June 17, 1997
“I’m working alone today.”
“But you are never alone.”
“That’s right. I am by myself, but I am never alone!”
A friend and I say this many times to each other because loneliness is a universal experience. No one enjoys it but we all experience it. We reassure each other because we know that, even if there is not another human being for miles, we are still in the presence of the Lord.
Being with others has obvious benefits. For example, Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one, because . . . if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
Aside from being without friends or being in situations where we are all alone, a person does not have to be friendless or by themselves to feel lonely. Loneliness is such an odd condition; we can feel it in a large crowd or even with our family or closest friends near us and caring for us.
What causes this strange longing in our hearts? I’ve heard three similar explanations. One was from evangelist Billy Graham. He says that whenever we feel lonely in a crowd, we need to consider that as God’s way of beckoning us to come and spend time with Him. He says we feel lonely in a crowd because we all need and yearn for a deeper relationship with our Creator.
The second explanation came from a writer from England. He says we feel lonely because we are designed to live in a different world than the one we are in. He says we long for God and for heaven’s perfection. For that reason, there is really nothing that can fully satisfy us here on earth. We can enjoy a measure of contentment but it will never last. We call that sense of longing “loneliness” because we fail to recognize its deeper significance. It is a reflection that God has “placed eternity in our hearts.”
The third explanation is much the same. It is from a college professor who says we should never try to cure our loneliness because it is our longing for God and for our eternal home. We simply need to learn to live with it and with the reality that this world is not permanent or perfect.
These three slightly different views have much in common. They agree that loneliness has more to do with wanting to be near God than it does with wanting to be close to people. If that is the case, then it is vital to do what some Christians call “practicing the presence of God.”
In my experience, that sense of being in the Lord’s presence is sometimes very vivid. During those times, it is of little concern whether or not people are around to keep me company. Yet there are times when the sense of His presence is heightened when His people are together. In either case, it seems to depend on my own relationship with God and attitude toward Him.
At other times, that sense of His nearness has faded. He seems absent. During those occasions, I have to remind myself of His promises. God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Just because it seems to me that He is not with me, He is. I cannot rely on my feelings.
It is possible to practice His presence though. By that, I mean we can heighten our sense of God being with us. To do that effectively, we need to do what Jesus did. He often retreated from His hectic life-work, and from people, to talk with His Father. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Secondly, Jesus continually affirmed that God was with him. He said, “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me . . . The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone . . . .”
We need to remember that He has not left us alone either.