Left Behind And Lonely
It can be a hard thing to admit, being lonely, yet millions are. And it’s not just the elderly who suffer with it; loneliness grips the young and the middle-aged as well. Whether we realize it or not, the lonely are all around us, feeling cut off, forgotten, and uncared for in the workplace, the church, even in our own homes.
In the United Kingdom, loneliness has become an epidemic. Just a year ago, the country created a Minister of Loneliness position to deal with an estimated 9 million people—14 percent of the population—who felt isolated and alone, and that number is rising. Experts are also connecting loneliness to health concerns such as early dementia, hypertension, a weakened immune system, and difficulty in decision-making. It’s considered more damaging than obesity and just as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
But unless you’ve seen loneliness and its effects up close, statistics like these don’t mean much. Talk to any caretaker and they’ll tell you what loneliness looks like: It’s uncombed hair and unwashed clothes because appearance is neglected. It’s the way a young man sits in a slump and stares out the window, his posture communicating to the world, “I’m worthless.” It’s carrying full plates of food back to the kitchen because lonely people don’t eat much. It’s days, sometimes weeks, without human contact or companionship. Television sets and video games are poor substitutes for the human voice, but sometimes that’s all there is to interrupt the silence.
Migration from the security of connection to loneliness can happen instantly. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a sickness can come at any time and throw the mind and heart into a downward spiral.
In a BBC documentary on loneliness, a 93-year-old man named Bob still tears up at the mention of his wife and the decades they spent together before she died. He tries to fill up his days by volunteering, shopping, and working in the garden, but it’s not enough.
“There’s nothing that can really replace what I’ve lost,” he said. “And as I look at the pictures of [my wife] I’m afraid I cannot help but cry. So I’m going to stay lonely and have to live with it.”
Sadly, most people who have suffered severe losses have decided, like Bob, to live out the rest of their days lonely. But being alone is something that God never intended for anyone.
In the book of Genesis, we read about Creation. When God created, He spoke first—“let there be light.” Afterward, the Bible tells us He saw, “that it was good.” The same is said when He made the firmament and divided the waters, when He made the sun and the moon, and every living creature—“and God saw that it was good.”
But after He made man, God saw first—something different—and then He spoke. He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
As my husband notes, this didn’t mean that the idea of a companion for Adam suddenly presented itself to the Lord; God never intended that man should be alone.
Yet we find God, whose spoken word just a few verses earlier created the heavens and the earth, and the fullness thereof proclaiming this eternal truth: “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
From the beginning, God has been aware of man’s need for others because He created him that way.
As Cambridge Bible scholars point out, “Man is created a social animal. His full powers cannot be developed by physical and mental work alone; nor his moral being by self-discipline in solitude. His faculties and his character require to be expanded and beautified by the duties of domestic and social life, as a member of a family, as a friend, as a fellow-worker, as a citizen. To be alone is not “good”; it does not promote his fullest life, or his best service.”
Therefore, at any stage in life, when the dynamics of family, friendships, or work suddenly shift or even fall away, a person can find himself in that same place where Adam started—alone—where it’s not good.
But what makes a person feel alone? In a word, it’s separation. Death and divorce separates husbands from wives. The sick and diseased are separated from the healthy. The known are separated from the unknown.
In the Bible, we find example after example of people who found themselves alone, until God intervened:
• “And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:5). The woman in this verse was Naomi, and she was left alone—suffering the loss of her children and widowhood in a strange country. Pulpit’s commentary mentions, “many men have had affliction—none like Job; many women have had tribulation—none like Naomi.” Even though Ruth stayed with her, Naomi still felt cut off and alone, so much so that she renamed herself “Bitter.” But God never left her. As her story progresses, we see that Naomi is later blessed: “And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:16-17).
• “The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (Jn. 5:7). This man, though surrounded by others who were sick and lame, “had no man”—no relation, no friend, and no money to pay a hired hand—to help him. How many are in this situation today? Yet God, in His mercy, sends the Man, Christ Jesus, to help and to heal. “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath” (Jn. 5:8-9).
• “Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.” (Ps. 142:4) Countless souls have said these same words that David prayed when he was in the cave of Adullam, alone. He uses the phrase, “look to my right”—the place where one’s protector would stand. In essence David was saying, “Look, no one is concerned for me; no one is protecting me from this situation.” And yet, in the very next verse of this psalm, we find David going to his source of comfort. Imagine the sound of David’s voice echoing through that isolated cavern as he cried out in faith, “Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.” The Psalmist knew that no matter what his circumstance, God would not forsake him.
And of course, there is the example of our Lord, who, as the last Adam, suffered the ultimate form of loneliness more than any other person.
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
My husband notes, “The question, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ speaks of the darkness and that God His Father had turned His back on Him, so to speak, because Christ was bearing the sin penalty of the world. The prophet Habakkuk had said about 650 years before, ‘You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity…’ (Hab. 1:13). The Hebrew language infers that God does materially and spiritually see sin and iniquity because such is obvious; however, the meaning is that He cannot countenance such. Inasmuch as Jesus was now being ‘made to be sin (a sin offering) for us,’ even though He ‘knew no sin,’ God could no longer look upon Him, at least at this particular time, which would last only until He expired (II Cor. 5:21).”
As believers, it’s difficult for us to comprehend any degree of separation between the Father and the Son, but that’s because we were not there, in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth. And we did not hear God the Father utter the words, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” But Jesus heard them, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, Christ was able to take our place and suffer not only for our sins, but also in this human condition called loneliness, that through Him, no child of God would ever know what it is to be truly alone, or separated—ever—from his heavenly Father.
Through Christ, the believer can say with David, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up” (Ps. 27:10).
Through Christ, His own words bear witness with the born-again spirit: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18).
And through Christ, the child of God can be persuaded, as the apostle Paul was, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
It’s not good for man to be alone—that is a truth. But it’s just as true that the Lord Jesus Christ is with those who put their faith and their trust in Him always, even unto the end of the world.
Lonely days and lonely nights, filled with despair,
Caused me to long for someone to care;
Then I heard Christ say to me, “This promise I’ve made:
Lo! I am with you, now and forever, be not afraid.”
I’ll never be lonely again, never again,
For I have opened my heart’s door to Him.
So I’ll brush away the tears and forget my foolish fears,
I’ll never be lonely again, never again.
If you’re longing for a friend, loving and true,
Turn to the Savior, He waits for you;
He will do the same for you as He did for me;
He’ll never leave you, never forsake you, trust Him and see.