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Being lonely is an isolating pain. It is more internal than external. Sometimes people talk about physical coldness that penetrates the body to where you are bone cold.
This kind of physical chilling is similar to the spiritual feeling of loneliness individuals experience on the inside. It reminds me of the curse of darkness Moses put on the Egyptians.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” – Exodus 10:21
Even being in the middle of one hundred people does not bring relational warmth to the lonely soul because loneliness at its root is a spiritual matter. Though there is a physical component to a community, there is a more profound truth with the problem of being alone.
On the physical front, you associate and enjoy being around people. On the spiritual front, it is essential to connect with other spiritual beings at a level that pushes beyond mere superficialities.
Sometimes you will hear people talk about their frustration with others who do not go deep into their relationships. Their complaint focuses on a desire to intersect with another person at the level of the heart. This hope is fantastic.
God created us for an external and internal community. Because He made us in His image, there is a longing within us to be like the Lord. God is the original community. Father, Son, and Spirit enjoy an uninterrupted inter-personal relationship within the Trinity.
It made sense after the Lord created Adam to want to bless His creation by giving him a complementary helper (Genesis 2:18). We do not know all the detailed reasons the Lord did this for Adam, but we do know it was not best for him to be without human companionship, whether in marriage or within the human community.
Our desire for community is a partial affirmation that God made us in His image; we are “similar” to Him: He is like us, and we are like Him (James 3:9). Humanity has a sense of and craving for tribal belonging.
The historical record seems to affirm this as we perceive the Lord’s desire to hang with us. We see Him walking with Adam (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:8). Later, He asked Moses to build a tabernacle so He could be with His people (Exodus 25:8).
When the family finally settled down in the land of Israel, the Lord gave instructions to Solomon to build something more permanent so that He could be with His people (1 Chronicles 22:10).
The Son became a man so He could be with us, to help us (Matthew 1:23; John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14-15). After He left us, He gave us the Spirit to live inside us so we could continue our shared connection with Him (John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
The best part of heaven is how we will be with and experience Him forever and ever. His gift to us is an unending reciprocal delight (Revelation 22:5). From beginning to end, the Lord has made way for His children not to be alone. Our external and internal being can be fully satisfied with God’s plan for relationships.
Losing sight of God is a soul-altering experience. It is one thing when humanity disconnects from you, but the loneliness of being alone is when you do not sense the presence of the Lord in your life. You “feel” this kind of isolation.
The worst case scenario of this is eternal separation from God in hell. But there can be an echo of hell on earth when you are relationally distant from Him. Job had this experience. Listen to his lonesome words.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. – Job 23:8-9
It was during my four-year journey with Job where I felt this kind of loneliness. After my first wife and children left, I began to lose sight of the Lord. The complicatedness of this time tempted me to drift from Him.
The soul-diminishing effect of being separated from the Lord took a mighty toll on me as I spiraled into a four-year “dark night” of mental and spiritual confusion. Like being snowblind, I could not perceive the Lord in any direction.
It was the worst time of my life from which I reluctantly resigned that I would never see a better day. I do not remember if I lost hope or if I gave up on hope. That awful season reminds me of a miserable song from the desperate and lost songwriter, Hank Williams, Sr. Enter into his darkness.
Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome I could cry
I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry
Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves began to die?
That means he’s lost the will to live
I’m so lonesome I could cry
The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry
Job’s misery took him to this level. He was so lonesome that he could cry. And he did. Job might have known God was near, but his complexing misery was exponentially more massive than his intellectual theology.
Whenever your troubles are more controlling than the truths of Scripture, you are living in unbelief. This spot is where Job landed. I too became an “unbelieving believer.” Though I had a theology degree on my wall, I perceived the Lord was no longer in my heart.
It was at that point I read Job’s desperate words (Job 23:8-9). As horrifying as his perspective was, it resonated in my soul. It was the first time in a long time that I no longer felt alone. Though I could no longer perceive the Lord with me, Job was becoming my new best friend forever.
One of the beauties of Scripture is its unashamed willingness to reveal all the dark machinations of sin. It does not hold back from the good or the bad. In an odd way, Job’s troubles began to give me hope. He had been where I was (Ezekiel 3:15). It reminded me of another man.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16
Job began to reconnect me back to Christ. Sometimes God can appear to be so far from you that you need a friend to help you get back to your first love (Revelation 2:4).
My church friends abandoned me. Some of them did this because they shunned divorced people. Others were alienated from me because they felt awkward being around someone who should be married. Still, others did not know how to help me. In time, they all left, and I was alone.
This period was when the Lord invited me to His Word. The Spirit moved me to sift through the pages of Job. Over time, this book became my cherished friend that slowly dissipated the darkness. It was my only friend. I spent days reading page after page.
In my loneliness, God revealed Job to me. He walked off the pages of Scripture and into my life. I love this man. God used Job to help me get back to Him. I sat with Job many nights– four years total–and learned from him. I wanted to feel what he felt, see what he saw, and learn what he learned (Philippians 4:9).
I already knew the end of the story: God would eventually restore him (Job 42:10). Job was a success story. Knowing the hopeful end motivated me to persevere through the progression of pain, praying that my conclusion would be similar (Philippians 1:6).
Job was desperate and lost, but he eventually regained his wits. God was renewing his faith, even though he could not perceive the Lord in his troubles. Right after his declaration about not being able to find God (Job 23:8-9), he said,
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. – Job 23:10
We have to put this in perspective. Job was not yet golden. Job sat in lostness, loneliness, and anger. He did not become gold and then speak these great words as though his future hope had already come to pass.
He spoke in faith while sitting in the loneliness of his lostness. Faith is an understanding of how things are going to be long before that desired and perceived outcome comes to pass.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
This perspective is key. Though the trials and challenges of your life can dull the truth you know, those problems should not overcome the reality of how God is actively working in your life. Your experience does not alter God’s truth.
Just because you may not perceive Him, does not mean that He is not doing things on your behalf. You must own this kind of thinking if you are going to persevere through your troubles. You must daily bring God’s Word to bear on your experience.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
This worldview is the essential first step in closing the gap in a distant relationship with the Lord. The battle begins in your mind, not in your circumstances.
How is God’s Word reshaping your thoughts?
Faith in God changes your misconceptions about God. This news is good because you need ongoing help to fully understand all the Father does to sanctify you as a Christ-follower. Not being able to perceive God in whole or in part should not be a hindrance to your relationship with Him.
Do you believe God’s Word (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5)?
The Bible assures you how God is for you (Romans 8:31). You may not be able to recognize it today, but it does not alter the truth of God’s Word.
This Bible fact is what it means to live by faith, rather than sight: when the truths of God’s Word overcome whatever mood or feeling you are experiencing today, you are in the process of being transformed into gold.
So we do not lose heart as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
(Moses) endured as seeing him who is invisible. – Hebrews 11:27
Seeing, knowing, and cherishing your great “invisible God” is at the heart of experiencing His presence when you’re lonely.
If you like this article, you’ll be happy to know that it is a chapter in Rick’s book, Suffering Well.
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