Charles Stanley - When We Are Lonely
God does not desire that you and I be lonely, but rather that you and I have friends and that we be a friend. And most of all, that Jesus Christ is our friend above all other friends. All the way from the beginning of time God has desired that you and I live in fellowship, in companionship, and intimacy with Him and with those about us. In fact, if you'll go back to the very first book of the Bible. And you'll recall, in Genesis chapter 1, the Bible says that when He created us He created us, the scripture says that God said, "In Our image, according to Our likeness".
Now what was that? It was certainly not a physical likeness but rather an intellectual alikeness, an emotional alikeness. That is, so that you and I could fellowship, have companionship and so that you and I could dwell in intimacy, that is in intimate relationship with our heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. That is the will of the Father. It has always been His will. And, when you and I look around us today we see people who are so very, very lonely. We wonder, oftentimes, why they are lonely.
Well, there are some very specific reasons for that. And that's what I want to talk about in this message entitle: "The Source of Our Strength: When We Are Lonely". And I want you to turn, if you will, to Hebrews chapter 13 and I want us to read, simply a part of a single verse. In Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 5. You'll recall that in this passage, beginning in the first verse. This passage is about relationships. For example, he talks about loving the brethren and not neglecting strangers and entertaining them. And remembering the prisoners and speaking of marriage and so forth. Then he says in verse 5: "Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'" "I will never leave you, nor forsake you".
Right in the middle of this passage about relationships God injects this awesome promise, "I will never leave you. I will never desert you. I will never forsake you". The only person who could possibly make such a promise is God Himself and He says, "I'll never leave you. Never desert you, never forsake you". Well, when I think about the Lord Jesus Christ and think about how He went to such great extremes in order to assure His apostle that He would not leave them. If you'll recall when He sent them out He sent them out on their journey two by two, as disciples and as witnesses and missionaries. And then you'll recall in the fourteenth chapter of John He said the night before He was going to be crucified, He says, "I'm not going to leave you alone". He says, "But I will come to you".
Speaking of the Holy Spirit who would come and live and abide within them. And if you'll recall in the same chapter, in the twenty seventh verse He says: "My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". The Greek word for peace is 'eirene' and the word means to bind together. What was He saying? He was saying that, "Physically, we're going to be moved apart but spiritually and emotionally I want you to be sure that I'll always be there, I will always remain with you". When He came them the Great Commission He said, "I will be with you even to the end of this age".
Now, the Lord Jesus Christ knew something about loneliness and he knew that one of the things that they needed to be reminded of is that He was going to be there. They could count on Him. Loneliness is one of those experiences many of us face. We'd like to avoid it at all costs and it is an emotion an experience that comes our way. It can either be like a hell all our life or it can be something that is short lived and that depends upon our response to it. And that's what I want to talk about in this message.
When I think about loneliness I know, in my own heart, that it is a painful emotion that comes to all of us at certain times in our life. Sometimes it is prolonged, like a deep, deep dark valley. Or sometimes it is just passing and it is only momentary. It may be a matter of feeling rejected by someone, it may be a matter of being distant from someone geographically but loneliness isn't some passing feeling. Loneliness can be like a cloud hovering over us. Loneliness can also be like fog, and everywhere you turn it's the same thing. It is not just on the outside, it is on the inside. It isn't something you can put your finger on out here, it is something that that you feel on the inside. And, oftentimes, it is overpowering and overwhelming you think, "Is there any way out of this"?
Well, let me distinguish for a moment between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness, we say, is a separation anxiety that brings about a feeling of being disconnected. It is something that happens to us we all like to avoid. Solitude, on the other hand, is a choice to be alone. Solitude is a time that my mind and my emotions can drain away all the pressures and for those moments I don't feel the pressure of the demands of others. Solitude is a time for refreshment. Solitude is a time for creativity. The most creative moments of our life are, oftentimes, when we are alone. Loneliness is a whole different issue. Now you can be alone without feeling lonely. And on the other hand, you can feel lonely and be in the midst of a tremendous crowd; people that you know and people who know you but you can still feel the ache, the penetrating ache of loneliness.
And I think about, in my own life, when I started to school, I was too young. I was going to be six in September and I was only five years of age. My mother had to leave every morning at seven o'clock to go to work and so, she taught me how to cook an egg and a piece of bacon and piece of toast. And so, that was my breakfast some mornings when I didn't eat a bowl of cereal. And so, she had to leave. And so I'd get up, fix my breakfast and when I left home she was gone. She worked in the textile mill and when I came home she was still gone. Now, etched in my mind, even today, and this is about fifty-seven years later, but it's as crystal clear to me, just like somebody photographed it and set it in front of my mind today. I'd reach under the mat and get that long key, and put it in the lock. And there were two locks. And I can still remember how it sounded.
