2 Timothy 4:16-17 (ESV)
At my first defence no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The apostle Paul is one of the greatest men of the Bible, and he relates that, but when he needed friends in his darkest hour, none stood by him. Greatness, success, money, prestige, even serving God do not exempt you from the very human condition of loneliness.
In our society, we have come off years of being told that isolation and being alone is a good and healthy thing. I’m telling you today it is not! Isolate and you may possibly miss Covid, but you’ll definitely catch misery, depression and hopelessness. One study I read suggested 80% of all mental illness is related in some way to loneliness.
Think about it! How many hit songs have been written about loneliness? Are You Lonesome Tonight?; Only the Lonely; I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry; Eleanor Rigby; Boulevard of Broken Dreams; and the depressing, Alone Again, Naturally. Why so many songs? Because we all relate to being lonely.
LONELINESS IS NOT JUST BEING ALONE
Loneliness is not just being alone. You can be alone and not be lonely. In fact, there is a need in our life for being alone. In this crazy busy world, being alone can be a good thing, as Jesus was our example…
Mark 1:35 (ESV)
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
In this busy, intense, at times overwhelming world, getting alone is a good thing. I found that the first COVID lockdown was a not so bad, even a welcome experience. I got to slow down, reset my priorities, rest and spend time with the Lord. Fiona is an introvert and she loved it! Introverts love being alone, apparently. But even introverts don’t love loneliness. In our society, you can have 500 Facebook friends and be the loneliest guy on earth!
Henry David Thoreau said that a “city is place where hundreds of people are lonely together.” You can be lonely in a crowd, in a church, and in a marriage relationship. Loneliness is not about the proximity of people, its about the value of people.
Warren Wiersby said, “Loneliness is being all by yourself even when you’re surrounded by people. Loneliness is a feeling of isolation even in the midst of a crowd. You feel unwanted and unneeded as though there’s nothing to live for. You feel as though nobody really cares anymore. That’s loneliness. Loneliness eats away at the inner person. It saps you of strength. It’s robs you of hope, Loneliness, as it were, puts a wall around you no matter how free you may be.”
Psalms 25:16-17 (ESV)
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
When someone is a little crazy, we say the lights are on but nobody’s home. In loneliness, the lights are on, someone is home, but nobody cares. So given that loneliness touches us all, some more than others, what is it, and how do we deal with this thing called loneliness?
REASONS FOR LONELINESS
Remember, loneliness is not just being alone, it’s being unvalued. Here’s some types of loneliness.
1. LONELINESS OF ABANDONMENT
If someone close to you dies or leaves you, or divorces you, you feel abandoned. If you leave a job or a city, you often feel abandoned by your old friends. Many have felt sadness at leaving a church because you leave behind people you love.
Psalms 27:9-10 (ESV)
Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
If you feel abandoned by someone you love, God promises…
Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
2. LONELINESS OF AFFLICTION
Psalms 38:11 (ESV)
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
When we face illness or afflictions we can feel that no one else in the world is suffering the way we are. We can feel alone, isolated and abandoned by life and sometimes by God Himself.
Hardships, loss of a job, severe illness and other afflictions can bring on extreme feelings of being all alone in the world.
Very few suffered as Job did in Scripture. Listen to how he describes the result of his afflictions, none of which were of his own making…
Job 19:14-19 (ESV)
My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me.
The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger;
I have become a foreigner in their eyes. My breath is strange to my wife,
and I am a stench to the children of my own mother.
Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.
That is loneliness!
3. LONELINESS OF AMBITION
Ever wonder why rich, powerful, successful, famous people often report long bouts of depression and loneliness? It’s because fame, power and money don’t deeply satisfy the human need for companionship.
On 4th October 1970, famed rock star Janice Joplin was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room of a drug overdose, at the height of her success. She had written, “When I am not on the theatre stage, I lie around and watch television and feel very lonely.”
