*Note:* (this devotion for today is a little longer… but the topic of loneliness is timely and in some way touches us all.)
In the popular Christmas movie called Home Alone…. a family plans a European vacation during Christmastime. Relatives arrived for the big event and the youngest son feels slighted… he rebels and gets in trouble…and he gets into his room in the attic….. while he is there in the middle of a tantrum, he wishes that his family and everyone else would just go away so he could be all alone.
In a bizarre twist… The family overlooks this boy in the attic. They leave for the airport, get on a plane, All the while believing he is with them.
The boy wakes up in the morning…. And discovers no one’s at home. He thinks his wishes have been granted… he is delighted…he’s home alone!
For the next few days, he lives alone…. while the mother and the rest of the family try frantically to return to him.
At first the boy is filled with joy. He has the run of the house. He eats all the junk food he wants, watches whatever movies he wants, Sleeps wherever he wants, doesn’t have to answer to anyone!
Well…burglars try to break into the house……but he takes care of them…… but then he realizes that he’s now lonely and alone. It wasn’t what he thought it would be…. He becomes sorry that he treated them so badly…. desperately wants them back again.
Today I want to take a look at loneliness. This has always existed (God said…it is not good that man be alone), but has been heightened by the stay in place, social distancing, and businesses closed world we are living in.
Now, first of all…. I want to make sure we all understand the fact that there is a difference between being alone…And feeling lonely.
One is a physical state and the other is a state of mind.
Being alone is simply…. Being by one’s self. In other words, there is no one around.
Now if you think about it sometimes… being alone can be a good thing. For instance: I imagine a single mother of three small children who dreams of getting a babysitter…. So that she can go to a park….and simply be alone…. No kids…. no demands….and no to do list! I can remember being younger…. With 4 children…….and as great as that was…. There was never a quiet moment to be alone. Well one day I came home… and to my surprise…. For whatever reason…. No one was there…. I was all alone…. I have to confess…. That I didn’t know what to do…so I simply laid down on the carpet in the middle of the front room…. alone at last! And yet…. a running joke around our house is when no one wants to go somewhere with me…I would get a sad face and say…”alright I will go…ALL BY MYSELF!!!” (I did not want to be alone)
Now being alone can be a good thing!
In Mark 1:35…. We see that Jesus went off to be alone…. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. We all need those times in our life …when we are alone…. those reflective times…. Time to contemplate…. And assess our lives. These can be the times when we get closer to God. Years ago, I would take a day for just that purpose…I went to a friend’s house in Vermillion….no one else there…to pray and reflect. But…. we also know that being alone can be a bad feeling…. we feel isolated…. left out. I also find it interesting that in our prison system today the punishment for breaking the prison rules is isolation…. to be put into solitary confinement. I watched a prison documentary…. A hardened criminal…. Serving a life sentence…. Says that isolation…. Should be considered cruel and unusual punishment…. that you go crazy and isolation…. a person needs human contact!
And many times, in our life we find ourselves feeling alone due to circumstances. May be the death of a spouse…or a divorce…or maybe you’re new in town…those serving our country oversees…. when we are away from loved ones…Or maybe it’s an empty nest situation. There are seasons of life that we have to go through without a loved one by our side. Maybe you are or have been there?
On the other hand, Loneliness is a state of mind…. It is to feel depressed or sad, Because of a lack of sympathetic or friendly relationships. And it doesn’t only affect people who live alone. Loneliness belongs to each one of us…. from time to time. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old…rich or poor…Christian or non-Christian. One study I saw showed that one out of four people feel lonely at any given time in the United States. There is a very good chance that sooner or later it will come knocking on everyone’s door.
Loneliness can feel like a painful awareness that we lack meaningful contact with others…. feeling that no one cares about you….. if you suddenly disappeared… no one would send out a search party…causes feelings of: Not thinking anyone thinks you are important. Not feeling like you are part of a bigger group. Depressed.
And loneliness is not dependent on how many people are around you… It is dependent upon the level of meaningful relationships with those people.
So, why do we feel lonely in the first place? Well first off… God wired us with emotions, we aren’t robots!
And we were created to live in community! We were created to have a relationship with God! We were created to have intimate loving relationships with other people and to have meaning and purpose!
Now loneliness takes a few different forms.
Relational loneliness… it comes from not being around people, and let’s face it, our culture reinforces it. After all: We pay at the pump…. No human contact. We shop online. We Get our food from a drive-through window or home delivery. We work from home. We do our banking at money machines.
Robert Brooke told of a trip he made from England and the United States. When he arrived at the dock, he noticed that everyone had relatives standing there to send them off. In the midst of the embraces he felt terribly lonely. So he called a young boy over, and paid him to stand there and wave at him as the boat pulled away from the dock. As the boat pulled away. The young boy stood there waving with all his might as Brooke waved back…… we all need community to love us and to recognize us!
Another type of loneliness is the emotional loneliness…. Technology today is great! And yet we can … e-mail, text, twitter, facebook, use chat rooms, message boards, blogs… to stay connected with the people…. and yet those things lack human touch. And a record number of people are reporting a sense of loneliness and disconnection from other people…. the virtual words are there but the emotions are gone! (even with emojis)
There is a third type of loneliness called spiritual loneliness. One of my favorite songs is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. And yet, do we sing it….but don’t really follow through with what it says:
- I mean if He really is your friend …. wouldn’t you want to talk to him often…….to call him regularly…. He’s sitting by the phone (so to speak) just waiting for a call (or prayer) from you.
- And wouldn’t we want to read his letters to us….thru daily Bible reading…I bet you read your email throughout the day…why not read his word just as often?
- And wouldn’t we worship him regularly…with other believers. (We are planning onsite worship starting June 28th. Find details on royred.org/reentry)
- Sometimes we have spiritual loneliness even though God is just waiting to hear from us!
Well… now that I have you depressed thinking about loneliness!
Back to the song (what a friend we have in Jesus) …. when all the people of this world let us down, Jesus is still there for us, ready to wipe the tears from our eyes! To celebrate when we’re happy, and to comfort us when we are sad…and to embrace you in the midst of loneliness!
There is a section of Romans Chapter 8 like to read it funerals:
- Rom 8:38-39… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Folks….it is my joy to remind you…. That if everyone else in this world lets you down…. Jesus is still there…. He still loves you…. Still cares for you…. He still wants a relationship with you…. And still wants to spend eternity with you
If you don’t struggle with loneliness…I want you to do two things:
- First: I want you to thank God for the meaningful relationships that you have.
- Second: I want you to identify and reach out to someone who is lonely. Call them up and talk to them…let them know they’re important to you…send them a card…visit them (virtually).You will make a big impact in their life!
Now if you are facing loneliness:
- I suggest that you put little purpose in your life.
- Get involved in a church project or small group. You’ll feel good and you will make some friends.
- Or identify someone who seems to be in a worse condition than you… Be a blessing in their life… maybe call someone in a nursing home… or hospital… or send a thinking of you card.
- Bring some cheer into their life.