I remember what I felt. I can see that lock right now. Putting the key in the lock and listening to it unlatch. And put it in the second one and thinking this, "There's nobody home. I'm going to be by myself". And so, I was by myself until she came home. When I was about twelve years of age, I was playing one Saturday afternoon with two of my friends, both of whose names I still know very well. And they were my two best buddies and they were playing in my yard. And so, their father drove up on a Saturday afternoon and called them both by name. "Bob, you and Jim come on". And they went, they just didn't say a word. Just got up and walked off and got in the car and drove down the street. And I remember standing there thinking, and it's etched in my mind watching that car drive off, "I'm all alone. They're gone. I don't have anybody".
Well, I wish I could say that those were the only lonely times in my life, but they haven't been and they still aren't. And I know that my loneliness does not even begin to compare with some people who've gone through periods, deep, dark valleys of loneliness that are absolutely indescribable. I understand that. And I would not share anything about my heart to say, "Look at me," but simply to say, I do know what I'm about to talk about. I do understand the ache, the hurt, the pain, the sense of hopelessness, helplessness, the sense of being in a fog and cannot see my way out, of looking long down that tube and not seeing any light at the other end of the tunnel, and knowing that it's on the inside of me and I can't pull it out, it's on the outside of me and I can't get out of it. It's just there. I do understand what it means to feel loneliness.
And I want to tell you, there is a solution. And I want to share it with you. The first thing that is necessary to overcome loneliness, whether it is in passing or whether it is one of those long valleys of circumstances that you get thrown into that you cannot do anything about, you can't change it. What is the solution? First of all, confess it. Admit that you're lonely. You see, as long as I say, "Well, you know, I'm a Christian. I've got God. I'm not lonely". Well my friend, there isn't anything in the Bible that says that you and I, just because we have God, cannot feel lonely, or that it's a sin to feel lonely. For example, if you will look in the twenty-fifth Psalm. And you'll recall if anybody in the world has been a blessing to you and me, in the scriptures, as a character of God it has been this man.
This is the man about whom the Bible says that God said, "David is a man after My own heart". Listen to this man. In the sixteenth verse of the twenty-fifth Psalm: "Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses". Here's a man who knew God and he knew Him well, and yet he said, "I'm lonely". The second step in overcoming that loneliness and being able to survive it is this; and that is to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now listen carefully. You may not be a Christian. You may say, "Well look, don't give me this Christian bit. I'm lonely but I want a solution". I'm giving you one. And my friend, I know this one works. Listen to me carefully. God created you for Himself. He doesn't need you and He doesn't need me. Then why did He create us?
Here's why He created us: fellowship, companionship, intimacy. He wants to express His love, all of His love to you and me. He wants to walk with us and to live on the inside of us. And so, what does He do? Here's what happened; when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden what happened? The disconnect took place. Sin separated them. Why do you think they hid? You talking about loneliest they had been walking in the presence of God. They had this absolutely matchless, uninterrupted sense of complete and total oneness with the Father. And, all of a sudden, sin disconnected, ripped them apart, separated from them, no touch, no intimacy, out of touch, hiding themselves. And what happened? Every single one of us have sinned against God. Every single one of us got disconnected.
And my friend, when Jesus Christ came into this world. Here's the reason He came. He came to forgive you and me of our sins and then to do what? The Bible says He reconciled us unto Himself. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 17, 18. But I want you to look before you look at the scripture. Redemption, that is salvation is God forgiving us of our sins and reconciling means, what is He doing? He is reconnecting us. Reconciliation is to bring back into fellowship, bring back into relationship. And so, redemption, reconciliation, salvation, forgiveness is to bring us back into oneness, to reconnect us with our heavenly Father from whom we have been separated because of our sin.
My friend, you were created for God. You were created to love Him, to fellowship with Him, to grow in intimacy with Him. Nothing in this world is going to bring you back into that relationship but Christ. And my friend, there is not anything in this world that's going to give you a sense of fullness and completeness and oneness. You may be the richest person in your town. You may have the most preeminence and acceptance in their eyes but I want to tell you there's only one thing that can fulfill the human heart, only one thing that can make you sense and experience that sense of being reconnected and oneness and joy and indescribable, 'eirene' peace, being bound together which means to be made whole and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that comes about when you confess your sins to Him, acknowledge that you are separated from Him by your sins and acknowledge that when He died at the cross He paid your sin debt in full.
And when you receive Him by faith and just say to Him, "Father, I have sinned against You. I know that I'm separated. I feel the separation. I feel the this estrangement from You. I want this reconnection. I want to be forgiven. I want to be what You want me to be. I am asking You to forgive me of my sins. I'm asking You to save me, God, from myself, from my loneliness, from wrecking my life". He always answers that prayer.
