Loneliness… The Gift from God

I think if the question were asked, “What are the bad feelings that none of us want to feel” I believe loneliness would be somewhere at the top of the list.  These “bad feelings” often get misunderstood and are thought to be only negative, or destructive to us. Truth is, God is behind more of these feelings than we may think.

Think about loneliness for a moment, what are some of the things it motivates you to do? When we get lonely we start calling up friends, looking for something fun to do, sit down to watch some TV or a movie, or grab a good book. No matter what it is we do, we just don’t want to feel lonely any longer. Fact is, God uses loneliness to draw us closer to Him, but we often times fail to see it. We think there is just no way God could ever use such a feeling to try to get our attention. But He does.

How a person handles themself while lonely speaks volumes of their character. I’ve never heard of a satisfied house wife cheating on her husband, or a satisfied young person committing suicide. It’s loneliness that drives a person mad; or is it really just giving us the time to self reflect and discover who we truly are inside? Sure, we can turn up the music to try and drown out the voice, but it’s still speaking. Our hearts are longing for a deeper relationship with God, but we’re just confused. We’ve so disparately tried to fill up every moment with stuff so that we never have to be alone with our thoughts.

Understanding how to deal with these thoughts, and no longer having to shut them out is the true key to happiness, joy, and peace.

False Conditioning 

We are conditioned to believe that God would never want us to be lonely, or struggle, or worst of all, hurt. We are conditioned to believe that when we’re lonely, our “idle minds are the Devil’s playground”. This misconception opens us up to all sorts of other misunderstandings. Such as, “maybe I’m lonely right now because I’m not busy enough for God. Or maybe I’ve somehow displeased Him and He’s left me and will not return until I make things right.”

These thoughts are all products of a poor understanding of loneliness.

Loneliness, the Gift from God

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31 ESV).

I wonder if “waiting on the Lord” ever produced any loneliness in the heart of man? Even King David said, “When though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Sounds like to me loneliness was something this king was very familiar with.

His adolescent days were spent all alone out in the fields watching over his father’s sheep. No friends, no family, or entertainment to keep him occupied. It was just him, God, the sheep, and his worship. It was the burning desire to worship that kept him fulfilled. And loneliness was the gift God that gave to David to help him find that place of worship, and ultimately, would shape and mold him into a king that would later be called, “The apple of God’s eye”.

Maybe it’s time we stop running from loneliness and start embracing the gift God that God is trying to give us.

God Never Wastes Our Pain

“I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself” (Philippians 3:10 The Message).

It’s not in the heart of man to want to suffer for the sake of Christ. We want a life of ease and comfort. We want a God that fills up our bank account, dries up all our tears, heals our wounds, and always puts a smile on our face. This is what Jesus was referring to when he said to Peter, “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mat 16:23).  We have somehow believed that a life lived for Christ is one of continuous peace, love, and happiness. When some find out that suffering is involved, they want nothing to do with it. But you see, suffering is not put into our lives just for the sake of suffering, or because God is angry with us. It’s so that the sufferings of others will be taken to heart, and we will reach out to them with all we have. Without personal suffering, other people’s stories of suffering will be nothing but their stories to us.

You may ask yourself, “why would I ever want to live a life for Christ if I have to endure all this suffering?” The answer is easy. In this life we ALL will suffer, but wouldn’t you rather have your suffering put to good use?

The Suffering of Paul

If there was anybody that understood something about suffering, it was Paul. Just before his baptism, Ananias was complaining to God about having to go to the murderer Saul and baptize him. Gods’ words were, Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake (Acts 9:15-16 KJV).  God didn’t tell this to Ananias for the reasons we may think, it had noting to do with setting the score even with the murderer Saul. God had the intentions of showing Saul the pain of the world so that he could understand it better, and in turn, win even more people.

Saul, after becoming Paul, later had this to say in 2 Cor 11 about the sufferings he had endured. Notice the statement he starts with. “I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five  times received thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers, from my own people, from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. I have endured many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:23-29).

Even after all his suffering and hardships, Paul had this to say. “I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10 NLT). There was something very important Paul understood about suffering. It made him closer to the needs of others. Just look at the passion and motivating drive of his words, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men , that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you” (1 Cor 2:22-23 KJV).

Jesus Speaks of Suffering

Jesus, who was touched with the feeling of our infirmities/weaknesses, had some things to say to Peter when he didn’t want to see Jesus have to suffer the cross. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).  

Jesus also talked about suffering in the book of Revelation when he appeared to John and had him write to the seven churches. To the church in Ephesus, “You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.”  To the church in Philadelphia “You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”  To the church in Smyrna, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peaceHere on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world(John 16:33).

Why Must I Suffer?

Personal pain and tragedy make us closer to the needs of others.  The cry of the world is so loud it should be like a roar in our ears, but ease and comfort has deafened us. God unstops our ears through our own personal hurts and sufferings.  How long will we run from His will by complaining about our own sufferings?  How long will we remain deaf to the cry of our world?  How long will we look the other way while they reach out to us?  How long?

The Future Glory

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope,  the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.  We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.  But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-28 NLT).