeded to write:
Lonely No More.png21″ Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;
26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust — there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off by the LORD forever.
32 Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.
33 For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”  (Lamentations 3:21-33)
(Note: the LORD in all caps is the translators’ replacement of the personal name of God, Yahweh, or the I AM, sometimes anglicized to Jehovah.)

The apostle Paul several centuries later declared, “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

So if you are feeling lonely, rest in the assurance of the prophets and apostles, and rejoice before Him — His name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing.” (Psalm 68:4-6)

Trust Him to set you in a family of His choosing, and rejoice in the LORD, Yahweh, and say goodbye to loneliness.

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