Dr. Stephen Phinney | Oct. 22, 2020
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
Loneliness is never easy to endure. It is impossible without the appropriation of the indwelling Life of Christ. Yet, millions of people worldwide search for ways to eliminate this dark cloud of emotional despair. The leading instigator is social isolation. The social isolation and distancing associated with the COVID-19 pandemic certainly don’t help. Among its many effects, loneliness can exacerbate and bring upon a host of mental, spiritual, and physical conditions.
Loneliness is the common cold for the psychological part of humanity. It’s easy to catch and difficult to get over. Confusion is the leading symptom related to loneliness, which sets off a host of problems related to its demise. The “catch-all” placeholder associated with it is “depression.” The truth being said, it is not. All aspects of loneliness start with an honest grasp that an event or lack of relationship(s) has confirmed isolation, which opens the door to persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness.
The feeling of emptiness is the most dangerous aspect of loneliness. Emptiness opens the door to hopelessness and pessimism. While hopelessness causes the heart to grow faint, pessimism causes resistance to deliverance. This causes a destructive cycle of what the world calls “depression.”
Once loneliness becomes cyclic, it takes very little to reactivate the cycle. Emptiness passes from sweeping moments of isolation to a daily obsessiveness of the reality that they are indeed alone. When fact and feeling become marital partners in this demise, the human soul begins to demand a way out. At first, most attempt to remove these feelings through temporary fixes –food, shopping, immorality, drinking, drugs, and other superficial forms to temporary relief. Since the human mind intuitively knows these “crutch” habits produce more loneliness, they begin to question God’s existence, minimally that He doesn’t care. After this misnomer becomes a president, they seek a more permanent solution, such as thoughts and or actions of suicide.
TWO COMMON OPTIONS
Unwarranted speculation. A slip into the rut of unwarranted speculation and guesswork results in a desire to wring more detailed data out of Scripture than Scripture clearly provides. Meaning, they search the Scriptures to relieve their loneliness – making their “Christian-walk” self-centered. It is in this shift that the lonely person makes “all of life” about them. Resulting in a refusal, minimally resistance, to reaching out to others through the Gospel. Scripture’s comfort passages are inflated until the rest of what Scripture says is marginalized, pushing Jesus, His indwelling Life, and the Gospel to the edges and corners of heresy, which forms the “Me-Me Gospel.”
Shoulder-shrugging cynicism. A slip into the rut of shoulder-shrugging cynicism about the Biblical solutions to loneliness results in downplaying or ignoring Scriptures that address the selfishness of self-pity. A balanced understanding seems unattainable, so lonely Christians abandon a careful study of the practical solutions of tapping into the indwelling mind of Christ. The worst part of this irony is if the person is being led to Christ through their loneliness, they ultimately miss the boat of salvation. Jesus is decentralized as readers fail to wait expectantly for their Savior as the consummation of God’s plan to fill their loneliness with His Life.
LONELINESS IS A HELPFUL TOOL
Yes. You read that title correctly. Loneliness is a manifestation of the lack of the reality of the appropriation of the indwelling Life of Jesus. It is the enemy of God’s reality. Furthermore, it is evidence the individual is covertly, or overtly, denying the promises stated in the Scriptures regarding we are never alone. In brief, it is a sin of unbelief. Since God is encapsulated in Grace and Mercy, He uses these erroneous feelings to cement the Truth.
All loneliness starts with truth – I am being isolated. While the first step should be in a healthy self-evaluation, most avoid this step. Isolation can be a consequence of committing grave immorality, offending another, being lazy in relationships, or any other fleshly action that produces isolation instigated by others. Simply said, it can be a result of a person’s self-initiated sins. Under these circumstances, the individual needs to repent of these wrongs and self-initiate the broken relationships’ through a relentless rebuilding attitude.
However, many lonely people suffer from isolation unjustly. It can be as common as the social distancing related to the COVID virus or through more depraved modalities such as others punishing through silence.
Punishing through silence is not only depravity in action; it is the leading human reaction to being hurt in our world today, minimally to shut others up. The irony is lonely people punish others by causing others to feel loneliness. Humanity tends to perpetuate the same sin as they struggle with daily. A Biblical fact that the enemy uses to blind the masses.
