The word “lonely” has an unavoidably negative connotation. No one wants to be lonely. But the irony is this: you don’t actually have to be by yourself to be lonely. You can be at a packed baseball stadium, a high school prom, or even board meeting and feel utterly alone. On the flip side, you can be by yourself and feel totally at peace, with no desire to be accompanied by even one other person. I think I lead a life that is equally balanced in both scenarios. I don’t know if that is good or bad, I just know that I experience both feelings in a fairly proportionate ratio.
I bring the subject of loneliness up for three reasons: (1) I was really lonely last week, so it’s on my mind, (2) I think that loneliness is a way in which we come to identify with Christ and (3) I think loneliness has been around longer than anyone realizes and thus is not a negative thing, but rather a natural outflow of something divinely instilled.
Why would loneliness be a way in which we come identify with Christ? Doesn’t that imply that God is lonely? Well… yes and no. I don’t think God was lonely and so decided to create us, humans, for fellowship. That would, in fact, imply that He is not wholly and completely perfect, without need, desire, etc. in and of Himself.
I think we come to identify with Christ in our loneliness because when He came to earth, He took on humanity in all its’ depravity and yet maintained His total divinity.
I would imagine that being God and simultaneously being man, would be a lonely state of mind and heart. How do you connect with someone else? How would you manage being in perfect communion with God, while concurrently being completely removed from unity with Him in literal presence? No one could understand. No one could relate, sympathize, or offer consolation. How could they? Doesn’t that illustrate loneliness?
Webster defines loneliness as “destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship; standing apart; isolated.”
“Destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship.” Nailed it. Not how the church likes to paint Jesus’ stint on earth, but I think it might encapsulate it perfectly. No one on earth, could really, truly, or literally say that they could share in His sorrow or affliction.
To me, that is the worst feeling.
I hate it when you tell someone about something that you are going through or experiencing and they say “I understand” when they really can’t.
“No you don’t,” I think defensively. “Have you literally walked in my shoes this past week? Have you actually had the same, identical pain in your heart and burden on your spirit that I have carried? Then you don’t understand.” That to me is loneliness. When you are utterly alone in your experience or understanding of a situation or circumstance; when no one has walked beside you through the slush and slime of a distinctly crappy season in your life’s journey.
That’s a lonely place. That’s where I was last week. And that’s where I think we identify with Christ. When no one can honestly say they have “been there, done that.” No one but Jesus. And that is enough. At least, it should be enough to offer us complete consolation. It needs to be enough because I have a feeling there will come a time when that is all the only offering of comfort we may have for a time; Jesus saying “I know.”
Come to find out, I wasn’t alone at all. In totally desperation, I took a step into a sea of vulnerability, told someone exactly what was going on and instead of saying “I understand; I know just how you feel,” she sat there quietly for a moment and recounted her personal testimony of an eerily similar time in her own life.
Did not see that coming. And suddenly the loneliness lifted.
I have been reading Donald Miller’s “Searching for God Knows What” and this subject of loneliness was given its’ own entire chapter. In it, Miller noted that loneliness was not necessarily an outcome, or consequence of the fall. Before sin, man lived in perfect relation with God. And yet (this is my favorite part) “there was no suitable helper for Adam” (Genesis 2:20b). Let’s break it down.
Adam, created perfectly in God and for God, was placed in a perfect setting, daily walking with and communing with God. And what? God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
So even when we are in a right standing relationship with Christ, even when we are walking with Him, talking with Him, even then, we can be discontented, we can feel …without. Adam was lonely. Go figure.
I can’t begin to tell you just how much encouragement and comfort this brought me. I often mistake my feelings of loneliness for a lack of faith; a gap in my walk with the Lord. This then, creates in me a nearly frantic feeling of having (as opposed to wanting) to spend more time with Him in my quiet time. But the catch is that my quiet time is then no longer about Him, but about me, and filling my need for companionship.
So this realization that no matter at what level our relationship with Christ stands, the feeling on spiritual yearning, physical longing, and emotional want for someone is addition to Him… that, that is normative. It’s not a reflection is something we’re not doing right or haven’t done enough of. It’s there now because it was there in the beginning.
My hope is this: the way in which God satisfied Adam’s longing, so He will also satisfy mine.
I only hope He doesn’t make me do something as time consuming as naming all the animals to buy time. My biological clock is ticking.