Step number one is confessing our loneliness because it is not a sin. Secondly, entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And number three. Listen carefully now. Number three, developing godly friends. Now listen carefully. What kind of friends are we to develop to bring and help us through loneliness? Here's the kind. First of all, somebody you can laugh with. If you can't laugh with them they they're not going to help you. Somebody you can laugh with. Somebody you can pray with and know that they know how to talk to God. Somebody that you feel understands you and what you're going through. Somebody you can share secrets with and you know that they'll never tell a soul and somebody you can trust. I want to say it again because it's so very important. Somebody you can laugh with. Somebody you can pray with. Somebody you feel understands you and somebody that you can share secret with and never worry about them telling. And somebody you can trust. Everybody needs that kind of friend.
Now listen carefully. If I want somebody to laugh with me then I've got to be willing to laugh with them. If I want somebody to pray with me I must be willing to pray with them and understand them and be and be able to share their secrets and be able to be trustworthy also. You see, the wrong kind of friends are destructive. The right kind of friends will point you to God. Now, I want you to listen very, very carefully to what I'm saying. If you're listening say amen. Now listen. That friend is to be an extension of God in your life not a substitute for God. Not somebody who takes the place of God but somebody who is an extension of God. Somebody who's walking with you through those moments of loneliness, who's doing what? Who is reminding you, "God understands. Remember He's with you. Here's what He said".
Someone who is pointing you to God. When you have a friend who points you to God, they're an extension of the life of God in your life! And you see, if you make that person a substitute here's what happens; if that person becomes a substitute for God in your life you begin to cling and you begin to lean and you begin to draw out of them and to sap out of them their strength. Until finally, you know what happens? They can't handle that. And so what do they do? They just back off the relationship and then you have two problems. You were already lonely. Now you have another reason for thinking that you're not worthy of having a friend. And so, what happens is, when you back a friend off you intensify your own loneliness.
So, it isn't a matter of seeing that person as a substitute and just sapping everything out of them, because you and I are to lean upon God. Listen to me. He will never back away from you. Hallelujah. He will never back away from you. You can't sap infinite strength. Isn't that wonderful? You can't sap infinite strength. He wants us to lean upon Him. He wants us to depend upon Him. He wants us to draw what we need from Him. But He also wants us to have godly friends who can talk to us our language, who can feel what we can feel. You see, I wonder how many of you are the kind of friend some lonely person needs? Can you laugh with somebody, pray with someone, understand them? Can you keep secrets and can you be trusted? Here's what happens. When we go through periods of loneliness and God teaches us these things what happens is we become more valuable servants to other people who are going through those times.
So, first of all, there is confession; entering into a personal relationship with Christ; developing godly friendships and then, there's something about anchoring your soul to passage of scripture. And there's something about having that verse or that passage that God anchors you to. Because you see, all of us, at different times, are going to are going to feel loneliness for some reason or the other. So what do you do? If you take it God's way he you'll let loneliness drive you to Him. Listen, and loneliness, when responded to properly, drives you into the most intimate, rewarding, indescribable sense of relationship with God for which there is not explanation or no description.
And what happens? Our loneliness can make us richer in our understanding of the ways and the love of Almighty God. Well, for me, personally, that verse of scripture that's my anchor. My mom gave it to me the Sunday before I preached my first sermon, Joshua 1:9. "Be strong and of a good courage; fear not, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go". How many times I've had to have that as my anchor. In fact, it is burned in wood and hanging over my study door. Every time I walk in and walk out I walk in and walk out under that promise. "Be strong and of a good courage; fear not, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with the whithersoever thou goest".
When the winds and the cloud and the fog of loneliness begin to just assail us there's something about having an anchor in the word of God. The last thing I would say is this; and that is, when those things hit you. Listen to me carefully. You have the privilege of crying out to God the Father. And you can simply say to Him what I say to Him, put it in your own words. "Lord, I am lonely. I am hurting. And God, You know that I desperately need You at this moment. You promised You would never leave me nor forsake me. You said when I had You I had everything. I just need You to put Your loving arms around me and hug me good, God".
Now why do I say all of that? To say this: because I know that there are a lot of you who are feeling the same thing and maybe a whole lot worse. And I want to tell you, you don't have to go to drugs and alcohol and affairs and illness and television and videos or schedules that will break your health or suicide. If you will confess your loneliness and enter into a personal relationship with Christ, He will enable you to develop godly friends and He'll give you and anchor for your soul in the word of God.
And my friend, He's always there for you to cry out to Him. And when you do, He will lift you and help you, strengthen you and overwhelm you not with a cloud but with the most awesome sense of indescribable love. Listen, and the awareness of His presence that will lift you out of your loneliness. It begins with confession and enter into a personal relationship with Him. And then, just trusting Him to do and to be what He promised. You can turn every moment of loneliness into a short lived moment, embraced in the arms of a loving Father who loves you unconditionally.