And she is not the only one. Marilyn Monroe died lonely, and Elvis Presley wrote “I feel so alone sometimes, help me Lord,” just before he died. Presidents, authors, people great and small all grapple with loneliness at times. Rudyard Kipling wrote, “The human soul is essentially a very lonely thing, We are born alone, die alone, and in the depths of our heart we live alone.”
Luke 9:25 (ESV)
For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
You can be famous, powerful and rich, but utterly miserable and lonely. As The Message Bible says,
Ecclesiastes 4:8 (MSG)
a solitary person, completely alone – no children, no family, no friends – yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?” More smoke. A bad business. (Vanity of vanities)
4. LONELINESS OF APPREHENSION
Apprehension or fear causes isolation, which causes loneliness. Fear of Covid has been driving our society for years now. Governments and media have played it up, so people isolate themselves to “stay safe,” while they mentally fall apart.
Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
On a purely physical level, isolating limits the spread of infectious diseases. But despite knowing it’s mentally unhealthy to be isolated, fear drives people to it. And not just fear of Covid. The biggest fear leading to loneliness is the fear of rejection.
Apprehension that if you try and connect with someone, they will not like you and reject you. You may be here today feeling just that, afraid to open yourself up, for fear that the other person won’t accept you, or fear that you won’t fit in.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
5. LONELINESS OF ALIENATION
Many things can alienate us. Race can do it. Language. Beliefs. Gender.
In this world, we are mostly known not by our name, but by an impersonal number. Driver’s licence, credit card, Medicare number. We’re not people, we’re numbers.
Two Optometrists talking…
Remember Mrs Jones?
No, who is she?
You know, she comes in here has two preschool kids.
No I can’t place her?
She lives in Woombye, drives a grey Corolla?
Nope, can’t think of who she is.
Mrs Jones… +1.00/-1.25 x 90 in the right eye
Oh, that Mrs Jones!
We are a generation of casual contacts. 500 Facebook friends, and the loneliest guy on earth. How many of your neighbours actually know you? How many do you want to know you?
Listen…to God you are not just a number in a crowd. He loves you intimately
John 10:14 (ESV)
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
That’s relationship, that’s connection.
6. LONELINESS OF AUTHORITY
Being in leadership can be the loneliest place of all.
Peter Drucker, the guru of modern-day corporate management, says that the four toughest jobs in U.S.A. are these, “to be the President of the U.S.A.; to be the President of a major university; to be the chief administrator of a large hospital; and to be the senior pastor of a large church.”
With great leadership comes great responsibility, and also often great loneliness. Winston Churchill often talked about the black dog of his depression, fuelled by intense leadership loneliness. Moses said,
Numbers 11:14 (ESV)
I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.
It’s easy to criticise and attack those in leadership, politicians, pastors, bosses, your cell group leaders, etc., but what they really need is friendship and support. I thank God for those in this church that love and support me. My friends, and especially my wife, are the reasons I don’t plunge into loneliness and despair on a regular basis.
Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 18:24 (ESV)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
THE RESULT OF LONELINESS
Loneliness results in a miserable, depressing life. If it affects our moods, it affects our perspectives and it affects our personalities. It affects everything! In Genesis, God said…
Genesis 2:18 (ESV)
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
It’s not good for any of us to be alone, lonely, because it is miserable and destructive. It changes our perspective. Look at Elijah when he felt alone…
1 Kings 19:14 (ESV)
He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Lonely people see things wrong, distorted by their loneliness. And as we saw with Elijah, it takes great effort to break out of the cycle of misery that loneliness causes.
And for some unknown reason most people, when struggling in life, choose to push people away…they choose to self isolate. I see it in church all the time. People struggle, or they suffer in some way, or especially if they fall into sin, when they should reach out to those around them in the church, they choose to separate and isolate. Instead of reaching out they drift away.
THE CURE FOR LONELINESS
I know it sounds simple, but the cure for loneliness is companionship. It’s being connected. That’s why I believe the church is perfectly situated to touch the lives of people post-Covid who are lonely and isolated, because we are, or at least should be, a community. (Hebrews 10:24)
Jesus’ last words on earth called us to a great commission, and I want to reference these commandments in regards to loneliness for Christians.
