Dr. Ed Young - Overcoming Loneliness
I heard someone say, in conversation, loneliness is hell. Now, they didn't know that, but they made a very profound theological statement. Because loneliness is, indeed, hell. We search for definitions of hell, we look at the Bible. Fire and brimstone and judgment; annihilation, all kinds of definition. But the most overwhelming definition of hell I know anything about is: hell is a place where you can do anything and everything you've ever wanted to do. But think about it. Hell, a place where you and I, if we went there, could do anything and everything we've ever wanted to do?
You wanna make money, live in big houses, whatever you wanted to do, you can do it, that's hell. There's only one little catch to it. You can do anything and everything you've ever wanted to do, alone. Alone. Separated, away from any living being, forever and forever and forever. Loneliness is an overpowering word, it's an overwhelming word, to be alone, to be destitute, would be without any kind of relationship. Way back, if you study the English language, you'll find out that loneliness was not "used" very much. Until about the 16th century, you find the first definition. And it's very terse. It says, "Loneliness: A condition of being in solitude". And that's it. And it's not used very much.
In fact, in the latter part of the 17th century, a guy named John Rudd put together a glossary of words that were rarely used. And in that glossary of words happened to be the word loneliness. Because during the early years of civilization, and the early years of history in the Western World, nobody had time to be lonely. But then it evolved until finally... I remember in high school most of us studied John Milton. And we read that little book, "Paradise Lost," his poem there. And in that poem, is a very interesting little statement there, not verbatim, but it has Satan saying, "That when I walk the road from hell, all the way into the garden of Eden, that road was never traveled before, and it was indeed a lonely road".
Satan has always been connected with loneliness; in fact, Satan is a primary merchant of loneliness. He has sold loneliness, he has pedalled loneliness, and the tragedy is, now in our twenty-first century world, we're buying into loneliness. And a lot of people, when they've been separated in and of themselves, with their immediate family, they feel that loneliness, is indeed, hell. Interesting about loneliness. Many people believe it's the number one health problem in the world today. It's an international problem of being alone, of feeling estranged, of loneliness.
Many people believe that loneliness kills more people than the epidemic that we're now a part of, and the plague that's sweeping our world. Loneliness. It has with it a cold rain, does it not? Loneliness. Cigna did an international survey and talked with over 20,000 people, a lot of folks. And the result of that survey, and they asked them about loneliness, about being alone, and over half of the 20,000 said, "We feel lonely some of the times," and many of them said, "we feel lonely all of the time". A survey of general practitioners said one out of every five patients who come in their office will, in one way or another, talk about depression, or talk about loneliness.
Loneliness, what a word. San Diego State University, they took all of 20 different surveys that had been taken, and they put them all together, and the question was, "Where do you find the loneliest demographic, in all the world, where is it"? Maybe our senior citizens, some loneliness there, of course. But they studied all the demographics and they came up with an amazing, amazing story. We know that Baby Boomers, for example, they never knew a world without television. And then we see the other generations come down, they never knew the world without a computer. And now we have this Generation Z; Generation Z has never known the world without being connected to the web.
And this survey by San Diego State, as they looked at a lot of the survey, said that 98%, listen to this, of all Z generation young people, stay connected to the web every day of the week. And the staggering finding is, guess what generation is the loneliest, that talks more about loneliness, that feels more strange, than any other generation? It's Generation Z you say; well, what is that? Adolescence is from 10 to 17, Generation Z is from 18 to 23, and the Millennials are from 24 all the way to 37. And the Baby Boomers are beyond. And so we see that the adolescents today, they're lonelier than any other group, we understand, but no group is as lonely as the group that is the most connected!
Generation Z is connected all the time to all the world. They can almost hear anything, get anything, anytime, anywhere in which they find themselves, they get on that web. But they are very, very lonely. A lot of people have studied this and they decided that Generation Z has a lot of friends. A lot of quantity, but no quality. Generation Z has trouble looking you in the eye, carrying on a conversation, sharing with people that they really care about, getting to know people when they're hurting or when they're on top of the world. There's no deep generations there, no deep relationships there. Therefore, they're goin' through life separated, estranged and lonely, and they have a tough time relating in this moment in history.
When Theresa May was Prime Minister of Great Britain, she saw the problem in the British Isles. And evidently it's even far beyond the problem we have here. But Theresa May, when she was Prime Minister, established a governmental position called the minister to loneliness. And I looked up and studied it, I said, "What does this minister do"? This minister is charged with the responsibility of connecting people. Of starting small groups. Getting people involved in serving other people. And therefore, this minister and his staff, or her staff, worked all day endlessly, since 2008, to try to heal the problem of loneliness with groups and and activities.
