Loneliness does not discriminate. It blights the popular and the outcast alike. It makes some great. But it also has made the great break. In this life, you will be lonely. Lennon and McCartney wrote a best-selling pop song in 1966 that had the haunting chorus –
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Nearly all the depictions of lonely by artists has someone on their own. But for anyone who carries the cross of the loneliness, we know that’s not always true. Loneliness has little to do with how many people we are near.
GREAT & LONELY
If greatness is measured by the sheer numbers of people a person helps and bears responsibility for, the greater a person becomes, the more lonely they will necessarily be. I think God has designed this. Great leaders are almost without exception: lonely. In doing my research on one of humanity’s greatest souls, Dr. F.W. Boreham, I came to one poignant auto-biographical comment that he made about his life. “I have always been a lonely man” he wrote. This is despite enjoying a long lasting marriage of over 62 years, five children, lovingly pastoring three churches over his career, and developing friendships with hundreds of fellow ministers around the world. Yet, he would say that he had always been a lonely man. His loneliness drove him to serve others and apply his God-given gifts to their service. It seems that this is true of all great souls. Their loneliness could have broken them to despair. But somehow, in the mercy of God, they find that what they lack from people they learn to receive from being in friendship with God. It may surprise an emerging leader that despite having more contact with others, despite having more people being more transparent with them, despite having a few peers show them careful attention, they are increasingly lonely. Jesus certainly was.
Toward the end of Christ’s atoning mission, He celebrated His last Passover with His disciples in that upper room. Despite being in a room with twelve other men, He was virtually alone. Despite His actual presence filling the whole earth, He was largely unnoticed that night. While the disciples waged a vigorous verbal joust over who was the greatest, the loneliest person in that room took his tunic off, as any slave would seeking to avoid the stains of feet grime, and began to wash the soiled feet of wrangling apostles. By the time He had washed the feet of 11 of them, He had not been noticed. This is a hallmark of loneliness – going unnoticed.
Lonely people aren’t seen. We can look at them, and still not see them. I wonder if God wants leaders to experience a measure of loneliness so that they can see others? This is why I think God has designed loneliness as a necessary part of His children’s growth. It causes them to grow in love for others. It’s hard to miss how many times the Gospels describe Jesus seeing the crowds and having compassion for them. How many people look at celebrities who enjoy the applause, popularity, accolades of adoring fans, yet fail to see them as desperately empty and lonely? By her own frank admission, Katy Perry is one such celebrity. In a recent behind the scenes movie about her life, we saw what few ever saw: a worn-out, desperately lonely girl, craving to be understood and loved. The problem is that I think there are thousands of Katy Perrys in this world!
I posted on Facebook this week a small reflection of Psalm 25 where King David begins a series of Psalms about his own loneliness.
¶ Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Psalm 25 reveals how David felt and then how this deepened his relationship with God. The next few Psalms pick up on this as well as David describes how he felt neglected by others, including his parents, yet how this caused him to seek God and find friendship – the antidote to loneliness – with God.
Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Begin to redeem your loneliness today. Look to God. Begin to see others. Avail yourself to God and He will make you great as you begin to serve others. Then an eternal day will come when you will never experience loneliness again and will find your soul enjoying its greatest delights in a friendship you were created for.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
Perhaps the local church is God’s means of alleviating loneliness? It is here that the lonely can find a family of brothers and sisters and even mothers and fathers. But sometimes those who should be this to the lonely are too distracted by their own loneliness to see the horribly lonely. I know at times I have been. Perhaps we can each deepen our friendship with God so that we can introduce these lonely souls to their True Friend.
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.