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What does the great commission teach us about curing loneliness?
1. SUPERNATURAL IDENTITY
Jesus came to the disciples…why? Because they were His, they belonged to Him. He shared His authority with them. His sheep know Him
John 10:27 (ESV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
No matter what you feel about you, the Bible says that you are someone worthwhile. You are created in God’s image and are full of value, and promise. God said to Jeremiah,
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
God created you with purpose and meaning. When you ask Jesus into your life, you become His child. You’re a child of royalty, live like it.
When you belong to Jesus, He comes to you, He speaks to you, He commands you, He promises you, He loves you and He leads you. He can remove your loneliness when you discover your supernatural identity in Him.
2. SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY
He said, “Go and make disciples if all nations.” He sent them out on a “mission from God”, not to convert people but to make disciples, to form His community, His body. Remember when He first did this…
Luke 10:1 (ESV)
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
Why didn’t the Lord send them out alone? The Lord knew we needed to have the presence of fellow servants along the road of life. Even serving Him requires fellow servants by our side. He knew
Ecclesiastes 4:9 (ESV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
That’s why the Bible tells us not to abandon our meeting together. God meant for us to be in a community of believers, not a scattered remnant. We need each other, and when we are together, He promises He will be there too.
Matthew 18:20 (ESV)
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Ignite Church is about real people, in a real community serving a real God. Ignite’s community is a cure for loneliness, and I love the way that we love and accept people into our community.
If you’re new here, whatever your background, where ever you’ve come from, you can find a place in a genuine community right here. Community, genuine community is part of the cure for loneliness.
Shout out to our online community. It’s hard when you cannot be here physically, but we love you and want to remain connected to you.
3. SERVANT MENTALITY
Jesus tells us to reach out to others. One way to overcome loneliness is to minister to others.
When we reach out to help others in Jesus name, our loneliness seems to evaporate.
When our focus is on others, we feel less lonely.
People are waiting for someone to take away their loneliness; God calls on you to go help someone else know of His salvation and love. When we obey Him, our loneliness flees.
Isaiah 58:10-11 (ESV)
if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Throw yourself into serving Jesus, give Him your loneliness and watch Him bless you.
LONELINESS CAN BE CONQUERED
In 2022 our message to an isolated world is that loneliness can be conquered. What gives us peace, what gives us purpose, what do we really need in life to not be lonely? We need identity, community and a servant heart, but what else?
Someone has said that humans need three basic things in life:
1. We Need to be Loved
You are loved and in Christ you are identified with Him. No one ever cared for me like Jesus. He loves you and abides with the Christian at all times.
2. We Need to be Understood
In Christ, you are understood. In God’s loving family you discover who you are and what you should be doing with your life. I have found that a church family is a wonderful place to dispatch loneliness. There are people at Ignite who will love you, help you, pray for you, and work for the Lord alongside you.
3. We Need to be Needed
In the family of God you are needed. Everyone has something to contribute in God’s kingdom. If you’re feeling lonely, let me ask you, are you serving in the body of Christ? What are you focussing on?
We started with Paul’s description of his loneliness, but Paul also wrote this with great certainty…
Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the truest friend of all. Nothing!
No one can snap their fingers and cure your loneliness. Overcoming loneliness is a journey, and it’s a journey we want to walk with you. How do you start?
Whatever you feel right now or how lonely you feel or how real or valid the reasons might be, your journey out of loneliness starts with a decision. Now choose life, says the Lord. Decide to connect to God, to recognise who you are in Him, to connect with others and to know the joy of serving the King of Kings, and your brothers.
WHY IS LONELINESS SO DESTRUCTIVE?
WHY DO PEOPLE ISOLATE FROM OTHERS?
ARE YOU LONELY? WHAT DECISIONS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE TO CONQUER LONELINESS?