God's Prescription for Overcoming Loneliness

Bible Book: Matthew  28 : 18-20
Subject: Loneliness; Service; Joy
Series: God's Prescriptions for Life

The Prescription for Overcoming Loneliness

Dr. J.Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Matthew 28:18-20 ...

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

One care or problem all people face is loneliness, and it occurs in people of all ages.

It may seem strange to you, but I want us to address the issue of loneliness by looking at the Great Commission. Most of us do not think of loneliness when we view the Great Commission because this scripture passage is often looked at as one dealing with evangelism, missions and church growth. Certainly those elements are in this passage, however there is much more here. Note in the Great Commission that the greatest person in the world, gave the greatest group in the world, the greatest task in the world, but He still realized that they would need the assurance of the divine presence with them in order to complete it. I do not believe Jesus told us of His abiding presence simply because of the need for power to carry out the task, but He promised His presence because He knew that all who live in this world face loneliness. Jesus said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Loneliness is a feeling of personal isolation in a busy and crowded world. Please do not misunderstand this subject. You can be alone and not be lonely, but you can be surrounded by many people and still feel very much alone. Haven’t you experienced that in your life? You can be in a great crowd and suddenly feel a sense of overwhelming loneliness. Loneliness does not mean the same thing as being alone. We all have to be alone at times and it can actually be good for us. Loneliness is a feeling of isolation from others whether they are near or far.

People are trying many things to escape loneliness today. The growth of social media is a sure proof of this fact. Many people tweet just about everything they do. For example, here are a few things I've seen lately:

“We are going out to eat tonight.”

“I just got back from having my teeth cleaned.”

"Sitting down to watch the ballgame on TV."

I mean, seriously, do we need to tell everybody on our social network list such mundane things as these? But, many people do this regularly. I think it comes from a sense of needing connection with others. It stems often from a feeling of loneliness that is somehow allayed by the social connection through digital social media.

My wife showed me something some time ago that I did not realize existed. She revealed to me that some people like to take pictures of the food they eat and post it on Facebook or online somewhere EVERYDAY! I thought she was kidding, but she wasn't. I looked at her iPad and there it was, a photo of someone's mashed potatoes, green beans and country styled steak - along with their biscuit and iced tea. Dear me, what has happened to us?

The problem of loneliness can clearly be seen in modern commercials. These commercials often focus on the sense of loneliness that people feel. Take the advertisements for beer as an example. They use the idea of companionship to sell their product. Have you ever noticed that all beer commercials involve lots of people smiling and having a great time? The beer companies play on the loneliness of our generation in order to get people to buy their product. In essence, they are saying, "If you buy our beer, you will not be lonely, you will be surrounded by many beautiful people who will love and adore you." What they don't show are the untold mass of people who use alcohol sitting all alone, or the people outside the bar throwing up on the street, or the fights that ensue among the intoxicated, or the automobile wrecks caused by such people that end up killing innocent men,women and children. Playing on the feeling of loneliness is big business in the advertising world.

Have you have seen all the ads on television offering people a way to find a partner? The ads promise to fix you up with the perfect mate for life. I heard about one guy who filled out the online profile and uploaded his photo. The company wrote back to him saying, "Thanks for your application, but we are not THAT lonely yet."

People are trying everything to get rid of the feeling of loneliness pervading our modern, crowded, overwhelmed world. Many Americans live in cities with millions of people around them, but they are terribly lonely.

One of the great problems in America today is the growth of gangs. This is especially true in low income areas in our cities. Many young people join a gang because they want to be part of a group where they feel included and important. Joining my require them to rob a store, or even kill someone to be a member, but they will do it to be included in the gang. Anything to avoid loneliness.

I want us to see the answer to this problem by first looking at ...

I. The Reality of Loneliness

Loneliness is a reality, not simply something imagine. Everyone deals with it at some point in life. It can be dangerous, leading to drug use, promiscuous life styles and even suicide.

A. Studies Show this to be True

Loneliness is a growing problem in our society. A study by the American Council of Life Insurance reported that the loneliest groups of people in America are college students. I don’t know about you, but I found that very surprising! Next on the list were divorced people, welfare recipients, single mothers, rural students, housewives, and the elderly.

To point out how lonely people can feel, let me share something that Charles Swindoll saw mentioned in a Kansas newspaper advertisement. It read, "I will listen to you talk for thirty minutes without comment for $5.00." Swindoll said, "Sounds like a hoax, doesn't it? But the person was serious. Did anybody call? You bet. It wasn't long before this individual was receiving ten to twenty calls a day. The pain of loneliness was so sharp that some were willing to try anything for a half hour of companionship."

