Charles Stanley - Overcoming Loneliness
Lonely people are unhappy people. They feel insecure, feel inadequate, they feel restless. Oftentimes they feel confused and they tend to waste time because of feeling lonely because their mind is divided. And when I think about their responses and how they operate based on that, they waste a lot of time. And a person's lonely, it's hard for them to concentrate. Their mind gets divided and they want to do one thing, end up doing the other. They find themselves wasting time wondering about why they feel the way they feel and who's going to help them out. So, a lonely feeling is a bad feeling. And so, I want us to look at a particular passage of Scripture that you have read many times, probably. But it's a good, it's a good example of what Jesus says to us when we go through those times.
So, I want you to turn to Matthew chapter eleven for moment and begin with verse twenty-eight, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, I'll give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light". This is a word of encouragement to all of you who feel lonely, because sometimes you're asking God, "Where are You? If You're there, why don't You speak? Why don't You show Yourself? Why don't You do something to make Yourself known"? And the Lord Jesus says, "Come unto Me and I will show you the truth. I will make Myself known. I will lift your burden. I'll take away your loneliness. I'll be sufficient for any and every need that you have".
So, when we think about loneliness, we think about an emotion that many people are not only troubled by, but overcome by, do not know where to turn, and sometimes the things they turn to are not the things that help them at all. And so, when I think about that, I think about the load that loneliness would cause you to feel. Loneliness is a heavy feeling. It's a feeling of being disconnected from something that is absolutely essential in your life. And when you think about loneliness, you probably think about maybe somebody or some place or something, experiences you've had in life, but how did you overcome the loneliness? What have you done to overcome it? And if you listen carefully to people, oftentimes who may be famous or who may be wealthy, who could buy anything in the world they want, but they can't somehow buy whatever it takes to take care of this loneliness in their hearts. They're searching for it, longing for it. And so, what I want to do in this message is give you some suggestions of how to overcome it.
You don't have to live in loneliness. That's not the will of God for us to live in loneliness. And He is our best friend. And if you'll think for just a moment, when Jesus was on the cross, think about this. When He was on the cross, they nailed Him to the cross, nails in His hands, His feet. It's in those moments He was paying the price for your sin and mine, and most of all, facing it without the Father's presence. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? If anybody understood loneliness, Jesus did. He does not intend for you and me to live lonely. When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you have a reason to believe the teaching of the Word of God that you will never be, listen, alone again. I didn't say you wouldn't be lonely. But once you trust Him as your Savior, you're never alone again no matter what you go through, what you experience, what you suffer in life, how good the times are, you are never alone.
Loneliness, yes, and loneliness is a plague in our society and in the world. We have everything that money can buy. We can go anywhere there is to have fun, and somehow, loneliness is like a disease. Loneliness has plagued us and people are looking for a solution. So, let's define, briefly, what we mean by loneliness. Listen to this, Loneliness is a separation anxiety brought on by the feelings of being disconnected, out of touch. It is a loss of intimacy or belonging, of feeling abandoned, ostracized, isolated. That is, something has happened in your life with somebody, with your family, whatever it might be. It's a disconnect. And people who have been through divorce, death, and all kinds of separations, they understand how absolutely telling that is on their mind, their emotions, and their body. God does not expect us to live a lonely life, and yet multitudes of people are doing just that. They have everything money can buy, but they're lonely.
And many people think, "Well, if I just had this, and if I had that, or if I had him, or if I had her, I would be fine". No, you wouldn't. There's not anything under God's creation or all of it together that can satisfy an emptiness in your life that only Jesus Christ can satisfy. Now, you may be watching or listening or whatever it might be, and you think, "Well, now, I don't really think that's true because this, that, and the other, so what I want to do is I want to talk to you about how to overcome that loneliness and let's see if what you're doing works". I know it doesn't work or you wouldn't have felt what you felt. This sermon, this message may irritate you. Well, if it does, good, because you may be getting along the pathway where loneliness is no longer the way you walk. So, let's think about some very specific ways that you overcome loneliness in your life. And the first one is this: admit it to yourself I am lonely.
There're many people who're lonely who will not admit it. They dress up and they smile, they go to parties, they do all kind of things and they act like everything's fine. Deep down inside they're very lonely. When they get home by themselves, if they live alone, they really feel the loneliness. They are disconnected. There's something they cannot identify. They want to be connected, but somehow they feel disconnected from their job, from their friends, so-called friends, from this, from that, from the other, and that's not the will of God, nor the purpose of God, nor the plan of God. But that's where a lot of people are living. And I think about it this way. Ask the question: what am I doing that's promoting loneliness in my life? You can be lonely and not know why. Now, if some member of your family passes away, or separation, divorce, or whatever we understand that. But what about that loneliness that you can't put your finger on? What about none of those things are true, but you're still lonely, still empty, still trying to figure out what's going on in your life.
