The Paper Pulpit
The rock musical group Chicago made lots of records, albums and cassettes that sold like proverbial hot cakes. One of their hit songs was titled, “Loneliness is Just a Word.” It would be wonderful if that were only true. “Loneliness” is not just a word found in the dictionary. In our mechanized and industrial and urbanized society, people have been pushed closer and closer together, yet they have grown further and further apart. Millions literally rub elbows and bump into each other on our crowded sidewalks, but in their inmost selves they are alone ... and lonely! Loneliness can be a devastating experience to those who experience it.
Admiral Richard E. Byrd went to Little America to make scientific observations of that polar region. For six months he lived absolutely alone. During that time he saw no other face, heard no other voice except over short-wave radio. Upon returning home he wrote an account of his isolated vigil at the South Pole under the simple title, “ALONE.”
A widely read book, “The Lonely Crowd,” by David Riesman and others, focuses attention on the terrible loneliness that exists in the heart of our great cities. But loneliness doesn’t just exist in large cities. No section or segment of our country is immune to the possibility of having persons who are alone ... and lonely. Loneliness is like the common cold – scarcely anyone is immune to it. To push the analogy further, it is easy to catch, hard to cure and rarely fatal – but always unpleasant and sometimes wretched almost beyond bearing.
Loneliness is a universal reality. No race, color or creed has a monopoly on the problem. If you do not see loneliness all around you, your eyes have not been really open. There are those who, deprived of family life, live by themselves – and their name is legion. There are missionaries, far from home and familiar surroundings, whom you and I have sent out to share the good news of God’s love. There is the loneliness of young people far from home and family who are serving in the military. There are women living alone who hunger for companionship and love who sell their virtue for a song. They do not enjoy what they are doing, but they fear the necessity of functioning alone. There are wives whose husbands are married to their jobs. There are children and young people who live in families where they are neglected and not loved. There is the loneliness of the sickroom, the loneliness of having lost a loved one, and the loneliness of those who are in prison. These, and many more than these, are “alone ... and lonely.”
Loneliness is not just a twenty-first phenomenon. In the Garden of Eden, God saw that “it was not good for man to be alone, so He gave him a helper” (Genesis 2:18). Moses, in trying to lead the Israelites toward the Promised Land, cried out, “I am not able to bear this entire people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (Numbers 11:14). Following Elijah’s battle with 450 false prophets on Mt. Carmel, Jezebel sought to kill him, and he cried out to God, “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (I Kings 19:10). Isaiah said, “I have trodden the winepress alone” (Isaiah 63:3). King Solomon said, “Woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to pick him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
Not even the Lord Jesus Christ escaped having to deal with the problem of loneliness. His own earthly family did not always understand Him or support Him. “He came into His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:1). Early in His ministry great multitudes followed Him, but they slowly began to drift away. He then said to His disciples, “Will you also go away?” And finally, while praying in Gethsemane, He was totally alone. During His trial and crucifixion the following day His disciples forsook Him and ran. Judas betrayed Him. Simon Peter denied even knowing Him – three times! And from the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, why have You forsaken me?” During those moments when Jesus bore our sins in His own body, God, being a holy God, could not look upon His Son. This was the ultimate loneliness.
Loneliness need not be a permanent problem. Those who are “alone ... and lonely” need to hear the marvelous promises made by our Savior. “Henceforth, I call you not servants; I call you friends.” The Creator who made all things, and who has all power, wants to be our friend. And He said, “I will go with you always ... even to the end of the age.” However lonely you may be, Jesus Christ is as near as your next prayer. In His presence you can never be alone.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.