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We live in a fast-paced world in which social media, the internet and rapidly changing cultural values are placed front row, and center in our lives. It seems like everything that those in my baby boomer generation counted as stable is falling away. Some of that, to be honest, is a good thing. I’m beginning to realize the ‘simple life’ I grew up in was often a cover-up for an undercurrent of things that never should have happened.

The trade off, however isn’t always positive. With all the ‘advancements’ our society has made, one thing that seems to have been left behind is hope. HOPE. Such a simple word, yet so complex. Wars have been fought in the name of hope; lives have been destroyed in the search for hope.

Hope is elusive on the human plane. We seek it in relationships. We seek it through political and social action. We seek it, or at least try to escape it’s evil twin– hopelessness — through chemicals. We may even try it through religion. But none of that really satisfies. People fail. Government fails. Gaining rights for one group rapes other groups of their ‘rights’. Religion only offers surface comfort for the pain.

There is only one thing that offers total hope and that is Jesus. He’s not about rules and religion. He has no expectations for you to measure up to who he is. When we place our focus on who he is, and what he has done; when we realize the hopelessness of this world is temporary and a better world awaits us; when we realize the pain we suffer now is nothing compared to the joy we have in him, we also find that elusive thing we’ve sought for: HOPE.

lonelyTurn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16 (NLT)

I don’t get to travel often. In fact it’s rare that I spend a night away from my family. One on occasion though I remember sitting in a hotel room 1500 miles from home. I was there for a conference that I’d looked forward to for months. I was basking in the warm sunshine of the Sunbelt while my family endured the cold winter of the north.

It was a great time. The sessions were everything I hoped for. The networking I did was fulfilling. Yet, the entire time I was there I battled the plague of loneliness. Don’t get me wrong. I was far from being alone. I was a phone call or text message from my loved ones; I was in a conference with loving and accepting people. But feelings of loneliness have nothing to do with the location you are in or the amount of people you are around. In fact, loneliness is worst when you are in a crowd.

One recent study suggests that 60 million people in the United States are affected by loneliness. The late Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”  But it’s not just people that make you feel alone. One definition of loneliness is “feeling unhappy because of being separated from other people.” Feelings of failure, inadequacy, rejection, poor self-image, anger and many other feelings can lead us to withdraw into the harsh world of loneliness.

Sometimes we are separated from others because of physical distance, as I was at that conference, but other times we are separated from others emotionally. We’ve all been there. Maybe you are there now. No one seems to understand your feelings. Even your closest friends seem intent on ‘fixing you’ rather than just listening to you and letting you sort things out yourself.

While there is no easy answer to the severe feelings of loneliness, I take some comfort in the Bible and in particular the book of Psalms. Written by a man who failed as a father, leader, lover, husband and friend, David writes from the heart about his struggles with the emotional part of life.

In Psalm 25:16, he pleads with God to, “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.” You can almost hear the anguish in his voice. Imagine that. At the time he was the most powerful and popular king his nation had ever had. Yet in spite of his power and popularity (the two things we all hope for) he felt complete and udder distress.

David knew that the only place to get relief for his soul was from God. In the same way, the only real way to battle the feelings of loneliness we have is by going to God. Many may say, ‘Why God? How can he understand how I feel?”

The reason God can understand how we feel is because his Son, Jesus Christ, endured loneliness and rejection more than anyone else. His family thought he was crazy. Church leaders constantly hounded him, trying to catch him in some lie so they could kill him (which they did eventually), His friends abandoned him in his hour of deepest need and never did fully understand him. The ultimate rejection, however, came from his own Father.

In our western, 21st century culture we don’t understand the significance of this event, but in the book of Matthew (Matthew 27:45-46) we’re told that God himself ‘turned his back on Jesus’. When God ‘forsook’ Jesus, it was like turning his back on Jesus. In that culture, when a father turned his back on his son it was the deepest and strongest symbol of rejection that could happen. At the point of Jesus’ deepest point of need, even his father rejected him and left him all alone. It’s no wonder some of Jesus’ last words were (to paraphrase) ‘Dad! Why have even you turned away from me? You were all I had and now you are gone!”

Are you feeling completely rejected? Do you feel like no one else cares? Do you feel like your failures are so great that no one can ever accept you again? There’s only one person who knows exactly how you feel because he went through the same feelings. That person is Jesus Christ and he anxiously reaches out to you to comfort, forgive and most of all be your closest friend.

Dear Jesus, you know better than anyone how I’m feeling right now. The feelings of loneliness and failure overwhelm me. Please help me to feel your presence in my life right now and especially during those times I need a friend. Amen.

I will live among my people Israel in this Temple that you are building, and I will never abandon them. 1 Kings 6:13 (GNT)

There was a story on the news some time back about a man who witnessed a horrific accident. He went to assist the victims. The two passengers were able to be helped from the wreckage, but the driver was trapped and bleeding badly. It was obvious he wasn’t going to make it, but he was conscious. The ‘rescuer’ knelt beside him.

The driver told him he wasn’t going to make it but asked the ‘rescuer’ to stay with him. Over the next several minutes, as sirens grew louder the two had a short conversation. The driver asked him to say good bye to his family and the two talked briefly about life until the driver breathed his last breath.

There are times when people isolate themselves from others because the pain people have inflicted on them cause them to withdraw, but in reality none of us want ever to be alone. This is especially true during the crisis times of our lives.

