I have the privilege of leading the discussion at our Ladies' Bible Class tonight. We are studying out of Jane McWhorter's book Let This Cup Pass. The lesson for tonight is The Cup Of Loneliness. We can all say that we have experienced loneliness from time to time. How we deal with that loneliness can determine our happiness and sense of well being.
We'll start by looking at Bible examples of people that experienced loneliness. The very first one would be the very first man -- Adam. Although Adam lived in a beautiful garden that was teeming with life and although he had a close relationship with God Himself, God saw that Adam was lonely. Adam needed companionship from someone like himself. He said in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good that the man should be alone." This resulted in God creating Eve as Adam's companion/helpmeet.
We don't need to read much further in the Bible to find another example of a person experiencing loneliness. This would be Cain. In our previous example, God knew how important human companionship was to man. He used loneliness as a punishment when it came to the first murder. Cain was punished by sending him away from the family he knew and loved. What was Cain's response? "My punishment is greater than I can bear?" Gen 4:13.
In 1 Kings 19:1-10 (read aloud) we read about another case of loneliness that God brings to our attention. This time it is Elijah the prophet. Elijah felt that he was all alone. He had worked hard to do God's will and there was no one that stood with him. He was so affected by it that he asked God to take his life.
Christ is another example of someone who was lonely at times. In Luke 4:1-13 we see that He spent 40 days, alone and fasting, in the wilderness. We get a glimpse of the agony He felt in the garden when He was praying alone and no one would even stay awake to support Him (Matt 26:56). The ultimate loneliness that anyone can experience was experienced by Christ on the cross. Here he not only felt the world against Him but, due to the sin He was bearing, His heavenly Father had turned from Him as well. (Matt 27:46)
Our last biblical example would be Paul. He tells us of his loneliness in 2 Tim 4:16 when no one would come to his defense.
What Does Loneliness Mean to You?
Mrs McWhorter gives several examples of loneliness:
Loneliness is...being the only teenager (even among fellow Christians) who takes a stand for the Truth by refusing to participate in questionable activities.
Loneliness is...not making the team or winning the election.
Loneliness is...those first months away from home at college.
Loneliness is...being a new mother who is confined to her home most of the winter with a sick child.
Loneliness is...moving into a different town.
Loneliness is...the emptiness a parent feels when the last child leaves home.
Loneliness is...lying in a hospital bed for so long that the walls seem to close in.
Loneliness is...sitting by the window of a nursing home on a rainy afternoon, wishing that someone, anyone, would come by.
Loneliness is...returning to an empty house after the funeral of a loved one.
Loneliness is...the realization that youu can never go back home again.
Being Alone Versus Being Lonely
Being alone just means you are by yourself for whatever reason for however long. Being alone can be a positive thing. It can be a time for refreshing and regrouping. I can be a time to pursue interests such as reading, sewing, playing the violin, etc. It can be a time to seek God through study, prayer and meditation.
Loneliness on the other hand can be experienced even when you are in a crowd. It can be experienced when you are with your family and friends. Loneliness is an emotional disconnection from others. It can be caused by distance (move to a new town, become a shut-in), ideas (standing for the truth), death of a loved one and selfishness.
Wait a minute. Selfishness? It's easy to see how the first 3 can cause loneliness. They are events that can be out of our control. But selfishness? Yes, when one is so concerned by his own wants and needs that he withdraws from others or builds walls up so others can not get close to him, he makes himself lonely through selfishness.
What Can We Do About Loneliness?
Reach out to others. In our society there are so many people that are looking for contact with others that you don't need to look far to find someone you can reach out to. You can even reach around the globe through the wonderful technologies available to us. Find someone that needs you and you will find your needs for companionship fulfilled.
Look for meaningful activities that involve others. Get involved in an activity that has some meaning. Not one that is just entertaining for yourself but one that you can really help others. Crocheting is a great hobby but unless you make something you can share with others, the time spent is not very fulfilling. Find a group that crochets blankets for preemie babies in the hospital or lap blankets for people in the nursing home. Make whatever you do something that is useful to others and that gets you involved with others.
Find people of "like precious faith" 2 Peter 1:1. God knows that we need the support of other Christians to make it in this world. He has designed His church in such a way that groups that live near each other are told to get together and not forsake each other. "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Heb 10:25 We come together to encourage one another by studying about God, singing praises to God, singing songs of edification to each other, praying together to God.
Set priorities. When our priorities are out of whack we tend to be unorganized and not able to accomplish the most important things. That leaves us unprepared to do the good, the fun and the helpful things when they come our way. We must set goals that allow us to do the big things in small chunks so we are always ready and able to do what comes up (flexible). A steady, day-to-day working on these goals will make our lives much more enjoyable and we'll be so busy we won't have time to be lonely.
Most important: Seek God. We must realize that if we don't put God first, then no matter how many friends/family we have, no matter how many possessions we have, no matter how much we do for others, we will always have an empty space that doesn't get filled.
Let's go back and look at Elijah again. 1 kings 19:11 and following. He was bemoaning the fact that he had done what God had asked and yet, he was alone. He was so lonely, in fact, he prayed to God that he die. God knew that Elijah was lonely but He also knew that Elijah was not alone. He told Elijah that there were 7000 who had not given up worshiping God. He gave Elijah some specific jobs to do and even had him locate Elisha who would be his companion and successor when the time came.
Paul on the other hand tells us in 2 Tim 4:16 that he was very lonely. He was doing what God wanted and he had been forsaken by others. He went on to see in the next verse that he was not alone. God was with him. Paul knew that God would always be with him. The Hebrew writer quoted the OT when he said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Heb 13:5 (Deut 31:6)
There are only 2 people that should ever truly feel loneliness. That is a sinner because sin separates us from God and Christ because He took on the sin of all of us on the cross and God forsook Him. Matt 27:46. We as Christians have a wonderful gift and should always be thankful for being allowed into a relationship with God.