Written by: Nico Bougas
Article source: JOY! Magazine

Some time ago someone placed this advert in a local American newspaper, “I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for $5.” Now that sounds like a hoax doesn’t it? But the person was serious. Did anybody call? Absolutely! It wasn’t long before this individual was receiving ten to twenty calls a day. The pang of loneliness was so sharp that some were willing to try anything for a half-hour of companionship.

Loneliness is not solitude
Counsellors estimate that more than two-thirds of our population suffer from loneliness. You can see it in the eyes of people on a crowded pavement, in the stare of a business man hunched over his solitary drink in a bar, and in the pensive look of the children from a broken home being shuttled between relatives on holidays. Loneliness is not the same as solitude, being lonesome, or being forlorn. Loneliness is that inner feeling of being isolated, unwanted, unneeded, and uncared for – and lonely people are people who hurt.

Qualities of loneliness
Lonely people are not only hurting people; they are also sometimes guilty people. Often they are carrying around a dirty conscience, or they are regretting past mistakes and past sins. They are often insecure people. It takes security to be able to reach out to others. You have to know where you stand, who you are, and what you can do to be able to reach out to others, because others may be a threat to you. Insecurity never builds strong relationships. Lonely people are often consumed people. They aren’t sure who they are, where they are going, or why they are there. Sometimes lonely people are selfish people. They are governed by self-pity. They feel sorry for themselves. 

The loneliness of success
On the surface, Elvis Presley’s story reads like a dream come true. He seemed to have it all – fame, fortune, friends, and the freedom to pursue a fulfilling life. Yet Elvis found emptiness at the end of the road. Weighted by his loneliness and the shallowness of a success manufactured by others, Elvis became fat, reclusive, and paranoid. He spent hours in his bedroom watching TV and took to wearing a bulletproof vest during public appearances. He took a steady stream of amphetamines and barbiturates in a frantic attempt to fill the void in his life. But they only brought him further problems and ultimately death. His autopsy revealed the presence of 19 different prescription drugs in his bloodstream. “He was the unhappiest person in the whole world,” recalled his stepmother. When he went into his room at the end of the day, there was a deep void. His stepbrother, once part of Elvis’ inner circle and who became a born-again Christian, adds, “we had everything, but we were still miserable.”

Avoiding the pain
Tragic stories like these seem to mock the oft-repeated promise of happiness to be found at the end of the road to success. They are haunting warnings of the emptiness that can await even the most famous. They point out the sobering fact that none of us are immune to this epidemic disease called loneliness. Loneliness is a very depressive condition, and if it is serous enough, people who are lonely will destroy themselves. Loneliness is an extremely painful and frightening human experience – and today drug addicts, alcoholics, workaholics, and psychotics may be attempting to avoid the pain of loneliness.

The loneliness of sorrow
Perhaps the most difficult kind of loneliness is the loneliness of sorrow, the loneliness that comes from bereavement. The Bible tells us that death is an enemy. Yes, we know that we are going to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. We know that our loved ones in Christ, when they die go to be with the Lord. This comforts our hearts, but still our hearts hurt. Bereavement is something like an amputation: part of you is cut off.

A time for everything
It isn’t wrong for Christians to sorrow. It is wrong for Christians to sorrow as those that have no hope (1 Thes 4:13). In the Word of God, you find God’s people weeping when they go through the valley of the shadow of death. In the story of the resurrection of Lazarus we see how Jesus helped Martha and Mary as they shared their grief with Him. In John chapter 11 we read of the great grief that surrounded that scene. Mary and Martha were weeping, their friends were weeping, the Jews were weeping, and even Jesus Himself wept. But Jesus did not criticise anyone for it.

How can you find comfort and encouragement in times of loneliness and sorrow?
You and I must claim the assurances that God gives us. John 11 contains a number of assurances that can help you in times of loneliness and sorrow. First of all, you can be sure that when you are going through times of sorrow, God loves you. I can understand why Mary and Martha might have questioned the love of the Lord Jesus. To begin with, their brother got sick. We have no reason to believe that Lazarus was out of the Will of God, and yet he became sick. The two sisters probably questioned the love of the Lord Jesus when they saw the disease in Lazarus.

God loves you!
Mary and Martha might have questioned God’s love because of our Lord’s delay. When He heard that Lazarus was sick, He didn’t rush off to be at his side. He continued in the same place for a further two days. Jesus didn’t hurry. He waited. Love and delays go together. God’s love could also be questioned when we look at the sisters’ disappointment. When Martha met the Lord Jesus, she said to Him. ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’ So often when there is bereavement we say, ‘Oh, if we had only done this or done that.’ But such talk only makes the sorrow worse. God loves you and even though circumstances and feelings may cause us to question that, we can still be sure that God loves us.

Christ is with us
How do we know that God loves us? Because the Word of God tells us so. The Word of God states very clearly that God loved these people. In spite of this love, there was sickness. In spite of this love, there was sorrow. Never judge the love of God by your feelings or by your circumstances. The second assurance is that Christ is with you. We have an advantage that Mary and Martha did not have. Jesus had to go to Bethany – when He was here on earth, He was limited by His physical body. But our Lord Jesus Christ is always with us. “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5

God knows your sorrow
You say, “But God is too busy running the universe to take care of my broken heart.” Then read Psalm 147:3,4. “He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. He appoints the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names.” God is not too busy numbering and naming the stars that He doesn’t see your broken heart or is unable to bind it up. The God of the galaxies is the God who heals the broken heart.

Acquainted with grief
He shares your sorrow as He did at the graveside of Lazarus when He wept. The Lord Jesus is a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He says, “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28. When you have Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you don’t have to worry about death. He transforms your sorrow, He sanctifies your sorrow, because He conquered death. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” – John 11:25

God’s will is best
God has His times, and God has His purposes. One purpose God was accomplishing was strengthening the people involved. The faith of the disciples was increased by this experience. The faith of Martha was also strengthened, and so was the faith of the Jews who came to see Mary and Martha. In fact, we are told that many of them believed in the Lord Jesus because of the raising of Lazarus. We all go through experiences and wonder why they are happening. Forget about the ‘why’. Just keep in mind that God’s Will is best. He has His times, and He will work out His purposes. 

God will be glorified if you believe
It is not important that you and I are pampered; it is not important that you and I have our own way. It is important that God is glorified. You may say, “But that is a difficult experience for people to go through just for the glory of God.” But the glory of God is the most important thing in the universe! It was difficult for Jesus to die on the Cross for the glory of God, but He did it! And He did it for you. God will be glorified if you believe.

Is that your prayer – that God shall be glorified?
I know there are times when we hurt. There were times when we cannot be comforted. There are times when we feel so alone, especially during holiday season. We miss the people who have been taken home to be with the Lord. But remember one of these days God will be glorified if you believe. He will be glorified in your life. You will grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be glorified through your testimony. In the case of Lazarus, we read that many of the Jews came to believe on Jesus when they saw the miracle. It is worth it all when people come to know Jesus as their Saviour.

Repeat this!
God loves you. That is the first assurance you should claim. Christ is with you. You are not alone. God’s will is best. You don’t have to understand it, and you don’t have to explain it. We don’t live by explanations, we live by promises. God’s Will is best, and God will be glorified – if you believe. If you believe in Jesus Christ, then death has no terror for you. If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you can have the comfort of God today. The presence and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ conquers the loneliness of sorrow.

Nico Bougas is the International Director of Development of  Hellenic Ministries. Email him on Nico@bougas.info, visit hellenicministries.com


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