A few years ago the Teacher of the Year in America wrote a book. In it he described his most interesting discovery concerning young people. He said that his correspondence from them and discussions with them revealed that they were very lonely. In fact, he said that our problems with drugs, sex and suicide among teenagers stem from their feelings of loneliness.

I submit to you that students are not the only people feeling lonely in our day. The rise of reality television programs may reveal just how badly we want to relate to others. Our society watches reality television, and looks in on what people are doing because it makes them feel like they are part of their lives in some way.

B. Songs Show this to be True

When I was young, songs had titles like, “Only the Lonely”; “Lonely Girl”; “Are you Lonesome Tonight”; and, “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Many modern songs don’t have those titles, but they deal with the feeling of loneliness just the same. Music expresses our feelings, and many of those feelings involve loneliness.

C. Shared Testimonies Show this to be True

Alfred Lord Tennyson visited Queen Victoria and wrote, "Up there in all her glory and splendor she was lonely!"

Vance Havner was one of America’s greatest preachers for many years before his death. Before he went home to be with the Lord, his wife of many years died. After his wife passed, Havner called himself, "God's lonely old man." He was looking forward to being reunited with her in heaven.

I once read about an elderly Christian lady who lived all alone. Partly crippled, she had to rely primarily on the good will and help of her neighbors. She spent some of her weary hours keeping a diary, although no one knew why; for she had precious little to record. Finally the Lord called her to himself. It is reported that she lay dead for several days before anyone missed her! In looking through her few belongings, someone discovered her diary. Most of the book contained nothing of interest. In fact, near the end of her life, as one monotonous day followed another, she wrote only three pathetic words on page after page: "No one came! NO ONE CAME!" In essence, she left a record saying, "I am so lonely!"

“Loneliness is like a piano without keys,
Like a violin without strings.
Like a sanctuary without a congregation
Or a choir where no one sings.
Loneliness is like a blade of grass
Growing through a crack of cement.
Loneliness is like a camp ground
Without a single tent.
Loneliness is like a mocking bird
That cannot sing a song.
Loneliness is a feeling
That one does not belong.
Like a pansy in a corn field
Hidden where no one can see.
I know all there is to know about loneliness
Because it lives inside of me.” (Source Unknown)

Albert Einstein reportedly once said, “It is strange to be so universally known and yet to be so lonely.”

Loneliness strikes at the heart of the most famous and the totally unknown people of the world. Loneliness is a real problem and a real issue for everyone at one time or another.

II. The Reason For Loneliness

Now that we know loneliness is a problem, let's look at why it is such a dilemma.

A. Abandonment

It is often caused by the loss of loved one in death. In my early days of ministry, while I was in college, I was interim pastor in a church in North Carolina. One day the husband of a church member passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. My wife and I went to see her and expressed our sympathy. She said, “I am going to meet him soon.” I thought her statement involved a possible suicide wish, so I spoke up and said, “Now, don’t you think about doing anything to yourself. God left you here for a reason.” She replied, “Oh, I am not going to do anything to myself. I just know I can’t live without him and God will take me soon.”

My wife and I discussed it and decided she was just in a period of profound grief. Two weeks later, sitting on her back porch drinking her morning coffee, the lady died suddenly. She was young and healthy – perhaps fifty years of age. She had experienced a brain hemorrhage. No foul play was involved. I believe loneliness took her life.

The loss of a job, loss of friends or a move to a new city can cause deep and troubling loneliness. One can feel abandoned at a time like that. I have known husbands or wives to actually be so lonely when a spouse dies they express anger that the person died and left them alone!

B. Affliction

Psalm 38:11 reads ...

"My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,
And my relatives stand afar off."

When we face illness or afflictions we can feel that no one else in the world is suffering the way we are. We can feel alone and abandoned by life and by God Himself. Hardships, loss of a job, severe illness and other afflictions can bring on extreme feelings of being all alone in the world.

C. Arrogance

Self-righteousness or over-inflated self-esteem can lead to a feeling of loneliness. People who are arrogant tend to shut themselves up in a little world all their own. Then, they find that the loneliness in their situation is overwhelming. Many movie stars and musicians crave the public eye, but find that once they have achieved fame and popularity they actually feel all alone. Many of them withdraw into a world of drugs and alcohol. Others try to party day and night to relieve the feeling of isolation.

