(from Sunday, 7/7/19)
Loneliness is a feeling. Loneliness is not so much the cause of something, “I did such and such because I was lonely,” as it is a symptom. Loneliness points to something or better yet reveals something to us about ourselves such as: our condition, our circumstances or even what we believe. Everyone experiences the feeling of loneliness just as everyone experiences all of the emotions, some would argue everyday. Not all experience it to the same depth or severity, though I believe we are all capable of experiencing it to a deep, deep level.
The dictionary defines loneliness as a “sadness because one has no friends or company”. Though I do believe that not having any friends or company can cause loneliness and can be a part of the definition, I do not agree with this as an in depth definition. I also believe that, if you stop at the definition that basically says, ‘if you are lonely it is because you have no one,’ then you have believed a lie. During our discussion time the point was made that the reason the above definition is lacking, is because it misses the spiritual side of things.
Raise your hands if you have experienced the feeling of loneliness in a crowd, with company, in a friendship, in a marriage or within the context of any relationship?
Obviously, the feeling of loneliness is not eliminated just because we are in the company of others or in relationships. Loneliness simply reveals to us, the implanted need for true (deep and healthy) connection. God made us to be in communion with him and each other placing this innate desire for connection. We can ignore our need to be in relationship with God by trying to fill this hole with many things and other people. Also, we can ignore our need for community and family with people by hiding away with God. God must come first, but we cannot have a healthy relationship with God apart from love for and relationship with people. The two go hand in hand. Jesus says in John 13 talking to his disciples that if they love each other as he has loved them then they will be known as his disciples. This standard is true for us as well. This makes it obvious that we cannot be known as a disciple of Jesus’ unless we are connecting with other humans.
Just as with all emotions, loneliness is not good or bad, it just is. Often, the feelings we have, can feel bad, but that does not make feelings the enemy. Generally speaking, we can interpret many feelings as pain, like fear, anger, hurt, etc., and what we have learned to do in our society in response to pain is to mask it or numb it, rather than go to the source and evaluate it. We live in an Ibuprofen society. There is a difference between medicating and healing. Many of us, if not all of us, do not want to step into and experience pain when we recognize it, though this is often needed. With our deepest pains the only way to do this is with God, because he understands us better than anyone and he has always purposed us for freedom and wholeness. It is in the process of confronting these painful feelings that we learn from them, receive healing, grow and even mature. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for medication; I’m saying that medication cannot be substituted for healing. And truly, though we may stuff pain away, it never goes away, and it will continue to surface.
God made us for relationship with him, we know this because Adam and Eve were made for him and when Jesus came, he came to bring us back to him. Jesus makes it obvious that God wants to connect and commune with his beloved. The biggest sacrifice ever to be made was made for this communion to be possible. Jesus invited us into him, inviting us into the union that existed before time began. Loneliness is a longing for connection that began with God. God was complete before he made us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and in that, he has never been without company or friends. But because he is like a river, longing to find a place to pour through, he created us. He made us in his image, to be like him, to be in communion with him and to receive from him. He is generous with who he is and he is the very definition of love. He placed the desire for connection within us; it is a part of his image and thumbprint upon us. If we are not living in relationship with him, then we will feel lonely, though we may be in the company of many. If we have been praying to know him more, then his answer to our prayer may be him opening up the well within us to go deeper, in a sense, creating more space for him to dwell in. The spirit man is like God in that it is deep, beyond our understanding, and the prayer to know God more, opens up caverns within us to fill. The answer to our prayer can feel like pain, and yet “the ache in our heart draws us into the place we long for.” If we were to ignore or numb the pain, we may miss this opportunity. And if in our loneliness, we turn to God to commune with him, we will find him near. This is not always clear cut, and does not always happen as we would plan, but if we continue to pursue him, we will find him. Often the greatest hurdles are within our own heart and mind.
We don’t have to repent for having feelings, but we may have to repent for how we deal with them. When I got angry I lashed out and I’m sorry. When I felt lonely I sought out unhealthy relationships and I repent God. We may have to repent for the actions we have taken after having a feeling. I also think that sometimes we need to repent for conducting ourselves apart from God when dealing with or ignoring a feeling. If repentance is simply turning back to God, then a sin is simply turning away from Him. In repentance we turn to listen to him, receive from him (starting with forgiveness), think as he thinks and connect with him. Often a pattern of sin begins when we try to fill a “need” quickly, rather than investing and being patient. Deep relationships and true connection take time; trust is not built over night.
The thought to talk about this was re-introduced to me during the song Green Eyes by Coldplay, and the next song on the album A Rush of Blood to the Head. God speaks through many things and his beauty can be seen everywhere if we simply pay attention. Over the past week or so I’ve been listening to these songs hearing the longing of a heart.
This all stems from the innate desire placed within us for true connection. The loss of a loved one, a friendship broken, the estrangement felt during a fight with a spouse, all feels like loneliness because it fractures connection. True connection comes by vulnerability, openness, humility, sacrificial love and time. God had the first longing heart, and it is he that understands connection and communion better than any other for it is he that created it. We are upon this earth for this very purpose. ‘In the Present build relationship with God and others. The past can be full of regrets, the future full of ‘what ifs’ but the present is where we live.’ Be in the moment.
Growing with God, means making our ‘Yes’ bigger every day. It means that we will discover areas of our hearts that we have not invited God into. If there is a feeling that you are experiencing, that you haven’t shared with God, connect with him in that. If it is loneliness, draw near to him, receive him, and worship him. Turn to him, to hear from him, to think like him, to be one with him. Step over the hurdles that keep you from offering everything to him and receiving everything from him. God longs for you, to fill you with more of him, to give you everything you need and even the deepest desires that you have.
· Psalm 139:1-4, 12-14, 23-24 (Feel free to read the whole Psalm)
(vs. 1-4) David declares that God knows everything about him.
(vs. 12-14) David praises God for creating us mysteriously complex and that God knew us from the beginning.
(vs. 23-24) David invites God to search him, to know him through and through.
The two types of knowing are different, the first, simply God sees everything, and the second David invites God to know him in relationship. It is the knowledge of the first knowing that leads David to invite God to know him in the second, deep and vulnerable relationship. It is in the relationship where healing exists.
· Psalm 63:1-8 About David Longing for God; and
· Psalm 42 from Korah’s Clan, about longing for God, especially highlighting verse 7 where the psalmist expresses the truth of our deep and God’s deep communing.