Charles Stanley - Living In The Shadows Of Loneliness
The title of this message is loneliness: "Living in the Shadows of Loneliness". You'll recall in the very beginning of the Scripture, the Bible says that God said it was not good for man to be alone. And if you'd turn to that second chapter of Genesis and you'll notice after God had created everything, there was something missing. Created man and He said, "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone I'll make him a helper suitable for him.'"
Loneliness is not God's plan for us. And yet, many people are living in the shadow of loneliness. They can't tell you why, they just know something's not right. And they know that things around them are not what they ought to be. Something's missing in their life. You can have everything in the world money can buy, but if you're lonely, there's something missing. And that's what this message is all about. That is, where people are today in their relationship to each other, in their relationship to family, relationship to friends, people on their job. Everywhere you turn, there're people who're very lonely, don't know what the problem is, but loneliness is the issue. It's like a shadow that covers them.
And so, I want us to think about that in this particular message, and I want us to, first of all, distinguish between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is one thing, solitude is something else. And you'll remember Jesus, after He had been healing people and feeding the five thousand, went up in the mountains and He sent His disciples away. He said, and I'll meet you on the other side. That's when they got in the storm. So, the Bible says He was there alone in solitude. Now, He wasn't lonely, but Jesus knew how to worship the Father, to be alone with Him, and to sense the presence of Almighty God. On the other hand, you and I would define loneliness like this: loneliness is a separation anxiety, something happens, a separation anxiety brought on by the feeling of being disconnected, out of touch. It's the loss of intimacy or feeling of belonging. Something has happened when a person is no longer connected. Solitude is something entirely different. It's a time that you pull away from everything to be alone, talk to the Father, listen to God, and to be rejuvenated in your own mind and heart.
So, what I want to talk about is "Living in the Shadows of Loneliness" because that's what loneliness is all about. And the reason we call it a shadow is because something happens. And you'll recall when we had the last eclipse that, just for a few moments, the moon separated us totally from the sun, and there was darkness, a mix of darkness and coolness. There was a sudden, awesome, awesome feeling that went on. Didn't last long, but it was a separation from all that light. And there are a lot of people who live in an atmosphere of loneliness. They don't even know what's going on, but that's the problem.
So, what I want to do in this message, I want to describe to you what loneliness is really like. And then in the next message to follow this this one, I want to talk about how to get out of loneliness. How do you walk out of this shadow? How do you uncover from that? So, I want us to think soberly about this. And so, when I think about the nature of the life of loneliness, it's a feeling of being disconnected from one another. It happens in divorce, it happens when children walk away from their parents, or vice versa. When you walk away from your job or you get fired, whatever it might be. And a confession of someone in this shadow may go something like this. It may be, "I want somebody to listen to me". Or, "I feel like I'm in a dense fog, somehow". Or, "I feel isolated, shut out, by myself. I feel unimportant. I feel empty, I feel purposeless, I feel incomplete, I feel inadequate".
There's a feeling. There's something that goes on inside of you that does what? When those things are true, you're not close to, you're separated from. And millions and millions of people live in that shadow of loneliness. Something is not right. Separation doesn't even begin to describe how they really feel. And so, when you think about it, you can't really adequately define it, probably, but it's the inability to find, on a human level, a relationship that is satisfying, that's lifting, that's motivating, that brings happiness and peace and joy in your heart. It's not there. So, if I should ask you today, "You a happy person"? Would you say that you're contented, that you have joy, you have great friends, that you like life the way it is? You can make some improvements, but you feel like you belong. And that sense of belonging is a great sense of satisfaction to you. Most people don't have that. And I'll show you why as we go through this message.
And so, it leaves us with a feeling of being abandoned, disconnected, something's not right. And yet, God destined us when He created us to walk together, not alone. That's why He says it's not good for man to be alone or woman to be alone. And so, when you think about it, when a person feels lonely, sometimes they can get very resentful. They don't know why they feel resentful. They don't know why they feel rejected. They just know they don't have the feelings they want to have. You can live with somebody and be lonely. You can live without them and be lonely. You can have all the money in the world you want and still be lonely. This is why we find so many people going to counselors and trying to find out why they feel so empty. What's the disconnect? What's wrong? Loneliness is a big issue. It's an awesome issue. It's, for many people, it's an inescapable issue, but you can escape it. You can be cured of it. You can get through it. You can conquer loneliness in your life if you're willing to be honest with yourself and honest with God.