D. Ambition

Janis Joplin, the young singer who died of an overdoes of drugs at age 26, said that when she was not on the stage she was so very lonely. One of her hit songs was entitled, "I Got Them Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama." How incredible that a young female singer taking the world by storm could be so lonely and die so foolishly. Many famous people feel very lonely. It is often lonely at the top! Ecclesiastes 4:8 reads ...

"There is one alone, without companion:
He has neither son nor brother.
Yet there is no end to all his labors,
Nor is his eye satisfied with riches.
But he never asks,
“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?”
This also is vanity and a grave misfortune."

E. Apprehension

Many people feel that they cannot trust anyone in our day. We read about the people who have taken advantage of good hearted people and this can cause us to back away from people in apprehension that we too will be a victim. As a result, we can become isolated and lonely.

We read in Micah 7:5 ...

"Do not trust in a friend;
Do not put your confidence in a companion;
Guard the doors of your mouth
From her who lies in your bosom."

Even 3,000 years ago there was a feeling that one cannot even trust your best friend of the spouse who sleeps by your side. Loneliness comes from feeling that you cannot trust anyone in this world.

F. Alienation

In this modern world, you can feel like you are only a number. We are a social security number, a driver's license number, a bank number, a credit card number - you are a number to almost everyone in the commercial world. At my cleaners they keep records by telephone numbers. When I go to the cleaners they say, "Let's see, your 7978 aren't you?" It was a warm moment when I had been there enough for them to call me, “Mr. Minnix.” They knew my name.

  • If you go to the doctor, they want your birth date before they ask for your name. Then, they want your insurance number. Most of the time they don't even call you by name!
  • If you go the library, they want your library card number.
  • If you buy something at Walmart, they want your credit card number.

 Most places of business never call you by name because that is not important. I have often wondered what would happen if you were asked to put on a name tag when you entered a store so everyone there could call you by name. Don’t hold your breath till someone does that – it isn’t going to happen! Too often, we are just numbers to other people in this world today. That makes it easy to feel isolated in our generation.

So, let's think about ...

III. The Results of Loneliness

A. A Drab Life

Lonely people live in a dark, drab world. This is contrary to the joy God promised to His children. Loneliness feels like pure darkness. There is an old saying about people who are too intelligent: “The light is on but no one is home.” The great question however is this, "If the light is on and someone is home, but does anyone really care?"

B. A Diseased Life

We are told that eighty-percent of all people who need a psychiatrist are lonely. A study was done in one major hospital of patients who suffered heart attacks. Forty-percent of those experiencing heart attacks testified to being depressed or lonely a few days or weeks before the attack. Loneliness leads to depression, suicide, alcoholism and a number of other serious health problems.

C. A Distorted Life

In 1 Kings 19:14ff we note that Elijah reached the point to feel that he was the only left who really stood for the Lord. God had seven thousand people who had not bowed to Baal but Elijah felt he was all alone. You read that story and you see one of God’s greatest servants experiencing feelings of being all alone in his service for the Lord. Even preachers can experience loneliness and they often do. Loneliness can be a real problem to those who know and serve God.

D. A Defeated Life

Loneliness leads to a defeated life because it takes away from you the sense of God's presence. Now, if you don't know Christ, you have a right to feel a cosmic loneliness. With Christ, there is a companionship forever! God does not want you to be lonely.

Go back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Note that God walked with Adam. We remember that God said that it was not good for man to be "alone" - that meant, lonely! After Adam sinned, he hid from God. Sin created a feeling of isolation from the Creator. After his sin Adam was defeated and lonely. Loneliness began when sin first appeared. Loneliness is one of the problems man inherited when he decided he wanted to be a god himself.

Let's take a moment and look at the solution for loneliness. Note ...

IV. The Removal of Loneliness

How can we get rid of loneliness? One man went to the psychiatrist and said, "Please doctor, make me a split personality." The doctor asked why. The man replied, "So I can talk to myself." Well, many of us talk to ourselves but the conversation can still be depressing.

Note in the Great Commission that we find the answer for loneliness.

A. You Must have a Supernatural Identity

Jesus came to His disciples because they belonged to Him. He spoke to them. He commanded them. He promised them. He loved them. He led them. When you belong to Jesus, He comes to you, He speaks to you, He commands you, He promises you, He loves you and He leads you. He can remove your loneliness.

B. You Must have a Spiritual Community

The disciples were sent out two-by-two. Why didn’t the Lord send them out alone? The Lord knew we needed to have the presence of fellow servants along the road of life. Even serving Him requires fellow servants by our side.

