August 3, 2009

8/12/08 One is (sometimes) the loneliest number...

Loneliness seems to be the ever-plaguing emotion of military families. We can all relate to moving to a new place where we don’t know anybody. We can also all relate to moving to a new place, knowing lots of people, but feeling like you don’t fit it there. Then comes the desire to become a hermit, followed by the inevitable pity-party. We’ve all felt the solitude and sting of loneliness. Let’s take a biblical look at this nagging emotion.

We Are Not Alone* Read Genesis 2:18.

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be _____. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

From the very beginning, God recognized Adam’s loneliness in the beautiful garden that was created just for him. Imagine being in the most beautiful place in the world. Go on. Imagine the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever imagined. Where would you be? What if you had nobody to share it with? Nobody to see it with you, nobody to show a picture to, nobody to try to describe it to? I get the feeling that Adam probably felt this way, too. But God provided for Adam during his loneliness. God made a “helper” for Adam.

Adam wasn’t the only man in the Bible who struggled with loneliness.

* Read Psalm 42:3-5.

The Psalmist (not David in this one) is tortured with loneliness. He cries all day and night and remembers going with the “multitude” to the temple to worship God. Fellowship has been ripped from him and replaced with the tears of loneliness.

Look again at verse 5. There is a striking change in the tone of what he is saying. Verses 3-4 are full of self-pity, but in verse 5 you can almost see the Psalmist shaking himself out of his wallowing, and instead of giving into feelings of self-pity, is putting his hope in God.

Write Psalm 42:5 in your own words as a reminder to shake yourself out of your funk when needed.

Paul also struggled with loneliness throughout his life.

* Read 2 Timothy 4:9-18.

The book of 2 Timothy was written during Paul’s second stay in prison. You can bet it was a cold and lonely place. So lonely, in fact, that he wrote this letter to Timothy. It seemed that everyone had deserted Paul during a time of his greatest need. This letter is an appeal to Timothy, Paul’s former companion in ministry, to come quickly to him.

Can you think of times in your own life where it felt like everyone abandoned you when you needed them the most?

Despite his imprisonment and loneliness, Paul had an incredibly optimistic and faithful attitude.

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” 2 Timothy 2:8-9

"But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentles might hear it.” 2 Timothy 4:17

Those are mighty big “buts!” Even though Paul was chained and all alone in the cold prison, he still found hope in the Lord God. It is truly amazing! Despite his feelings of loneliness, Paul knew that even if no body else was on his side, God was standing right beside him.

What Would Jesus Do?

Jesus also shows us examples of loneliness in His own life.

* Read Mark 1:35.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a ________ place, where he ______.”

* Read Luke 5:16.

“But Jesus often withdrew to ______ places and ______.”

Jesus intentionally withdrew himself from other people in order to pray. Do you ever feel like you just need to be by yourself for a little while? Of course you do! In Mark, Jesus was even considerate enough to have His quiet time before everyone else was awake so as not to miss out on ministering to others. In Luke we see how Jesus’ popularity grew rapidly. He excused himself from the large crowds to be alone. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He needed time to refresh himself before continuing His ministry. It was during these solitary and lonely times that Jesus found time to pray and to reconnect with His father.

Maybe you are going through a lonely time right now. It might or might not be by choice, but take full advantage of it. Consider it a sacred gift from God. Use this lonely time to draw closer to your Lord. He has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5). Treasure your alone time as time to spend with God. Have you ever thought that He is lonely for you?

Getting Your Fix

God sees our loneliness. You can bet it breaks His heart to see His people suffering. However, He has taken that into account, even for the military family! Being in a constant state of transition and never knowing for sure if a friendly or familiar face will meet you at your next home can be an intimidating feeling. But God has made an incredible promise to the military family.

* Read Psalm 68:6a.

“God sets the ______ in ________.”

God reaches out to His children and provides a remedy to our loneliness by preparing “families” for us at each new duty station. What an incredible blessing! Our military friends are actually our surrogate family!

God also provides us with comfort in our sufferings.

* Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.

What two things is God called? (v. 3b)

What effect do we have on others because of God’s love? (v. 4b)

Have you ever had a new friendship develop over a shared similar experience? Describe that.

We have certain life experiences, feelings, and emotions in our lives because God allowed them to happen that way. Why? So we can be a comforter to those we meet that are experiencing the same kind of thing that we have already gone through. God places people in our lives so that we can minister to them by simply comforting them with the same comfort that God gives us. He also places people in our lives so that they can comfort us with God’s love.

King Solomon found that the sure-fire way of curing loneliness is through friendship.

* Read Ecclesiastes 4:7-12.

Go ahead! Be courageous and take the first step in beginning a friendship. Invite a couple over for dinner. Invite a new neighbor out for coffee or lunch. Sure, it’s just like dating, only with an end goal of a friend, not a spouse. That should take enough pressure off for you to just enjoy the company of another person.

Wrap it up!

* Adam, the Psalmist, and Paul all suffered from loneliness. It’s not just you!
* Jesus used times of loneliness to draw closer to God.
* God provides us with surrogate “families” at new duty stations and friends who will comfort us just as God does.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8

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