And so, when you ask the question, what am I doing that promotes it? Listen carefully, something is promoting it. Something is promoting loneliness in your life. And if you are a child of God, you should not feel lonely. And if you still feel lonely, you have to ask yourself the question, what is it about my thinking, what am I doing, what about my relationships that's leaving me empty? And so, something is wrong. Especially if you've ever trusted Jesus as your Savior and you're lonely, something's gone wrong because you should not feel loneliness when you have the presence of Almighty God living within you who has said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you". That's the promise of God to every single believer. A third thing is this: admit that your present course of action has not eliminated those lonely feelings. Could you say that? Would you be honest to say that? The present course of action hasn't eliminated my lonely feelings. Or what's your present form of action? What is your present habits? For example, you drink alcohol and you try to drink away the emptiness. And isn't it something you've drunk for years and years and years, can't drink it away. You can't quench loneliness with alcohol. You may intensify the loneliness, deepen the loneliness, but you cannot eliminate it.
And a second way is illicit sex. You may have all the women or all the men you want, but that will not satisfy the loneliness in your heart. God never promised that it would. And we live in a world that's so sexually oriented, full of alcohol, full of loneliness, full of attitudes and actions that absolutely destroy the very idea of being connected with people, with Almighty God, with a sense of friendship and relationship that has purpose in it. Likewise, people have activities in their life that separate them from Christians and the church. And they also have habits such as drugs, for example. You think about what a problem we have in America with drugs. It's a major, major, major problem, destructive problem. Why do you think people get on drugs? They're trying to feel something. You know what they can't feel? They can't feel the connection, and so they think one more this, one more that, one more the other's going to get me together. No, it's not. It's going to get you sicker and deeper and deeper, in debt. No kind of drug can satisfy a longing in your heart that God created and placed it in your heart.
When you came into this world, He placed within you a desire for Himself. Anything you try to fill up that place with is absolutely null and void. And I think about how many millions of dollars... some people ruined their source of income, their job, their relationships, their husbands, wives, families. How many situations in their life that become corrupt? They ruin their life trying to find something that satisfied that loneliness. There is only one thing that ultimately will satisfy. And somebody says, "Well, I don't believe that". Well, I'll tell you what you do. Look around. Just look around. Watch the television. Listen to the news. What's happening in this country? There's an emptiness that's driving people to do most anything to satisfy that loneliness. The same thing would be true of shopping. People loaded up and they shop and shop and shop till they've spent all their money, and somehow they're going to be satisfied. By the time they get home, a couple of days go by, they got to go back and shop some more. They got to think up somebody's name that they can give something to to satisfy something inside of them.
I'm telling you, there is nothing on this earth that can satisfy the longing in your heart but Jesus Christ. I know you're listening and you're thinking, "Well, I know that's not true". Then tell me what it is. You can't because there isn't anything that fully satisfies the human heart but Almighty God, Himself. And yet, people go to all extremes. They sit for hours before the television and watch one program after another, get all excited about football or about some movie, and then what happens? It comes to an end. They cut if off. Well, what happened to you? I'll tell you what happened to you. The television left you alone. You're in the same room with the same stuff that you were sitting there with before or the same person and you're still lonely. There's only one answer. And people say, "Well, I, you know what? That's not true of me". Yes, it is. If you'll be honest, nothing you have, for example, I think about people who're billionaires. Do you think that they're happy? Not without Jesus, because they're worried to death how to keep it, who's going to take it away from them, or they feel so adequate that they can make more that they just ignore God. But deep down inside they're lonely, and that's not what God wants.
Then, of course, ask yourself this question: is this the way I want to spend the rest of my life and die and give an account to the Lord for a life of disobedience and waste? In all these years, I have never met a person who said, "I used to be a Christian, I used to go to church, I used to do this, I used to do that, but I just quit". I've never met a person who told me that who was happy, who would even claim to be happy, but always something missing. "Oh, I don't go to church again, but... I don't do this again, but..." but what? Still unhappy, still miserable, still lonely because without Jesus... think about this, He created us. He didn't have to. He created us, He gave us life. Why? In order to indwell us, in order to so work in our life that we would praise Him and honor Him and glorify Him and live for Him and reflect Him and spread that awesome sense of fellowship and love with other people.
