Do You Feel Lonely?January 1, 2021 Save Article
As a follower of Christ, we want to get a handle on our emotions before our emotions handle us, and loneliness is one of the most common emotions. It’s not just the little widow alone in her apartment who’s lonely. The rich and famous can be lonely. Loneliness has many sources. It can come from loss or pain from the past, from tragedy, or even from our own self-centeredness. In one sense, loneliness is often built into our day and age as we become a digitally mastered “contact-less” society where so much is depersonalized.
I’m like a pelican in the wilderness, I’m like an owl of the desert. I lie awake and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop. (Psalm 102:6-7)
The psalmist wrote these words describing a problem many are living with. A sparrow alone on the rooftop—who knows, who cares? Insignificant little bird, so small, so unnoticed, can you imagine how a sparrow would feel if it could reason and didn't know that “not a sparrow falls” without God knowing about it? Alone on the rooftop, no one even sees him.
Many people feel exactly like that sparrow. We’re not talking about solitude or isolation. Solitude is good. We need to get alone. You can be alone without being lonely. Jesus would often withdraw to the wilderness to get alone. Sometimes for reasons of work commitments or assignments overseas, a person can feel lonely—isolated from loved ones. But the loneliness that is a focus of this study is not isolation; it is insulation: feeling cut off, unnoticed, unloved, uncared for, unneeded, maybe even unnecessary.
- Does the distinction between isolation and insulation make sense to you? We all have times when—separated from loved ones by time and distance—we feel lonely. Was there a time like that in your life recently or a while back? Describe it.
- On the other hand, when have you felt insulated from others? What brought it about? Was it the result of a choice you made or a choice someone else made?
- Did you take intentional steps to end that insulation? What were they?
- Do you feel an aspect of loneliness currently?
Paul Tournier, the noted Swiss psychiatrist, said, “Loneliness is the most devastating malady of this age.” That's a pretty strong statement. The great playwright Thomas Wolfe said, “Don't think of loneliness as some curious abstraction or rare phenomenon. Loneliness is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.” That is, it's coming, and we can't stop it. Noted historian H. G. Wells, one of the greatest intellects of his century, at age 65 said, “I am very lonely.” A former United States President talked about the loneliness of the Presidency. Janis Joplin, a 1970s rock star, had the world at her feet, but just before she took her life with an overdose of heroin in a Los Angles apartment, she said to a friend, “After I come off the stage, all I do is sit around and watch television. I’m so very lonely.”
You can be lonely in a crowd. Henry David Thoreau said, “A city is a place where hundreds of people are lonely together.” Sometimes crowds only enhance the loneliness. In every church congregation, there are some very lonely people.
Lonely people look at others who seem to be so happy and have friends and fellowship and families. They sit in restaurants and look across at those people. They walk the streets past homes and think about the people in them. People are looking for someone to recognize them. They feel like that pelican in the wilderness, owl in the desert, and sparrow on a rooftop.
- Do you feel lonely within your own congregation of believers? What steps could you take this week to change that? It will take courage. Are you willing to make a phone call or two?
- In every group of people, whether neighbors on your street, members of your Sunday fellowship class, or other parents at your child’s school, lonely people are sometimes easy to spot. List some practical ways you can reach out to them this week:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to show you people in your life who are hiding loneliness.
Loneliness is a Destructive Force
In a survey of heart attack victims, 50% percent were feeling depressed and lonely when they had the attack. In another study, 80% of those seeking help from a psychiatrist did so primarily because of loneliness. Anyone who’s dealt with those who are suicidal knows they feel deep loneliness: “No one knows, no one cares, no one understands.” It may not actually be true, but that's how they see it. That’s how they feel. To cope with loneliness, many become alcoholics or overeat or can’t eat or sleep. From the very beginning, shortly after He created man, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Loneliness can come from several different sources.
Many people have tried to have friends, but they’ve been rejected. Maybe they’ve been ignored, put down, and their emotions are burned out. They have deep inner wounds that haven’t healed and they don't have what it takes to try again. They won’t expose themselves to more hurt.
Mark Twain said, “If a cat sits on a hot stove, he won’t sit on a hot stove again. In fact, he won’t sit on any stove again.” He may not get burned the second time but he's not going to take a chance. There are people like that with relationships. Some of us who’ve been burned won’t take a chance on relationships again.
Many people don’t have a sense of self-worth. We’re not talking about being prideful. Some people have had life experiences where they’ve never felt accepted by other people and don’t believe others can accept them. Thus they don’t accept themselves. Instead of building bridges, subconsciously they build walls and close themselves in.
Sorrow, Tragedy, and Loss
Some, through no fault of their own, have gone through deep loss. Tragedy has brought a loss of perspective as well. They feel no one really cares or understands. One of the people whose life is recorded in the Bible is Job. Having suffered one blow after another, Job was one of these innocent sufferers. He lamented in Job 19:13-19,
He has removed my brothers far from me, and my acquaintances are completely estranged from me. My relatives have failed, and my close friends have forgotten me. Those who dwell in my house, and my maidservants, count me as a stranger; I am an alien in their sight. I call my servant, but he gives no answer; I beg him with my mouth. My breath is offensive to my wife, and I am repulsive to the children of my own body. Even young children despise me; I arise, and they speak against me. All my close friends abhor me, and those whom I love have turned against me.
- Almost all people at one time or another have felt like we were experiencing “the trials of Job”—and we’ve probably said so to friends. But in all seriousness, do you know someone—perhaps it was you—who ended up with a medical condition or diagnosis due to the effects of loneliness?
- Do you know someone who could benefit from talking with a wise counselor or pastor about what’s happening in his or her life? How can you help encourage that person to talk to someone?
- Perhaps that person is you. Pinpoint the origin of your isolation or loneliness and briefly describe it here.