You know, if I didn't know better, I would think that is the function of the social ministry of a New Testament church. But it's not there in Britain. And therefore their whole society is in trouble today. It is in serious trouble today. As is the family and society in the United States, as we have become more and more a people who are godless, who are moving away from the body of Christ and a personal relationship with him. This is what we have, folks. So many in our educational system have the idea: this is what we do, we have the power to... And to let parents love and nourish and care for and listen to. And the fabulous thing about this moment, is I've heard parent after parent, saying, as their kids are being taught online, it's been great to go to school with our kids.
So many parents have come away thrilled with their teachers, other parents have come away saying, "Oh, there's a problem in the classroom with my kids". This has been a fabulous time for us. But a lot of people in isolation, even with their family, still have this malady of loneliness. Loneliness. Being alone. Not communicating. Estranged. Not with other people except those we love the most. What a moment in history. Now: there are many kinds of loneliness. You can find category after category of loneliness, one thing after another. But I turned to the Scripture, and I talk about loneliness, and I thought about situational loneliness, we understand that. There are situations in which we get in, many times, because we have sinned and gone against the principles of God, and in that situation we are lonely.
Immediately, I thought about Judas, in the upper room. Jesus said to those Apostles, "One of you is going to betray me," and I thought it was so interesting, every one of them according to the Scripture, said, "Is it I? I am I the one"? They all saw the possibility. I'm not falling, Lord. Isn't that interesting? And Judas says, "Certainly, I'm not the one". And Jesus said, "It's the one I eat with, the one I put my bread down in the same bowl with, that is the one who will betray me". And it was Judas. Judas said, "You mean, you're talking about me"? And Jesus said, "You have said that". And the Bible says something very profound in one of the Gospels. It says that Judas went out and it was night. It was dark.
When we move away from Jesus Christ, in that situation, we always go from light into darkness. Situational loneliness. Sin always pulls us away from God. Sin always pulls us away from the crowd. Sin always individualizes and sin always puts scars and notches in your life, and in my life, that sometimes we carry those scars there forever, forever, and forever. Lonely. Situational loneliness. And sometimes we have situations, where we're alone, we couldn't help it. Maybe there's a health problem. Maybe someone that we love has left this earth. Sometimes we lose our job. Sometimes we have to move to another city, sometimes we changed schools and we're in a different organization, we're in a different environment and often a different culture.
And we sometimes walk into a crowd and there are people everywhere, but we're lonely, we don't relate. Nobody reaches out, and we reach out; they stiff arm us on the way. Certainly there is situational loneliness that all of us know something about. A friend that we believed in, we loved, and we thought they loved us, but in a certain situation they turned and walked away. Situational loneliness. Sometimes from sin, sometimes there's nothing we can do about it, it's a part of the challenges, the temptations, of life. The progress of life. Situation loneliness. But there's another kind of loneliness there. And it is aloneness, we find with Jesus, he's there in the upper room, the same passages of Scripture. And when he gets through he goes out, after wonderful teaching, we read there, especially in John. And he goes out in the garden of Gethsemane.
And we see now in Jesus, another kind of loneliness, which is emotional loneliness. And look what Jesus did. When he felt lonely, what did he do? Two things. He went and saw his friends, Peter, James, and John, the intimate circle. To come and go with him and to stay up with him. And to comfort him and to pray with him, because he had told them exactly what he was going to face, which was the cross. Which was the crucifixion. And he says, "Watch with me, pray with me, Peter, James, and John". That's what we do. We find ourselves lonely, we need to turn to our friends and ask them to be with us, to stand by us, to pray with us. And the next thing Jesus did, he went to the Lord. And the Scripture says he fell flat on his face. But you know the story if you're familiar with this biblical account.
Three times Jesus went back to his friends after sweat had come to his body, which was like blood. He was so overwhelmed with emotion. He went back and said, "Found 'em asleep". Friends asleep! First time, second time, third time. So the friends made him lonelier than before. But the father was with Jesus there in the garden. And we hear that passionate prayer. As Jesus looked into that cup. That cup. That cup was full of what? Iniquity. It was full of the sin of the world. Can you imagine it? He who was sinless now looked on the sin of the world and realized that God was asking him to drink the sins of the world. To drink the sin of the world as he would die on Calvary. And Jesus said in his humanity, he said it dramatically and powerfully, perhaps that was when he was lying on his face, he said, "Lord, you can do anything if possible. Let this cup pass from me". But he said, "Lord, nevertheless, it's not what my will is, my will in the flesh is," he said, "Thy will be done".
Oh, what a moment. We learned there, in emotional loneliness, what to do. Hopefully friends will be with us; if not, the Lord God Almighty is there. So we see different kinds of loneliness. And another kind I wanna put in as sort of a little footnote on the side, sometimes we feel in our loneliness, well, we've been forsaken by our friends, we can register that; our family, we can understand that; but sometimes we feel that we are forsaken by God. Let me tell you something. We, you and I, have never been abandoned or forsaken by God. No person who has ever lived has ever been abandoned or forsaken by God. If right now I were up the street and I had all the dynamite, all the explosives about, whatever it took, I was gonna blow the front off a vault of a safe and steal all the money that was there, God would love me. He would love me just as much as I was doing that crime as he does right now when I'm trying to understand God's word and apply it to my life and your life. God's love is consistent. He will never forsake us.