And so, what happens? When people feel these ways, they just build a wall. And you know people like that. They build a wall and you can't get to them. And what they don't realize is this wall they built to shut you out also shut them in. They don't want to talk to you, they don't want to share their life with you, they're very critical, they're self-sufficient, self-adequate, they think. But deep down inside, what's happened is, because they don't get along, because they've felt disconnected, they felt shut-out, they just decided, "I'm not going to feel that way, so I'll just live my life without". You build a wall, you're in the wall. That is not the solution to loneliness, and yet many people think it is. So, let's think for just a moment, what does loneliness affect in a person's life? Think about this for a moment.
Now, if you're lonely, it has to do with an emotion, a very important emotion about your self-worth, about who you are, who you think you are, who you really are. And so, how does loneliness affect people? Well, the first way it affects you is your health. People who're lonely are prone to become unhealthy early in life. They don't know why. They don't relate that to how much they eat, how much they drink, how much they sleep, where they go, what they do, how they spend their time. And oftentimes become very unhealthy. A second thing is this: it has to do with their finances. When a person is lonely, what do they do? They want to stroll the malls, and they look at this, and look at that, and if I had this, this'd make me happy. If I had that, that's exactly what I need. I've been saving my money for this one over here. And nobody else is going to buy this, so I'm getting it for myself. I am going to look like I'm somebody. And so, what do they do? They spend their money. Credit cards don't satisfy loneliness. Strolling through the mall doesn't satisfy loneliness. All the people around you does not satisfy loneliness.
There's something deeper than that, and yet that's the way people want to cover it up. And then, of course, there's relationships. People do get into all kind of relationships and the truth is, watch this, they feel disconnected, and so if they can get in a relationship that makes them feel like they count to somebody, they're valuable to somebody, somebody wants them, somebody may like them, somebody may love them, and so what do they do? They get into relationships that sometimes do not work. And then, of course, it affects a person's morals. How many people have gone to bed with somebody else and began to live an ungodly, adulterous life, a sensual life trying to fill up something, now listen to me, nobody else can take the place of God in your life. It doesn't make any difference how handsome he may be, how beautiful she may be, how rich they may be, nobody, God didn't build us to be satisfied with sex. He gave sex as a pleasure and for creation, of course, but not to satisfy a person's emptiness without Christ. And so, we have a whole world of people who are living a life of immorality trying to find something, somebody, that somehow would satisfy this emptiness, longing, yearning in their heart.
And then, of course, people dress. They dress. They dress how? Not everybody, but when people are lonely, what do they do? They find the best they can wear. They want to look the best they can look. In other words, when somebody's lonely, when they walk in, they want you to see it. And some people have a poor self-image. They never have liked themselves. They don't like where they were born, they don't like their parents, they don't like what they have to drive. They don't like where they work. So they have a bad self-image. And so, what happens? Naturally, still feel lonely because if they don't like themselves, surely you wouldn't like them. It's a trap. It's a trap that affects every single aspect of a person's life. And when I think about a person's social life, what's the purpose of the relationships you have? Is it because you want to be seen, to be felt? It's this, watch this, it's this feeling of connection. If you can just be connected with somebody or some group, you're okay. But you get disconnected and you're all alone. What happens is you begin to judge yourself. You begin to accuse yourself, and you look at yourself and think what's wrong with me? What have I done? What's happened? Why do people think little of me as they do?
Now, I hope you're not lonely, but I want to give you some characteristics of what happens when a person becomes lonely. Jot down what you think you need to look at and think about, because in a group this size, there're a lot of lonely folks in here. Listen, many lonely people go to church, and the tragedy is they go to church and nobody recognizes that they're looking for something. They're looking for friends. Don't you think that in a church you would find friends? You'd find somebody who cares? But not necessarily. And so, I want us to think about loneliness and think about if it happens to be a part of your life. And I'm going to give you a long list and you can think about it. So how do we end up in this shadow of loneliness? What happens? First of all, by separating ourselves from other people and choosing to be alone. "Don't bother me. I just want to be by myself. When I go home from work I want to be by myself. While I sit and watch TV, I want to be by myself".