- Of these three sources, (1) rejection (2) insecurity (3) sorrow/loss/tragedy, which one(s) have resulted in loneliness in your life? List as many as apply.
- Do you keep a journal? Not a “daily diary,” but a journal where you can write about life-impacting events like this? Do you write in it? Many believers have found writing in a journal was a first step toward becoming aware of what they were feeling and where their feelings of loneliness came from. Inexpensive journals are sold in almost every store. Get one this week and begin writing in it.
Job had gone through such sorrow, such grieving, he said, “Leave me alone. All my days are lived in vain. Nothing makes sense.” He turned inward; his sorrow set a prism of icicles around him.
Everyone has three basic psychological and spiritual needs:
- Someone to love and share intimately with.
- Someone who understands, knows how they feel, and says, “Yes, I care.”
- Someone who needs them and wants them. Everyone needs to feel they’re needed and they belong. Human beings must have meaningful relationships or we flounder. We were created that way. We were made for fellowship.
When people have no one to meet those needs, no matter how many people are around, how much money they have, or what position they occupy, they’re lonely.
Loneliness is curable—it’s actually a defeated foe.
I don’t want to be simplistic. The answer to this longing of the human heart is not a flippant one, but His name is Jesus. He is the answer to meeting these 3 basic needs.
You have Someone to love and share intimately with.
You say, “But I need someone real.” That's a problem right there. Jesus is
“But I need someone here now.” He is here now. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Jesus is as real to me as my wife Joyce is, and He's always near. When I go for a drive, Jesus is there. When I go for a walk, Jesus walks along with me. I talk with Jesus. He is a dear friend, one who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is someone I love. And He loved me before I knew Him.
You say, “How is that real? I’m not so sure about that.”
Turn to the book of First John, chapter 4. First John was a letter written by the Apostle John, the disciple Scripture reveals as the one who felt closest to the Lord Jesus. John wrote:
In this, the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
We are loved so much by God that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven and taken away. That is love. Jesus loves me and I love Him. I can share anything with Him. He knows what I feel. He knows my going out, He knows my coming in.
Psalm 121:8 says, "The Lord shall preserve (look after, protect) your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore."
In Luke 12:7 Jesus said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” There’s that word “sparrow” again.
Among the many attributes of God are His omniscience and His omnipresence. God knows everything at all times, and He is everywhere. Jesus is God. Jesus knows, He cares, and He understands. The Apostle Peter knew this and urged us to “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Jesus understands how you feel.
Psalm 102, a Messianic psalm, is a prophecy of Jesus. More than what the psalmist felt, it depicts by inspiration of the Holy Spirit the experience of the Lord Jesus on the cross. He knows what it is to be lonely. “Jesus was lonely?” you ask. To the ultimate degree.
- “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3).
- “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
When He died upon the cross, because He had taken the sin of the world upon Himself, even God the Father could not look upon Him. The rabble in the crowd taunted him, His disciples forsook Him, and Jesus died alone, crying, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
- In Psalm 23, King David could write, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me” (verse 4), but Jesus walked that lonesome valley all by Himself. He died alone.
- Then the writer of Hebrews gives us this description: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
No one ever really understood the heart of Jesus. Even when He was facing the cross, He could not make His disciples understand. Like a sparrow on the rooftop, alone He suffered. He understands and knows how you feel.
Emotions can be tricky. One wise counselor said, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are.” It’s how we handle our feelings that will either lead to our release or imprisonment.
- Have you felt guilty about the feelings you’ve had?
- What do these verses say about handling emotions which cause you distress?
- 1 Peter 5:7
- Psalm 56:3
- 2 Corinthians 10:5
A Bible teacher was leading a discipleship class. Part of the study was 2 Corinthians 10:5,
Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
The teacher said, “Unsettling thoughts will enter your mind—whether from your own imagination or from the enemy. When they do, you have about 5 seconds to take that thought captive, or that thought will take you captive.”
- Write 2 Corinthians 10:5 on a slip of paper and put it where you will see it every day—your mirror, your phone case, your closet door. Memorize it. When a thought from the enemy appears, take it captive. Replace it following these instructions:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8).
So often, the battle is fought in our minds.
Jesus needs and wants you.
Jesus wants us. We are His body, His eyes, His mouth. Remember Zacchaeus? His story is told in Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was rejected by both the Romans and his own people, the Jews. As a tax collector, he was considered a collaborator with the Romans who were oppressing the Jews. When Jesus saw him in that sycamore tree, He knew exactly who Zacchaeus was, yet he called him—by name. Zacchaeus thought, “He knows me!” Jesus told him to come down. Zacchaeus thought, “He wants me!” Then Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, I must abide at your house today.” “He needs me!”
Friend, He knows you, He wants you, He needs you. He knows your name. He knows what you have done. He knows what has been done to you. The hurt you’ve experienced from others was not God harming you. It grieved Him. Yet He knew that ultimately good could come from it. You are precious to Him. He would have died for you had there been not one other soul on planet Earth. He would have died for you alone.
This morning I prayed, “Oh God, inhabit my humanity. Lord Jesus, if You want to do something today, do it through me. I'm available. Live in me, speak in me, pray in me, praise in me.” You too can pray that every morning. Through Jesus Christ you have significance. He is always there. You are never alone.
At one time Paul persecuted the Church and was an enemy of Jesus Christ. Then Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus. Like Zacchaeus, Jesus sought Paul out. Years later, Paul wrote:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
When no one else understands, He does, and if everyone else fails you, He will not. Jesus alone is the answer to loneliness.
This Bible Study was taken from the message, "Dealing with Loneliness" (#1151).
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.
Learn more about this subject by reading Mastering Your Emotions by Adrian Rogers.