I hate to start out by quoting Elvis, but I just couldn’t help it. I read something interesting recently that has me thinking a little differently about this idea of loneliness. I will get to that in just a moment, but I feel like we should start from a more common perspective.
In general, if someone were to ask you if a person should ever feel abandoned or lonely, I am sure you would give them some great advice. Surely you would tell them that no one should ever feel this way. We were created by God to be social beings; we need interaction with others in our lives. How much contact you need is based largely on your personality, but we all need some portion of interaction. I had a professor one time who explained to the class the difference between introverts and extroverts. His point was that how you answer the following question says a lot about your personality. “When you get to the end of a long, tiring work or school day, which would you rather do? Would you rather go home and be alone or would you rather go out with your friends and hang out?”
I have always been quick to admit that I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I am certainly not an extrovert, but am a little more social than your common introvert as well. Regardless of where you land on that scale, we all need some form of social interaction. What is more, our hearts long for deep friendships. One of Debra and I’s favorite scriptures is about friendship. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
So, clearly my position, in general, is that we should work to build meaningful relationships that will be mutually encouraging and beneficial.
That is what makes what I read the other day very interesting to me. A lady in our church recently gave me a book by one of my favorite authors called 50 People Every Christian Should Know, by Warren W. Wiersbe. As you can imagine, it contains short biographies on many great Christian leaders of the past. One such history was about Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853), a British pastor and leader.
I found his life story to be very interesting. His biography was certainly not a ‘feel good story’ but it did have a level of depth that made it appealing. It was not until after his death that his commentaries and sermons were published and found to be beneficial to so many young pastors. At the recommendation of this book, I looked up one of his sermons. This message was called, The Loneliness of Christ, and was preached on December 31, 1849.
Honestly, his preaching style was very deep and I will not even pretend to have understood every point. However, let me give you a couple of thoughts I gleaned from this sermon that was given over 160 years ago.
First – There is a time in life when being alone is appropriate. In particular, this is true in regard to our relationship with Christ. When we begin a relationship with Christ, it has to be our decision. We do not come to Christ because family members came or because friends came, each of us have to determine in our own hearts if we will choose to follow Christ. I heard a preacher say one time that he would never try and talk someone into following Christ, because that would only mean that eventually someone else could talk them out of that commitment. We each have to come to our own conclusion in this regard, no one else can make this decision for us!
In addition, there may very well be times in our walk with Christ, and Frederick W. Robertson experienced this, where we will have to take a stand that is not popular with the culture around us. God promised to never leave or forsake us, but in regard to our family and friends, we might have to stand alone. It is like that verse in one of the old invitation hymns (I Have Decided to Follow Jesus) we sing says, “Though none go with me, I still will follow.” We are called to be the light of the world, just like Jesus was the light of the world. If we are truly going to do that, then taking a stand, at some point, will become necessary!
Second – remember that Christ once stood all alone for you and I. Regardless of how lonely you or I might feel, we will never experience the depth of loneliness that Christ endured. On the cross, He took the sin of the entire world upon His shoulders. That alone is an overwhelming thought. However, remember also that Jesus was abandoned by all of His disciples. Every earthly friend He ever had was gone at that moment. And then, after enduring all of the pain and loss on that cross, Jesus spoke these words as some of His very last on this earth:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Clearly, Jesus stood all alone for us! He did not do it because He just wanted to be a martyr; He went through that experience with a purpose. I cannot say it any better than the writer of Hebrews did…
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus “endured” that cross all alone “for the joy set before him.” That is how much He loves each and every one of us. The question for us then is this, “Are we willing to make a stand for Christ, even if it means standing alone?”.
In general, loneliness is not a good thing. And, for the most part, we should work hard to make sure that no one around us ever has to feel this way. We should seek to be an encouragement to people that we come in contact with and to develop deep and lasting friendships. However, we should also take just a moment and reflect on the fact that there are some things in this life that we have to do alone – with just us and God. And, this is not a bad thing. Each and every time we would have to go through something like this, I believe will be a season in our life when we get a chance to experience an even deeper level of friendship with God. And ultimately, that is what life is really all about!