Bearing the pain of divorce is much easier if we have just one of two friends who will help us through the battle. Health concerns, financial setbacks, career changes and a plethora of other events in life can drag us down, but having someone we can count on to sit with us through it all makes all the difference in the world.

The sad fact is, it’s hard to find someone who will always be there when we face crisis. Friends may give us some relief, but they have their own lives, or they move away. Perhaps the most painful wound is when family rejects us. A friend of mine recently went through a messy divorce. He was the first one in his family to be divorced and in the midst of his pain, shame and guilt he turned to his family for support to get through the pain, but he got none. His family was to embarrassed by his failure to see the pain. When family members leave you and friends abandon you, what’s left? Who will pick up the pieces and help you put them back together?

When Solomon was building the temple, the Lord God of Israel made a promise. This temple would be his dwelling place. The people of God would know two things. They would know where God lived, and they would know he was there for them.

Thousands of years later the Apostle Paul writes “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16) What a great reminder to us during those times when crisis faces us and we’ve nowhere else to turn. Our creator God lives with us. He will never leave us, never let us down, never be too busy to hear us, and never overlook our pain.

That’s a promise each of us can cling to when life gets harsh; when we want to give up; when we aren’t sure we can go on. Invite him in to those darkest hallways of your existence. He will never ever leave you or judge you. He only wants to show you his love, comfort and forgiveness.

PRAYER: Father, it seems like during the darkest times of my life, when I’ve needed someone the most, no one is there. Some have tried, but they don’t really understand me. I thank you for loving me, understanding me and living with me through all of life. Amen.

Lord, remember your mercy and love that you have shown since long ago. Psalm 25:6 (NCV)

When things go wrong it’s easy to feel like we are all alone, like no one fully understands our problems or our fears. To some extent that is true. Each of us is unique in how we respond to events in our lives. Feeling like we are alone can be one of the most paralyzing things in our lives.

Loneliness can cause us to withdraw into our own prison cell and hinder our ability to see things realistically. We can try to cover up our loneliness through anger or multiple relationships or drugs and alcohol. The feeling that we are all alone has driven many people to suicide. After all, if you are all alone you don’t matter to anyone so you may as well end it.

Unresolved guilt, broken relationships, poor choices, abuse and a variety of other things can cause us to feel lonely and unloved. Whatever it is that is causing you to feel alone can be like a downward spiral. You feel rejected so you withdraw or do some other action to push others away which makes you feel more rejected so you withdraw further into the dark abyss of loneliness. Soon you feel hopeless in your desire to be accepted for who you are.

Acceptance by even one or two people can destroy the walls of loneliness. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things. A hand on your shoulder, a smile at the checkout line, a kind word when anger is present; mercy when you want justice.

There may be times in your life when loneliness and rejection seem to be the order of the day. During times of loneliness and rejection remember that your Heavenly Father is always there. He is full of mercy when you deserve justice; he is there to extend love when others respond in anger; he accepts you as you are when others demand conformity.

Others may never understand your feelings or your actions. Others may never reject you. God never will. As he has in the past, he will continue to be a father that accepts you, stands with you and forgives you. You can trust him to always be at your side.

PRAYER: Father, I thank you for the way you love me. I praise you for always being there when I feel alone and rejected. Help me to feel your presence as I face today. Enable me to show others the mercy and love you have shown me. In Jesus name, Amen.

But we must each wait our turn. Christ was the first to be raised to life, and his people will be raised to life when he returns. 1 Cor. 15:23 (CEV)

You see it all the time on television. A person in the service comes home and surprises a young son or daughter. The return was unexpected. It was a ‘someday in the future’ kind of thing. We see the other end too. We see spouses and children and tears and good-bye’s. We get a glimpse of the anguish when news comes that our loved one isn’t coming home.

What we don’t see, unless we are personally involved, is the in-between times. The times when a child or a spouse needs a hug or when a parent longs for their child to walk through the door. We don’t see the bills that keep coming, the local news that keeps happening, and the doctor visits that bring bad news. The struggles and pain that come from everyday life keep happening. The pain of growing up or growing old continues its relentless course. Pain that should be shared, but now, must be handled alone.

No one, except for those personally involved, really knows the struggle of family when we miss a service-person. We know (or hope) they’ll be back. We aren’t always sure when or how they will have changed, or how life will be different from when they left. But for the Christ-follower we have an idea.

Those who go away to war promise they will return. Sometimes those promises are true, sometimes not. All of us as parents make promises that we have every intention of fulfilling, yet because of life are unable to hold to.

Not so with Jesus. I imagine when the disciples watched Jesus disappear into the clouds they were like the crowds on the tarmac as the plane full of loved ones (not just troops, loved ones) pulls away. They anxiously awaited his return. It didn’t come of course. Not yet anyway. But like a spouse or a child or some other loved one we anxiously await his return.

He’s coming back you know. He said he would. And unlike the promises of those who hope to come back, he will. We don’t know when he will return. We just know he will. Period.

He didn’t promise there wouldn’t be times of loneliness and trials. He didn’t promise we’d be free of heartache. Jesus’ promises mean something because everything he promised so far has come true. Just like he said it would. Parents can’t or don’t always keep their promises for a variety of reasons. Jesus will always keep his!

PRAYER: Jesus. There are so many times I wish I could just see you, hold you, and to look into your eyes when I share my heart. Like a lonely child who misses a parent I look forward to seeing you return. Until then, please help me cope with the fear and pain and loneliness I endure here on earth. I miss you. Amen.

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