Secondly, feeling deserted by other people. Naturally, when there's a breakup of marriage, somebody feels deserted by the other one, deeply hurt, and there's separation, or disconnect emotionally, physically, and every way. And likewise, when a person is forcefully removed from a safe and secure environment, whether it's the home, or whatever it might be, they feel lonely. Because, listen, God said it's not good for man nor a woman to be alone. He made us not to walk alone, but to walk with each other, to be together, to feel the awesome sense of being wanted, loved, and as we say, for example, when you're children come along, you hug them. Why do you hug them? You want them to feel something that you feel for them. You want them to feel safe, secure, loved. You talk to them about how sweet they are and how loving, on and on you go. All you're doing is building security in them, strength, and feeling wanted. A child grows up in a home unwanted, indifferent, and all the rest. They spend the rest of their life, unless somebody gets to them, trying to overcome that emptiness.
Now, let me just say this. Fathers, you have an awesome responsibility to your family to be the dad that's a part of that connect that makes that child always feel he or she's connected with my daddy. My daddy this and my daddy that. You can meet any woman, any woman who is loved by her father and she feels it. You talk to her. She's got smiles, "Well, have you met my dad? You met my daddy? My dad did this. My dad did that". Because God made us this way, and the sense of security is often found there like no other place. Then, of course, sometimes having suffered a defeat in life, there's a letdown, and so you feel like, "Well, maybe you don't measure up". And then sometimes people get too busy chasing success to relate to others, and all of their attention is on their job and their career and this and that and so forth. And so, they have no time to build relationships, and then they come to the age in life and they look back and they, "What do I have? Well, I got money, and I have a nice house, and a nice car, and all these things, but what is missing in life"? What's missing is relationships.
Relationships are very, very important in the eyes of God. Then, of course, there're people who suffer from burnout. They work and work and work until their health is hurting, they didn't have time to build friendships and so they feel very lonely. They've done everything you can do to succeed in life, but somehow, they left out the most important thing, and that's their relationships. And then, of course, there's the loss of a loved one. You've lived with somebody, whether it's twenty years or thirty years or forty or fifty, and then the other person is gone. And naturally, the loss of a loved one is going to cause that feeling of loss, but you know what? I meet people who've lost their loved ones, solid as a rock. They have memories that they'll never forget. They've a relationship that not even death can separate them because what? When they were together, they genuinely loved each other. They planted something in their hearts that'll keep on growing past this life.
You don't have to give up and quit because somebody you love dies. But you build the relationship while they're here. Then, of course, there're people who feel very inferior and unworthy and insecure. That's feelings they have. Probably because they got that from their parents who scolded them and scolded them, and said, "Well, you'll never amount to anything. Why don't you do thus and so"? And what they did, they tore down some of that person's self-image, and what did they do? Instead of building a relationship, listen, if your son or daughter doesn't have it like you want it, build them up, don't tear them down, don't criticize them, don't tell them that they'll probably end up in prison. You tell somebody that, and more than likely, that may be exactly what happens because you've planted the idea in that kid's heart they weren't worth anything, so therefore they'll just end up in prison. Our words bear awful, awesome results and sometimes terrifying results. Then, of course, there's the feeling of being ostracized by being different because you don't conform. You don't think the way certain people think, and you don't do what they do. And so, they just ostracize you. They don't have any particular care for you, and so they just ignore you.
And there're a lot of people who feel ignored, ignored by their parents, ignored by their family, ignored by the people they work with, which is a very demeaning thing. Everybody has some sense of self-worth. God made us that way. When He died, the Scripture says, He died for all of us. That means every person has worth, but when a person doesn't feel like they do, they go through life damaged. They never reach the optimism that God wants them to have. They never reach the stage in life that God wants them to reach emotionally and spiritually. The awesome thing about becoming a child of God is that the Lord comes in your life and seals you as a child of God. You're forever a child of God. Listen, you have a security that is eternal security, because God loved you enough to save you, forgive you of your sins, no matter what you've been through, and there're people, of course, who will judge you because of what you've been through in life or where you were.