So, I would ask you this: if you're one of those persons who's very happy, do you spread that around? When you talk to people about your relationship to Jesus, do you give Him credit for being the answer to your once loneliness? Because the truth is without Him, you don't have it. You can name anything that you possess. Without Him, you're still going to be lonely. And so, I say over and over and over again, Jesus is the One that does it. When you surrender your life to Christ, here's what happens. The Bible says you surrender your life to Christ, Jesus comes into your life, watch this, He comes to indwell you through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit, the Bible says, sealed you, sealed you forever as a child of God. You can't be saved, sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, and then unsealed. You may sin against God, and what happens? You lose your joy and your peace. You get out of the will of God, what happens? Do you lose your salvation? No, but you lose your peace, your joy, and your sense of security; but you don't lose your salvation.
God has sealed you as one of His children and has the best life possible for you. But if you walk away from Him, if you choose to go another route than His route, you're going to end up lonely. And as a result, you'll walk away wondering what happened. What happened is that you became disconnected spiritually with the very source of life, and that's where most people are living. So, you ask God to deliver you from any behavior that would drag you back. For example, if you've trusted Christ as your Savior, you're going along fine and, all of a sudden, you find yourself being lonely for some reason, whatever it might be. You got disappointed in something, whatever. Be careful not to allow somebody else to drag you back into the old lifestyle you were living in and find yourself once again empty when it was absolutely unnecessary.
Listen, loneliness is not natural for a child of God. It's natural for the world because they're not connected to the resource of life and joy and peace and happiness, all the rest. "My peace I give unto you," He says, "not as the world gives, give I unto you, let your heart be troubled". Not as the world gives because He knows that's not adequate, that's not sufficient. "Come unto Me," He says, "and I will give you rest". I will give you peace, I will give you joy. It's a relationship with Jesus. Listen, you can have relationship with the most beautiful woman or the most handsome man, most beautiful person in the world, most wealthy, name it. Without Jesus, you may try to get it together, but you can't get it together because Jesus is the Great Connector. He's the One who connects us with Himself and gives us a sense of joy and peace and happiness and not loneliness.
And sometimes you'll meet some of the happiest people you know who live by themselves. If having somebody was essential to being happy and having peace in your life, that wouldn't be true. But Jesus, when you surrender your life to Him, He begins to live in you what? A godly life and a life submissive to the Father and a life that listens to the Father. A life that dwells upon the Word of God. That's the difference it makes. So, ask yourself the question: where does all that fit in your life? And then, think about this. Cultivate a new friendship with somebody who will be an asset in your life. Sometimes that's exactly what's needed to overcome loneliness. Cultivate a friendship, watch this, not with someone who could drag you back down to where you were, but someone who will lift you, someone who will encourage you and someone whose relationship with Christ is very important, someone whose language, whose lifestyle, whose dress, whose demeanor, someone that you know looks like this is what Jesus would look like, a genuine friend who doesn't want something from you, but someone who's willing to be a friend to you.
You want to overcome loneliness, a godly friend, somebody who's willing to give of themselves to you in a godly way, that will lift us up, not drag us down. But He wants us to be strong enough to reach out to people who are living down, and who are lonely, and who need a friend. But watch this carefully, be sure you don't listen to the devil who says, "Well, here's somebody who needs you". You can help them. Just go. Not necessarily, because some people will drag you down. And God's already taken you out of that, and so God'll give you wisdom as to the person that you can help and He will give you a warning with the person you cannot help. There'll be people who are lonely who'll want to lean on you, and maybe that's not where you are in life, or you're not strong enough.
There's some things you couldn't deal with. You've already dealt with them once; you've gotten freed and liberated. You don't want to have to go through the same thing again, so sometime you have to say, "Well, thank you very much, and I can't do that, and there's some people you can't be a friend to because of their lifestyle, and what they're looking for". There're looking for somebody who will agree with them. They're looking for somebody who will enjoy the same sin that they've enjoyed. That is not freedom and that is not healthy. It's not what God's says you and I should do. Sometimes you have to walk away. God gives us wisdom to who we can help and who we cannot help. Or, if we're in a position spiritually to help them. Or if our relationship to Jesus is strong enough, that we can give of ourselves to them to help them. He'll show you who to help. He'll show you who you can be a friend to, and who, on the other hand, with good intentions'll drag you down.
