On Loneliness

Barb Wire

I write this for two simple reasons: One, there are plenty of lonely people out there, even Christians; and secondly, I have been reading about David’s unpleasant experiences in 2 Samuel of late. So let me tie these two together if I may. I’ll begin with David.

In the minds of many, I would suspect, it would seem odd to equate King David with loneliness. A King? Surrounded by so many people, loyal subjects, and faithful followers — lonely? Well, yes at times. As you may recall, things were not always smooth sailing for David.

Even after he had been anointed King, he still experienced all sorts of difficulties and hardships. He not only had many enemies and opponents, but some of his own family even caused him much grief. So as we read in the second half of 2 Samuel, David spends a lot of his time trying to flee from his enemies, and hiding out in the countryside.

Many of the Psalms deal with David and his experiences — both good and bad. They deal heavily in reality. There are no happy-clappy, mind-over-matter, positive confessions to be found there. Instead, we get David pouring his soul out to God, asking hard questions and recounting his many trials and tribulations.

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Consider Psalm 25 for example. It is all about David’s enemies and his plea for God’s help and protection. This is what we find in verses 16-19:

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

In those dark hours of being pursued like a dog, surrounded by enemies, and in constant danger, he spoke about how he was “lonely and afflicted”. Yet this Psalm also speaks about the trust he puts in God, and the hope he has in him. In an earlier difficult situation we read this about David:

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6).

In his difficulties he made Yahweh his rock. If David can experience so much grief and misery, including loneliness, why do we think we will be exempt from this?

The truth is, there are many lonely Christians out there. And recall that loneliness does not just refer to being alone. One can be amongst many people, whether at home, or at church, or elsewhere, and still be lonely. Such loneliness is more of a psychological or mental state than a physical one.

There can be many reasons for such loneliness. I am not a trained counsellor or pastor, so others could speak more competently about all this. But I can say that I have experienced loneliness at times, and I know of many other Christians who have as well.

I think part of the reason why the social media is so successful and popular is because it can offer some comfort to the lonely. People may not have like-minded friends amongst their own personal circles, but can find them online. Something like Facebook can be a real help for many lonely people as they find others they can share with, relate to, and find common cause with.

Not that I am suggesting that something like FB should become a substitute for close personal relationships, but sometimes it can be a real help nonetheless. A Christian may have no Christian fellowship amongst his immediate family and friends, and finding them online can be a real encouragement and sustaining help.

And I find myself often being asked to pray for someone or offer counsel on FB. So we can use such a means to help establish and maintain Christian community and fellowship. So I guess my plea here is for anyone out there a bit lonely or depressed, please make use of any opportunities to get some help and assistance.

Even making a heartfelt plea on FB for some aid can be very therapeutic. So don’t allow the enemy to bum you out with discouragement, loneliness and the like. We need each other, and while nothing can replace actual one-on-one relationships, with a bit of eye-to-eye contact, we can even use the social media to provide some Christian love and care for one another.

As someone who has known depression and loneliness at times, I know how debilitating it can be. So I for one offer my assistance, for what it is worth. If King David could hit some pretty low spots in his own life, so may we. He consoled himself in the Lord, but also had real supporters around, such as Jonathan. We need both as well.

And one final word. Sometimes the saint who walks the closest with God walks the most lonely with men. But I speak to that elsewhere: Prophets Who Stand Alone.

So there may well be a divinely-sanctioned loneliness, but that is another matter. For those struggling with other sorts of loneliness, just recall that we have a Saviour who knows all about this. Not only did he find himself betrayed and abandoned by all his disciples, but he hung on that cross alone.

So he knows all about your loneliness, and is ever ready to offer comfort and encouragement. Please allow him to do just that.

Psalm 25

Of David.

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.

I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, 
Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, 
Lord,[c] is in you.

22 Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Bill Muehlenberg, who was born in America, lives in Melbourne, Australia. He runs a web-based ministry of pro-faith, pro-family activism called CultureWatch: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com. Bill is widely sought out by the media for comments on social issues, faith issues, and family issues, and has appeared on all the major television and radio news shows, current affairs shows, and debate programs. He is the author of In Defence of the Family; Strained Relations: The Challenge of Homosexuality, and several other books.
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