All of us have been somewhere. And by the grace of God, we're where we are. God wants us to sense His love for us, that no matter what's happened in your life, God loves you anyway, and you don't have to give up and quit and say, "Well, I'll never be anybody, I'll never amount to anything". If you say that, you program your mind that programs your whole system and your actions begin to follow what your mind tells it. Then, of course, they have conflict with people and misunderstandings. And instead of trying to settle that, they just walk away. And so, all of us will have misunderstandings about some things, but God, God has given you the spirit to be able to deal with issues in life without giving up, surrendering, turning away, walking away, and as we said, building this fence around your life. Because God loves every single one of us, and He wants us to walk together in oneness and in harmony, and yet some people never will. And then, of course, you choose to take a stand about your conviction, you get rejected.
Listen, Jesus got rejected, the apostles got rejected, down through the ages, people who have Biblical convictions of the truth, they're going to get rejected. Then, of course, there are people who get excluded from some social group because they don't fit. You know what? All of us would probably be misfits in some situations. I certainly hope I would be, and you hope you would be. God has made us to do what? To connect with people whose relationship to us would make a difference in their life, a good difference. You don't ever give up and think, "Well, nobody cares about me, and I probably wouldn't fit". You'd be surprised. There're many people who'll reject you.
Now, watch this, people reject you, not because they think they're better than you are. Some people will reject you because your sense of satisfaction, peace, joy, happiness is a threat to them, and they can't stand it. It's hard for them to stand the fact that you feel secure, you feel adequate, you come to work on Monday morning, and you're smiling, and you can't wait to get there, and God's blessed you over the weekend, and they come dragging in wondering what's wrong with you? No, the issue is what's wrong with them, because they don't have the relationship you have. You know the Lord God loves you, the Holy Spirit's living within you, He's helped you, He's enabled you, you have Him to guide you through your life, and they're living it alone. Loneliness is never God's plan, we all need each other, which means because I'm needed and because you're needed, we make ourselves accessible to other people. We love them, we're willing to forgive them. We all get hurt in situations and circumstances, but we forgive them, why? I'll tell you why, because the relationship is far more important than getting my ego satisfied. We all make mistakes, we all say things at times we shouldn't. And yet, we ask God to forgive us and we move on. Or somebody hurts us, what do we do? We don't just curl up in a ball and say, "Well, I quit, I'm leaving," no. We forgive them and we keep coming back, building a relationship.
It's a wonderful, wonderful feeling to have friends who are genuine friends, friends who understand you when you don't feel the best in the world. You don't always act the best in the world, but they're true friends. They're friends that are not just sort of connected, they're really connected. They love you for who you are, not because of the way you dress, what you drive, where you live, how much money you make, they're just friends because that's who they are.
So, ask yourself the question: to whom are you a friend, and they know that you're a friend? You'll stand by them through thick and thin, you can be counted on. Are you a friend to anybody like that? Or are your friendships a little soft? Maybe not all that they ought to be. And then, of course, there are those people who retire, and they act like nobody cares anymore. You don't work to retire, you work to satisfy the will of God in your life, become the person God wants you to be. He may let you live to be fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, or a hundred. The issues is, does your life count? Are you giving yourself away? And there're some people that you probably think, "Well, I could never relate to so and so". And every once in a while, I meet somebody that my first thought may be that, and then I just get so surprised because I can't wait to see them again. Because they didn't let age, color, language, anything else define them. They're who they are, they're who God has made them to be, and they have given themselves away in friendship, fellowship, and they're willing and ready to talk about it.
