Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flying Solo

I have blogged the previous two days about preferring God to people and desiring to, "fly solo," versus learning to lean on others.  Today I will address this idea of aloneness and loneliness.  The two are quite different.  One is actually good and necessary for us at times, and the other is not.

Being alone is actually important and healthy for us in certain instances.  It is something we choose to do. We all need space and time to rest, meditate, refresh ourselves, and to just have peaceful, still moments with God.  Even Jesus took time by Himself for those purposes.  In Mark 1:35, it says, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed."  In Luke 5:16, we read, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."  You can read many more passages about Jesus and others in the Bible who went off alone to pray, get a vision from God, gain wisdom or blessing from God, wrestle with God over a matter, and/or just refuel themselves (Matt. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:5; Gen. 32:24; Exodus 24:2; Mark 1:45; 1 Kings 19:9,11; Daniel 10:8; Mark 4:10; Luke 9:36; Matt. 14:13, 23; Luke 4:42; John 6:15; Mark 6:30-32).  It is obvious we need to take time to be alone with God.  It is good for us.  In our hurried, crazed, information-aged world, we all need some peace and quiet.  For these purposes, flying solo is good and necessary.

Loneliness, however, is not a good thing.  This is when we are spending too much time alone or when we feel and believe that no one is really there for us to support us.   Loneliness is not a desired, sought-after choice.  It is a mindset more than an actual, personal environmental status.  As David laments in one of his many heart-felt Psalms, "Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge; no one cares for my life," (Psalms 142:4).  Loneliness is nothing new--we've all experienced it.  There are many valid circumstances for which people feel lonely or end up alone, and not by choice.  Valid reasons people experience loneliness
(NOT from their choosing), would be things like:  loss of loved ones or close friends; betrayal by those who they thought would be faithful or would love them back; rejection; illness (mental or physical); lack of true friends (even when truly seeking them); mistrust of people based on previous experiences; and even standing up for Christ (as stated in Luke 6:22, "Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man,"). These are all understandable and reasonable catalysts for loneliness according to the Word, and you can find many Scriptures to support this.  The good news is that God knows our hearts and the true source(s) of our loneliness.  He loves those who belong to Him, and He promises to draw close to us when we are in grief or alone:  "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,"  Psalm 34:18.  In Jeremiah 31:13 we read, "I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow." Another great verse and promise is found in Psalms 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  If these aren't enough to lift your spirits, just Google, "Scriptures of comfort in times of sorrow, grief, or trouble." You will find hundreds of promises and amazing Scriptures of hope and power to lift yourself up out of the deep "pit" in which we find ourselves, at times (you know the one--the pit into which we usually fall without warning).

But sometimes, our feelings of being lonesome aren't valid.  They are our own fault and oblivious choosing (or even cognizant choosing).  Perhaps we are consumed by our own rebellion to not want to depend on others or be accountable to them for anything.  Maybe we don't want to have to be reciprocal in love, kind word, or good deed to anyone (because we aren't "naturally encouraging" and people are just "too much trouble").  Perhaps we don't want others to know our "secrets sins" or personal flaws, so we fearfully avoid contact in order to "self-protect" (as John 3:20 states, "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed,").  Or maybe we are just too prideful to admit that we need people to help us at times.  We also can have a tendency to be full of self-pity and self-absorption.  The best cure for this kind of loneliness is to go help somebody else.  As 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  Taking the focus off ourselves and putting it onto others not only cures the infection of self-absorption, but it is good karma, too (by "karma," I actually mean the sowing of good seeds that we are told about in Galatians 6:7, where we read, "A man reaps what he sows."  I am not truly encouraging or referencing the "karma" of other false religions--you know the ones.  The one concocted by one man and lacking in proof of fulfilled prophecy, and the one that uses spin-offs of the Bible and Christianity, and came into existence well after Christ's death and clear resurrection).  Sorry--I shouldn't have gotten myself started on this path.  My husband calls these my "bunny trails."  Well, buy me some big ears and a carrot stick, baby.  Here I go hippity hopping again.
But for valid loneliness (loneliness not chosen and not provoked by our own bad choices), we need to turn to God first and foremost.  As James 4:8a states, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."  In Hebrews 13:5b, God promises yet again, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."   Another great promise is declared in Psalms 72:12, "For He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help."  In 1 Peter 5:7 we read, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."  Furthermore, in Psalms 62:1, we read that God is the only One who can truly fill our voids and the deep places in us that need contentment and peace: " My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him."

Another answer to loneliness is that we need to be with other believers regularly.  In Psalms 68:6 we read, "God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."  Even if your earthly, biological family isn't really there for you, you can have a spiritual, Godly family in a Bible-believing church where God can sustain you, bless you, encourage you, and remove sin and loneliness from your life.  James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."  I personally believe that the reason people are lonely today is because we don't trust each other, and sadly, with good reason.  I have been witness too many times to the smugness and piety of fellow believers who upon hearing the struggles of another Christian declare that they, "just can't believe or understand that this person is battling such a thing."  It is disgusting and horrific to see this, and we shouldn't be shocked by any sin in the church (not that I am condoning a laissez faire attitude about sin in the church).  The enemy attacks us more than anybody--he hates the church and despises anyone who is seeking after God.  But when a fellow believer takes the leap of faith to share their battle with sin in trust, we better lift them up in humility and fervent, prayerful support and counsel. We are pushing people away from God and away from us when we respond with an attitude of prideful bigotry.  God warns us to be cautiously leery of this judgmental, hypocritical behavior because we are ALL susceptible to the same sins (Galatians 6:1, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted,").  We need to be there for each other in the good, the bad, and the ugly--without condemnation or disloyalty (and without prideful gossip masked as, "discussion of prayer items").  Again, we need each other, and we need to be safe places to land for one another as we fly together.  Flying solo can be good and healthy for us at times; but not all times.  In the words of my pastor, Jim Congdon, "If you want go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go with others."