You think about your children, think about teenagers, for example. What do you say to them, and your grandchildren? What do you say to them? Watch who you run with, because most of them will want to drag you down. "Well, you need to try this". There're some things in life you do not need to try. You need to ask God to give you wisdom to be able to detect in someone else's ideas about what friendship's really all about. Choose to believe the truth, that you're not alone, that Christ is with you every situation in your life. You're not alone. You may feel it, but you're not alone. He's always there, realistically. He is there, ready to reveal Himself to you. Do not believe that you're all alone. And remember as we said before, and I say it again on purpose, remember you have the Holy Spirit living within you. And when people say, "Well, I just can't be alone," what that's saying is that, emotionally, you are not mature enough to live alone if you have to. And so, what do you do? You got to have somebody.
Be on guard, be alert, be careful. The fire is out there, the traps are out there, the holes are out there. And if you're not careful, somebody comes along, you need to ask questions. Somebody wants to be your friend, find out who they are, what kind of friend they are to somebody else, and who's their friend? If somebody wants to be my friend, I want to know who their friend is. Their friend could be most anybody, so friendship is absolutely essential to a full life. But friendship, first of all, with the Lord Jesus Christ. He will show you who you can be a friend with. He will show you the person who needs your friendship for you to build them up. And then, I'm going to list some very practical things besides those, and another one is this: make it a priority to read the Word of God every day, a priority to read the Word of God every day and pray.
Now, when you start, don't go back over to Leviticus and start in that book, or Deuteronomy, necessarily, or First and Second Kings or Chronicles, start with the Psalms. If you are lonely, start with the Psalms. You say, "Well, where are they in the Bible"? If you take your Bible, cut it right in half, you're going to end up in the Psalms. So, you don't have a problem, find it. And you'll find David, who went through all kinds of situations and circumstances in his life, was dependent upon Almighty God. God'll begin to encourage your heart, listen carefully, when you read in the Word of God what God has said and desires to speak to you, who put this together? Man didn't put this together, this is God's Word in order to teach us how to live, how to relate to Him, how to be a friend, how to be a help, how to have a discerning spirit to know what's right and what's wrong, what's good and not good. He's given us His Word, and the Word is like fuel in our life, keeps us going spiritually, and energy within our life.
When He says, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you," "I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me," Paul said. So God's given us His Word. We should feed upon His Word every day for the simple reason this, watch this, you heading the wrong direction with somebody, but you're reading the Bible every day, you can mark it down. You going to read a passage that you weren't even looking for, and your name's going to be all over it. And God's going to be warning you, "Watch out, be careful, walk away, that is not the right relationship". Neglect the Word of God and you'll fall into traps. You read the Word of God and you pray daily for God to give you wisdom and direction, and, watch this, a discerning spirit to be able to detect what is the will of God and what is not. And listen, a person may dress like a million dollars, but their character may be worth about twenty cents. And so, you have to watch what you're doing. The Word of God.
Somebody says, "I don't have time to read the Word of God". Then you don't have time to follow God. You don't have time to keep yourself out of trouble. Reading the Word of God and praying every day, asking God to give you direction. Memorize a simple passage in the Scripture that you have to deal. For example, if I had some need and I didn't have any idea what in the world was going on, here's a passage I'd read, "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory". That is, whatever I need, He's going to provide. Now, somebody says, "Well, what about dealing with situations that can't be changed"? And I would say accept it, call on the Lord to help you through it. For example, your husband or your wife dies. You say, "Well, you're telling me that I'm not to feel any loneliness"? No, I didn't say that. Naturally, when somebody who's a part of your flesh almost is gone, you're going to feel it. But you feel it in the Presence of Jesus, that if God took that person out of your life, He had a reason to take them. And we can say it was this disease, that, that, whatever it might be, He took them. He knew that you would remain alone and God is going to be there from the very moment to remind you, "I am with you, I will never forsake you, no matter what".
So naturally, there are periods and times and trials in life that you feel it. But the issue is you decide not to stay there. And everybody is going to go through those times when we lose loved ones, whatever the reason may be, and we have to make a decision. And we can make a decision right then and there. God, I don't understand this. I feel horribly lost, but I know that You're with me because You promised me. And You wouldn't fail to keep Your Word. I'm going to trust You, God. Now, listen carefully. You may go a few days or a few weeks or a few months that you struggle, depending upon the situation, the relationship, and whatever it might be. But God, who made you that promise, will not fail to keep the promise that He's with you. Now, watch this, you may not feel, watch this, you may not feel this Presence. But you have to go on is this, either you have to go on the truth of God's Word or how you feel. But remember this, you can't live by feelings. You have to live by faith and trusting God.
