An email appeared in my work ‘inbox’ this week entitled ‘Beating Loneliness’. When I opened the link, I discovered information regarding a new initiative in Staffordshire entitled, ‘Let’s beat loneliness together’. It’s a campaign from the County Council, who are working alongside many organisations, charities, volunteer groups and local churches, seeking to raise awareness of the issue of loneliness and isolation and to help people take practical steps to combat the problem.
As we know loneliness can affect anyone at any point in their lives and can have an impact on their health, wellbeing, productivity and self-esteem. Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, the number of those struggling with isolation and loneliness has increased significantly.
One of my favourite Old Testament characters is the prophet, Elijah. Elijah, at times, appeared to suffer from ‘loneliness’. Not the kind of ‘loneliness’ that William Wordsworth was referring to in his famous poem, ‘Daffodils’ – this was a reference to enjoying the solitude and beauty of God’s creation by taking some ‘time out’!
Elijah, on occasions, felt lonely and isolated! In 1 Kings 19 we read that Elijah runs away (from a woman!) in fear of his life. Previously, Elijah had seen God bring down fire on his altar, Israel reaffirmed their commitment to God, he prayed for rain and the ‘heaven’s opened’, yet Elijah flees for his life!! I love how the Message Translation records what Elijah says to God while he was hiding in a cave; ‘I have worked my heart out for the Lord God Almighty’………and I’m the only one left’…………….
Elijah’s understanding of the situation was misconceived – he was so caught up with his own problem that he was blinkered to the bigger picture! Had God deserted him? Of course not, and nor would he!
Jesus himself, felt abandoned. At the time he was arrested before being crucified, Matthew tells us in 26:56, ‘Then all the disciples deserted him (Jesus) and fled’…… and as he hung upon the cross, Jesus even felt that His Father had abandoned him too!
Karen Carpenter (of the 1970’s duo The Carpenters) lived a very complicated and sad life. In spite of her fame and wealth, she was a very ‘lonely’ lady – she struggled with relationships and one of the songs that became a hit for the duo was ‘Goodbye to Love’ – describing her sense of acceptance that she would never really find true love. One of the lines of the song says, ‘loneliness and empty days will be my only friend’…. and Karen, who long suffered under the burden of the expectations that came with pop stardom, died on February 4, 1983, age 32, succumbing to heart failure brought on by her long, unpublicized struggle with anorexia. How sad!!
David, in Psalm 25:16 tells God that he is ‘alone and in deep distress’; or as The Message puts it, ‘I’m all alone and in big trouble’….. but in the very next Psalm, David realises that he now ‘stands on solid ground’… whatever your situation, you are NOT alone! The Lord is with you, loving you, strengthening you, upholding you and holding your hand each step of the way.
‘The storm may roar around me, my heart may low be laid; but God is round about me, I cannot be dismayed’……
Be encouraged, God hasn’t abandoned you, and He NEVER wil!!!