The Bible tells us not to abandon our meeting together. God meant for us to be in a community of believers. We need each other. The Lord is with us as Christians all the time, but He promised a special presence when we meet together. In Matthew 18:20 He promised to meet with us whenever two or three of us gather in His name.

The Pentecost event, when the Holy Spirit was first poured out on all believers, is an interesting occurrence. You see, Pentecost was the reversal of Babel. When the Tower of Babel was built, God confused the languages and people were separated from each other. At Pentecost, God brought all the believers together in unity even though they came from different languages, various countries and multiple backgrounds. They understood each other. Loneliness was replaced with love and partnership by the Holy Spirit's presence! Separation was replaced with association and fellowship. Those deeply involved in God’s work in the local church have a community of life and support around them at all times.

C. You Must have a Servant Mentality

"Go..make..teach..baptize.."

Jesus tells us to reach out to others. One way to overcome loneliness is to minister to others. No matter how lonely you are, there are people out there that are lonelier than you are. Someone once said, “To have a friend, be a friend.” God says, “To have a friend, have the Friend closer than a brother and go serve in His name.”

When we reach out to help others in Jesus name, loneliness evaporates. People are waiting for someone to take away their loneliness; God calls on you to go help someone else know of His salvation and love. When we obey Him, our loneliness flees.

A young boy named Bill was walking home from school with his arms filled with various things when suddenly he tripped and dropped them on the sidewalk. Books, a tape recorder, a baseball bat, baseball glove, and two sweaters spilled all over the place. Another student named David was walking behind him. He hurried over to Bill, whom he did not know, and helped him pick things up and carry them home. Bill invited David into his home. They drank a soft drink and watched Television. They became good friends. They did many things together over the next three years until they came to high school graduation night. Bill came up to David and said, "There is something I must tell you. You remember the day I was walking home from school and dropped my books and things? Well, have you ever wondered why I was carrying those things home that day? I had cleaned out my locker and was going home to kill myself. I was so lonely and life had no meaning, I was ready to kill myself. I had saved a few of my mother's sleeping pills and I was going to take them that afternoon. David, the day you picked up my books, you picked up my life. You saved my life."

If you want to overcome loneliness, look for someone to help. It will not only rid you of loneliness, you just might save someone’s life – or better yet, you might help them come to know Christ and experience a soul that is saved for eternity.

D. You Must have a Supernatural Serenity

Someone has said that we need three basic things in life:

1. We need to be loved

You are loved and in Christ you are identified with Him. No one ever cared for me like Jesus. He loves you and abides with the Christian at all times.

2. We need to be understood

In Christ, you are understood. In God's loving family you discover who you are and what you are do with your life. I have found that a church family is a wonderful place to dispatch loneliness. There are people in the family of God who will love you, help you, pray for you, and work for the Lord alongside you.

3. We need to be needed

In the family of God you are needed. Everyone has something to do in God’s kingdom.

My son-in-law is the pastor at First Baptist Church, Cherryville, North Carolina. He told me about a couple that joined his church last week. He took them down to the church coffee house – a beautiful place that will match up against any commercial coffee shop in America. Their drinks are free – people just drop in a jar whatever they wish to share. So, he took this couple down to offer them a refreshment after the service as part of a welcome to new members of the church, as well as those who are visitors. While enjoying that moment, he said, “Now, what can you do for the Lord? You see, we want to be a blessing to you, but God wants you to be a blessing to His work.” By the time that couple left that day, the lady had agreed to work in the coffee house and open it one or two mornings a week. It was no small commitment. It means getting up very early, opening up the large room where dozens of people can fellowship, getting the equipment ready, and then greeting and helping those who stop by on the way to work with coffee and Christian fellowship.

Here was a couple who joined on Sunday morning and had a volunteer place of service for Christ by 1:30 that afternoon. You are needed! Find a place to serve God’s people. Don’t wait around to be served. You can defeat loneliness by being a servant to others.

Jesus told us to go out into the world and reach people! He promised to be with us. Because of His presence with us, and our presence in serving Him among others, loneliness can be dispelled and defeated! As we serve Him, He promises to be with us.

Conclusion

Is Jesus your constant companion? Do you really know Him as your Redeemer? If not, you will never fully escape loneliness. You were created for a relationship with God and you can only find that through Jesus Christ. Without Him, you will search all your life for true companionship and never find it. Come to Him now. In fact, Hell will be a place of ultimate loneliness - outter darkness forever. You don't need to be lonely now, and when you accept Christ you will never be lonely in eternity.