Listen, you're naturally going to feel the loss. You're naturally going to feel the loneliness. The house is empty, the apartment is empty, condo's empty, car's empty, and so he or she is not there. Then what do you do? Where is God? He's right where He's always been, there to help you, to be able to accept that God has had His will in the situation, that He will be with you, for you, with you, through whatever's going on in your life, to enable you to walk through it, and walk through it successfully. That's who God is. He never promised everything would go to suit us. He never promised that everything would fit our schedule and our plans. Sometimes something happens, we have nothing we can do about it, but we don't have to be lonely. That loneliness is a loneliness that God will use to drive us to Him.
When our attitude is right, attitude is right, loneliness can drive us to Him. And then, I would say to you, reach out to serve somebody. There's something about giving yourself away to people. Be careful. Somebody'll take advantage of that, but you just say, "Lord, You told us we're to be servants, I'm willing to help someone". Watch this carefully, this is why the primary issue here is that the Holy Spirit is living within you, who will direct you to who you can help. There're some people you can't help, there're some people you can't be friend with, and God will show you that. He'll make it very uneasy for you to try to be a friend to somebody that He knows is not healthy for you. And so, you have to ask Him for direction for that.
Seeking fellowship with a godly person who will challenge you to be your best because sometimes God wants you to be a friend to someone because He knows they have a contribution they could make to you. They don't want anything from you, they want to do something that'll challenge you, grow you up, mature you, help you, encourage you. Those are kind of friends we all need. We all need the kind of connection in this life that builds us up, helps us, enables us, because doing that makes us possible for us to do that with somebody else. He does not intend for us to live lonely lives. And then, of course, I would say if you're going to live that kind of a life, when sin comes into your life, because none of us are perfect. We may say something, see something, do something, whatever it might be. When sin comes into your life, you confess it and repent of it right then. Not, "I'm going to talk to God about it later," right then.
Satan is always there to inject into your thinking something that will draw you away from God, or draw you to have a disconnect. In the world in which you and I live, we have to be careful every day. Where we work, where we live, what we do, where we spend, where we shop, whatever it might be, watch this, because we're living in a sin-filled, sinful, wicked, vile world. Look at what's happening all around us. Godly people have a connect with the Holy Spirit, who will show you exactly who you can relate to and who you cannot relate to. Somebody says, "Well, that sounds selfish". No, it's sounds very, very important because you have to make choices in life, and choices of who your friend will be is a very, very significant choice. "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I'll give you rest". Because He knows the weight, the weight of loneliness. It's a heavy, heavy, heavy weight; but God can take that weight off, and give you a sense of fulfillment and joy in your heart that only He can give.
And when I think about how significant it is that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into us so that you and I will never, watch this, we will never be alone, never, never be alone. You may feel lonely, never be alone because He sealed you with Himself. You will always have that connect. It may get ruffled at times by your relationships, but that connection's always there. Now, you know where you are in life, you know who your friends are, I would ask you this: are your friends dragging you down or lifting you up? Are they looking out for your best interest or their own? Are they giving you presents because they want something or because they love you? Are they truly faithful to you, or just giving you the image that they are? Who in your life is a true, genuine friend? Who's courting your friendship who has ulterior motives?
In this day and time, we have to ask questions. We have to ask for God's guidance and direction and leadership in our life. Then, when He gives you a sense of mm, mm, mm, mm, mm. No, no, no, no, no. You don't ignore that and keep going. When God stops you in a relationship, He's saving you from disaster. And so, you listen to Him, you obey Him, and you have the awesome joy of having godly friends who'll build you up, never tear you down. Now, think about this. What is true of you, true of your children, your grandchildren. You want your grandchildren and your children to choose the right kind of friends? They're going to look at you. Who built up my dad or my mother? Who built up what kind of my folks did my grandparents have"? Life is so entwined, we have to keep our eyes open, and our heart sensitive to the voice of God, then you'll have awesome friends that one day you'll meet in heaven and rejoice together. Amen?
Father, we love You and praise You, that You love us enough to want to be our friend. I pray the Holy Spirit will sink these simple truths into every heart who hears them; that You would send a warning to those who're headed in the wrong direction; that You'll give strength, energy, and enjoyment to those who're walking in Your ways. Thank You for loving us enough that we'll know, forever, that You always have been, always will be our very best friend, in Jesus name. Amen.