Starting from the top of the list, accept the fact that you are isolated – either through your consequences of sin or by being unjustly treated by others. Facts are facts. Facts do not lie. Skipping this step will produce more feelings of isolation.
Next in line – calculate your reactions to the isolation period you suffer. As believers, our reactions frequently is more important than the circumstances in which we live. At least that is what I have learned. Once you list your reactions to your circumstances, hand them over to the Lord. Ask Him to show you how to set your mind on eternal things. Confess any sins that might have caused you to hibernate in your isolation.
Spend time in the Word. Not only in comfort related Scriptures but in corrective Scriptures that will address your fleshly reactions. From there, seek passages that will admonish you in reaching out to those around you.
Take time to journal, write a blog, or post powerful lessons you have learned through your time of isolation. Don’t expect responses. Remember, the ideology of “non-responses snags the world.” It is true. The world, including “Christians,” are statistically more selfish today than any other time in history. My wife and I have learned to expect “one-way” communications. Meaning, we write, text, and post, assuming no responses from the world. When others DO respond, we are double blessed. It helps us keep the same perspective and mandate Jesus lived. I have to be reminded by our Lord to do what He asks me to do without a positive return. He has addressed my error in “doing to get” more times than I can remember.
We live in a lonely world. The world is filled with people who desperately need to be loved, accepted, and forgiven. If you’re like me, God forbid, at times, when walking after my flesh, I demand these elements from humanity. Fact. Humanity cannot provide love, acceptance, or forgiveness unless Christ releases those blessings through the believer. Outside of this solution, expect more emptiness.
Christianized rhetoric tells us that Jesus can meet your every need. While this is true, living such truth in a period of isolation can become our greatest challenge – at least it is for me.
Those who know me know that I come in and out of “dark places,” which is my way of depicting loneliness and isolation. The Lord never lets me get away with these internal temper-tantrums. He waits. I panic. Then, as per the norm, He tells me to “put your hands on the keyboard & write what I give you.” I hesitate. He nudges. And I obey.
Giving Life away to others is the most practical solution to loneliness. Yes. I understand that in a lonely place, it is the last thing you want to do. BUT, as for me, it works every time. To be perfectly transparent, I woke up this morning feeling sorry for myself. I was battling the issue of the sin of comparison. My pouting was finding its way into the dark cave of self-pity, which is walled in by loneliness and empty feelings of self-justification. Speaking of flesh making you stupid. I have visited this cave enough to know that NO answers are hanging on this depraved place’s walls. So why do I return over and over again? Well, it rather simple – misery loves company. I hate being alone. Somehow my flesh finds companionship with myself. After all, my self is quick to assure my flesh that, indeed, I am alone. At least someone agrees with me. Lol.
Without question, it is a paradox. I hate to admit it, but, on lonely days, my flesh is my best friend. Even though I know it will lie to me, lies seem to give me a false sense of security. And then – I see the shining light of the Holy Spirit busting through and reminding me to come out of this dark place. So, I hug the picture of myself one more time before departing and do what I do almost every time – experience His internal deed of transforming darkness into the light.
A FINAL NOTE
I minister because I am weak. My flesh screams at me to be strong. My flesh hates the exhortation of My Grace is sufficient in your weakness. My Spirit loves the words Jesus said to Paul following this admonition, …for power is perfected in weakness. It reveals the greatest among these is the weakest among the people. Earthly speaking, Paul is my Biblical hero. When he concludes his time with Jesus in 2nd Corinthians, he said, Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Allow me to paraphrase this for the sake of our topic.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the Lord revealing His everlasting presence, for this reason, to keep me from feeling sorry for myself, there was given me times of fleshly loneliness, dark times delivered by Satan to torment me—to keep me from self-pity! Concerning this, I went directly to the Lord, sidestepping people, asking for strength – that this dark place would be no more. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” I concluded, most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses and loneliness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Surprisingly, after adhering to this admonition, I become well content with weaknesses, loneliness, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake; when I am weak, I am strong. (Taken from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Well, it’s time to come out of that dark place. We cannot change the truth about the isolation that Christians and non-Christians alike experience. We can change what you are doing about it. As my wife says, Milk it for all that it is worth. Allow God to work all things together for good. I believe in this childlike action; we will discover that the sovereignty of God remains intact.