In fact, one place that I usually go once in a while to eat, I was there not too long ago, and over on this side next to the window were five elderly men. They all — I don't want — how old they were, all looked a whole lot older than I am. Anyway, they looked that way, but they were having the best time, and I thought I would just love to get over there and listen to what's going on. They were laughing and talking to each other and carrying on, and one of them recognized me, and he came over and sat down, and then it was on. He had to tell me about himself and had to tell me how long he lived there, what he had done, wanted to know if I fished, did I hunt, did I play — he asked me all these questions, then when he found out everything he wanted to know, he went back to them and started telling them. And so, here were five men who'd retired and they had some age on them, but they were happy. You know why they were happy? They had at least four other people with whom they had a great relationship. That's what friendship's about. That's what being yourself and opening the door of your life to somebody. And then, of course, we cease to be who we ought to be because we get betrayed by somebody.
Husbands and wives betray each other, and what happens to the relationship? It gets marred, it gets broken, and it becomes a very, very dismaying thing. Then there're people with whom we relate to that we alienate. We're cocky, we're prideful, we don't care about them, and so we alienate them, and in the process, we alienate ourselves. If you feel left behind, what happens? If you're left behind, you feel like somebody doesn't care, and especially if somebody you care for doesn't seem to care for you, that's painful. They ignore you, they don't include you, whatever doesn't make any difference what the reason is, if you feel shut out, uncared for, not included, it's painful. What happens? Emotionally, there's a disconnect, and you're going to feel lonely. You may promise that you'll do thus and so, that's not the issue.
All of us have this little bit inside of us that needs to be fulfilled by love, understanding, forgiveness, and all the rest. And so, there're people who feel like they're shut out because of age. And many people, I think, probably you can walk in some hospital rooms, and some areas where many, many people there with a lot of age on them. Some people feel loved and accepted and cared for, and the others don't. Now, think about this, who of us is too important, too busy to care for somebody? Listen to me carefully, all of us one of these days could find ourselves in that same position. But you won't if you learn to live and forgive and forget and reach out and smile and love and care for and understand and forgive. It's a matter of our attitude. When I'm genuinely connected to our Lord, I can connect to other people. If I'm not, I'm going to be so self-conscious about what I need, what I want. Why don't you do this for me? Why don't you do that for me? I'll never have any joy in life. And many people who have everything but joy, happiness, and a sense of fulfillment. Got everything else, but they're going about it in the wrong way. If you get so independent you don't need anybody, you've made a miserable mess of your life. All of us need to feel needed, wanted, loved, amen?
And then I'd mention one last thing. Listen carefully, by the destructive habits of drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, gambling, and many others, people live in the inescapable shadows of life trying to find a sense of contentment and peace and joy. If you are miserably unhappy, instead of looking around somewhere else, ask yourself the question: how did I get this way? Why do I feel the way somebody treated me, or is it because I've allowed somebody to treat me, or I've allowed to be mistaken or feel the way I feel? I'm never excused by God for being bitter, never excused by God for being hateful, being insensitive, and uncaring because we are followers of Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father has built within every single believer the capacity to love, forgive, to be loved, to be understanding, to be caring for all who are willing to accept it.
So, ask yourself this question: are you lonely? Are you covering it up the best you can? Why don't you just stop and say, "Lord, made a mess of my life, shut myself out, built myself in this wall. I need You to set me free, Lord". If you're willing to confess your sins, confess your errors, confess your failures, and confess that you've just made a mess of your life and you want God to forgive you and to cleanse you of all of that. You want a new beginning. You want a new start. You want the joy and the peace and the happiness and the contentment that God promised. If you're willing to ask Him to forgive you, wash your hands of all of that, tear down the wall and say, "Lord, here I am, I'm asking You to forgive me. I'm asking You to begin to work in my life, help me to begin to reach out to other people. To be loving, to be understanding, and see what happens. God will change your life in the most awesome fashion, if you'll let Him.
Father, how grateful we are that You love us, You care for us, You're concerned about us. In fact, You died for us, and You came in the Holy Spirit to live within us a life of joy, peace, happiness. Troubles, trials, heartaches, yes, but You said You'd never leave us nor forsake us. Would you fill empty hearts today with Yourself? And let those who are involved in every kind of activity that they've tried to fill up this empty place, lay it all down and trust You to be their Savior, their Lord in their life. And we praise You in Jesus' name, amen.