Loneliness has to be experienced to be understood and it is by no means peculiar to those who live alone. It is possible to be very lonely, even in the midst a crowd of people. It is also one of the trials that many of us have to face at some time in our lives.
A sympathetic ear devoid of impatience; a little understanding of the problems of loneliness; an act of kindness and love—all warm the heart of the lonely one. These things help to make life easier, but the problem of being lonely remains.
The loneliness of Jesus Christ
Jesus must have experienced loneliness on many occasions. He knew the warmth of family life, but preparation for his ministry and service to his Father had to come first in his life. This dedication to his Father offended his family at times and drew him apart from them. This is evident when his mother and brethren waited without, hoping to see him, but Jesus, indicating his disciples, said, “Behold my mother and my brethren”. In spite also of the closeness to him of his constant companions, the disciples, they were far from understanding fully his purpose and sacrifice.
During the last few days of his life, Jesus’ loneliness increased. When he needed them most, his friends left him. At the last supper his disciples contended as to who should be accounted the greatest, and Judas departed to betray him. Fearful of what should become of them, the disciples fled when Jesus was taken by the soldiers, thus fulfilling the Master’s prophecy that they would be scattered as sheep without a shepherd. The final ordeal of the cross was before Jesus.
So with all this loneliness how did Jesus cope? Jesus gained strength throughout his ministry by his quiet communion with God. We cannot achieve the closeness of Jesus to God, but we can turn often to God in prayer, gaining strength in time of need.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. Matthew Ch.14:13
Presence of Jesus
Of all human experiences, one of the most moving is that of being separated from those we feel close to. To depart from one we love is to experience an acute sense of loss—a feeling of sadness and of loneliness. The intensity of this loss varies with the strength of feeling for the one who is going away.
What then, must have been the feelings of the disciples of Jesus when, after he had led them as far as to Bethany, their Lord blessed them and was parted from them and carried up into heaven? Surely, their sense of loss must have been more intense than anything we have experienced.
If we have ever reasoned along these lines, we shall be surprised to discover that actually the disciples’ feelings on this memorable occasion were not like that. The Gospel records of the Ascension tell of no sense of loss. On the contrary, to quote from Luke’s account, when they had witnessed the Ascension of their Lord the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.”
How can this be? How is it that whereas we are sad when we depart from a loved one, the eleven, in apparently similar circumstances, were able to rejoice? There is only one possible explanation: the disciples did not believe that in any real sense they had been separated from their Lord. They were, in fact, filled with an overwhelming sense of his presence. Jesus was gradually training them to understand that he was present everywhere.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew Ch.28:19-20
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew Ch.18:20
Presence of God
Loneliness does not necessarily mean absence of other people, it is more likely to be lack of connection with the people around you. We do not feel warmth in our heart standing in the middle of a crowd, but rather when we are with someone who is one with us in thought and aspiration. Though mankind are bound closer together than ever by the internet that can be found inside most homes, yet loneliness of heart is just as possible as before.
Companionship is more real in the realm of the spirit than that of the world we see around us. It is the spiritual presence or companionship of God that makes a believers faith strong and his heart fill with love and joy. It was the blessing offered to the Children of Israel that shepherded them through the wilderness when they had left Egypt for the Promised hand. Moses said: “please show me now your ways, that I may know you” and the reply came: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
The modern believer has the same assurance as what was given to Moses. This is what Jesus said:
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23
God is present everywhere so there is no need to feel lonely.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, it is good to be near God. v.28 I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 73:23-26, 28
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews Ch.13:5
We all need human relationships.
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis Ch.2:18
Complete isolation is not beneficial; men and women need companionship so that we can show love, consideration, sympathy, responsibility and mutual understanding. These are qualities which God has and is looking for us to have as well.
Some people who wanted to stop being lonely did the following:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts Ch.2:42
Another way to overcoming loneliness is to care for the lonely.
Dear friend, you are doing a good work for God in taking care of the traveling teachers and missionaries who are passing through 3 John Ch.1:5. The Living Bible
In the early days of the first century there were traveling prophets and teachers who were helped on their way by various people who housed and fed them. Hospitality is a way of showing love to others. Because of our individualistic, self-centred society, there are many people who wonder if anyone cares whether they live or die. If you find such a lonely person, show him or her that you care!
Overcoming loneliness – turning to God
As mentioned above, Jesus gained strength throughout his ministry by approaching his Father in prayer. We likewise can turn to God in prayer, gaining strength in time of need.
We may feel lonely, but we are never alone. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus we can approach God through Jesus Christ who knows all our weaknesses and can feel and understand for us. It is only because of the sympathy and understanding of our Lord who himself knew sorrow, grief, pain—and loneliness—that we can approach boldly “the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy, and in His grace find timely help” Hebrews 4:16 N.E.B.
Praying to God in times of loneliness can help relieve the feelings of isolation.
My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:15-16
The writer of this psalm (King David) was surrounded by his personal guard and his closest advisers and supportive friends, yet he still felt alone. He felt alone because he had been betrayed. We may be rejected by our family or betrayed by a close friend and this can make us feel very much alone and isolated. Praying to God can be the answer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians Ch.4:6-7
Sometime being alone can be a good thing. Solitude is being at a remote place where there are no other people. It is a lonely, unfrequented place for example in the mountains.
Solitude is important for prayer and refreshment.
At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. Luke Ch.4:42
Jesus had to get up very early just to get some time alone. If Jesus needed solitude for prayer and refreshment, how much more is this true for us? Don’t become so busy that life becomes non stop activity leaving no room for quiet time alone with God. No matter how much you have to do, you should always have time for prayer.
Develop the discipline of spending time alone with God – it will help you grow spiritually and become more and more like Christ.