On Loneliness

I write this for two simple reasons: One, there are plenty of lonely people out there, even Christians; and secondly, I have been reading about David’s unpleasant experiences in 2 Samuel of late. So let me tie these two together if I may. I’ll begin with David.

In the minds of many, I would suspect, it would seem odd to equate King David with loneliness. A King? Surrounded by so many people, loyal subjects, and faithful followers – lonely? Well, yes at times. As you may recall, things were not always smooth sailing for David.

lonelinessEven after he had been anointed King, he still experienced all sorts of difficulties and hardships. He not only had many enemies and opponents, but some of his own family even caused him much grief. So as we read in the second half of 2 Samuel, David spends a lot of his time trying to flee from his enemies, and hiding out in the countryside.

Many of the Psalms deal with David and his experiences – both good and bad. They deal heavily in reality. There are no happy-clappy, mind-over-matter, positive confessions to be found there. Instead, we get David pouring his soul out to God, asking hard questions and recounting his many trials and tribulations.

Consider Psalm 25 for example. It is all about David’s enemies and his plea for God’s help and protection. This is what we find in verses 16-19:

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

In those dark hours of being pursued like a dog, surrounded by enemies, and in constant danger, he spoke about how he was “lonely and afflicted”. Yet this Psalm also speaks about the trust he puts in God, and the hope he has in him. In an earlier difficult situation we read this about David:

“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). In his difficulties he made Yahweh his rock. If David can experience so much grief and misery, including loneliness, why do we think we will be exempt from this?

The truth is, there are many lonely Christians out there. And recall that loneliness does not just refer to being alone. One can be amongst many people, whether at home, or at church, or elsewhere, and still be lonely. Such loneliness is more of a psychological or mental state than a physical one.

There can be many reasons for such loneliness. I am not a trained counsellor or pastor, so others could speak more competently about all this. But I can say that I have experienced loneliness at times, and I know of many other Christians who have as well.

I think part of the reason why the social media is so successful and popular is because it can offer some comfort to the lonely. People may not have like-minded friends amongst their own personal circles, but can find them online. Something like Facebook can be a real help for many lonely people as they find others they can share with, relate to, and find common cause with.

Not that I am suggesting that something like FB should become a substitute for close personal relationships, but sometimes it can be a real help nonetheless. A Christian may have no Christian fellowship amongst his immediate family and friends, and finding them online can be a real encouragement and sustaining help.

And I find myself often being asked to pray for someone or offer counsel on FB. So we can use such a means to help establish and maintain Christian community and fellowship. So I guess my plea here is for anyone out there a bit lonely or depressed, please make use of any opportunities to get some help and assistance.

Even making a heartfelt plea on FB for some aid can be very therapeutic. So don’t allow the enemy to bum you out with discouragement, loneliness and the like. We need each other, and while nothing can replace actual one-on-one relationships, with a bit of eye-to-eye contact, we can even use the social media to provide some Christian love and care for one another.

As someone who has known depression and loneliness at times, I know how debilitating it can be. So I for one offer my assistance, for what it is worth. If King David could hit some pretty low spots in his own life, so may we. He consoled himself in the Lord, but also had real supporters around, such as Jonathan. We need both as well.

And one final word. Sometimes the saint who walks the closest with God walks the most lonely with men. But I speak to that elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/09/11/prophets-who-stand-alone/

So there may well be a divinely-sanctioned loneliness, but that is another matter. For those struggling with other sorts of loneliness, just recall that we have a Saviour who knows all about this. Not only did he find himself betrayed and abandoned by all his disciples, but he hung on that cross alone.

So he knows all about your loneliness, and is ever ready to offer comfort and encouragement. Please allow him to do just that.

[919 words]

11 Replies to “On Loneliness”

  1. Very wise and encouraging post. When I’ve hit hard and lonely times for various reasons I feel encouraged that King David who was a man after God’s own heart also felt this way.

    Many of the posters on this site have similar viewpoints to me and that is encouraging because as Christians we often feel increasingly alone or even shunned for our beliefs.

  2. Mother Teresa once stated: “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

  3. Bill,
    Thank you again for your encouragement to us all. I trust your time away is refreshing and I want to encourage and commend you for the support and teaching you provide. Bless you for this important and vital “stand” in these days when many would seek to do away with Christian values and families, etc.
    Regards,
    Harold

  4. You have a great understanding of the important and biblical aspects of life and this enables a connection to others who find it difficult to connect with people in everyday circumstances. I’m sure many great friendships and connections have been made online and otherwise through you Bill. I certainly have made valuable connections.

    I’m sitting in an old theatre at Rottnest, waiting for the movie “Tracks” to start…I believe it’s closely related to many of these feelings people have when unable to connect easily with others.

    Bill, I wish you both a wonderful, safe and memorable journey through Europe. My prayers are with you.

    Thank you for your ongoing insight, encouragement and wisdom Bill.

  5. I know this well. Two years ago, living in a shed, I was compelled to leave my church family of 28 years to take up a job 5 hours away from this support base, to get back on my feet financially. I am convinced God wants me to do this job – I love it – but I am quite isolated in my new church as well as my job. Although I recognise and embrace my God-given tasks here in my new environment, I have found that I am very much alone when it comes to taking a stand for God. I have already risked and survived a certain ‘stand’ in my new job on the homosexual issue, and have recently risked and survived a second ‘stand’ against participating in what was originally a one-off ‘mindfulness’ training for staff, but is now becoming regular. Next step it will be compulsory.
    I lost a job a few years ago through taking a stand not to work on Sundays. The agency initially supported me with a verbal agreement, but with change of management 3 years later, the agreement was ignored, and I was compelled to leave.
    Having a supportive body of Christ is so important when these times come, but when you are on your own without that, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the presence and support of the Spirit as ‘paraclete.’ As hard and lonely as it can sometimes be, I think these times come from God’s hands to drive us first to Him, rather than the body of Christ. My encouragement comes from accounts of our imprisoned and persecuted brethren who have perfected this closeness with God of necessity.

  6. “We read to know we’re not alone.” – a great quote from
    Shadowlands (1993), a film about CS Lewis written by William Nicholson.
    ALSO –
    “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn fast.”
    and “Self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation. If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him.”

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