But sometimes we think, "Oh God has forsaken me". The horizontal may forsake you, as it did with Jesus there in the garden, but the vertical Jesus will never forsake you and never forsake me. That is an answer to loneliness. And, we move on to the one human being in all of history that was ever God forsaken: not in the garden, but there on the cross. The seven words he uttered. Jesus, from the cross, seven of the last words in the account in the gospel. Three of them begin with a reference to God; two of the words talk of God as Father, but in this cry, in this cry, he does not call God, "Father," he says, "My God". It's almost like saying, "Mr". Instead of saying, "Dad," now he refers to his dad as "Mr". and he hears his cry of loneliness, "Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani".
It is in Aramaic, that's the language that he spoke. Eli, Eli, Sabachthani. Strong words: "My God, My God, Why has thou forsaken me"? Jesus, totally abandoned, forsaken by God, God turned his back on him, and he didn't say, "Dad, dad"! He said, like, "Mr". Jesus even almost couldn't comprehend it there, in the flesh, he, who had always had a relationship with the father, now the father, in his moment of great need, turned his back on his son. Forsaken. Alone. Loneliness. Nothing. And the question is: Why would God do that? Why would God turn his back on his son?
We see the answer right here, in 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians, the last verse in chapter number 5. It says, "He, God, made him Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God". By the way, the little word "to be" there's in italics, it's not in the original. It would read, "He, God, made him, Jesus, who knew no sin, sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God".
Now go back to Psalm 22. You say, well, why did Jesus have to take all of this righteousness, all of this sin upon himself, so we might be righteous? Go back to Psalm 22, and that's what Jesus was quoting from the cross. It begins, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me? For from my deliverance are the words of my groaning". Verse two: "O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I have no answer". Loneliness. And then he says, "Yet you are holy". That's what this is all about. We have a holy God. And on that Holy God, somehow the great mystery, he poured all the iniquity, so that we might have a relationship with that holy God. We can't barge into God. He is a holy God. He is the other. But because Jesus took all of our garbage, all of our iniquity, upon himself, he was our substitute.
So now we can have a relationship with Almighty God, who is holy, and Jesus had to be forsaken because God, who is holy, cannot look on anything that is unholy. Jesus was God-forsaken, the only person who was ever God-forsaken, because all of your sin, and my sin, was poured upon Jesus. And also listen to this: all the success that Satan had had with people down through the ages was poured upon Jesus. Well, we sin, and we disobey, we fail God. When we sin, we get on Satan's team, and that's the victory that he has had over humanity. All of that was poured on Jesus, sinless, so that we might have a relationship with Almighty God. Jesus became totally lonely, experienced complete loneliness, horizontally as well as vertically, so you and I could vertically have business with God and receive Christ, and horizontally have a life that has meaning and has significance.
Let me tell you something. Loneliness is usually 99% at times sin. I know you can get a situation with health, extreme moments and loneliness will not be sin, but let's face it: your loneliness and my loneliness usually is sin. We spend so much time looking at our navel. We spend so much time, what that person said to me, what that person didn't do for me, and we whine and complain, and whine and complain, and we have pity parties every single day, and we get increasingly, increasingly lonely.
Listen: Jesus was crucified for your loneliness and my loneliness. He became the ultimate personification of loneliness, so that you and I would never be alone. God in Christ is there with us, every moment of every day. So people run around now, saying. "Boy, I'm lonely as hell, and I don't have friends and relationships, and you know I just feel I'm by myself in this world". Let me tell you something. If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never never be alone. Old Gospel song, old one. It's an interesting song. It said, "Jesus walked this lonesome valley, he had to walk it by himself, oh, nobody else could walk it for him, he had to walk it by himself".
Now, that's true. Jesus walked that lonesome valley. He had to walk it by himself, he did; he had to be God forsaken, when all the iniquity was poured in him, and that's so accurate. But the second stanza of that old Gospel hymn is not accurate! It says, "We must go and stand our trial, we'll have to stand it by ourselves, oh, nobody", no, that's not right! We don't have to go and stand that trial, because Jesus took all of that emptiness and loneliness on himself, and walked that path for you and me all the way to the cross, so we'll never, never be alone.
Genesis says, "It's not good for man to be alone". That's not just in marriage, that's in every relationship of life. He died on that cross, where we would never be alone. If you haven't received him into your life, let me tell you something: you will be lonely, and you are lonely, but if you received him in your life, he is in you, and you're in him, and you have fellowship with the Father, and I can tell you your life, whatever happens, whatever takes place, you will never, never, be alone. So quit whining and complaining and, man, awaken: go to Christ, go to his church, the body, and you'll find fellowship and meaning, and I guarantee ya, you'll not be alone.