There I was, just twenty, all alone, staring at one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen – the Japanese Alps. It was so beautiful, yet I had no one with which to share it. At least that is what I thought... To this day I still remember the tears filling my eyes as I ached to speak of the beauty, the absolute brilliance of those sights. I just wanted to tell someone about it, just talk to anyone. Alas, I knew no one on the train and, for once, I was shy with those around me, those accustomed to a different language than me. My loneliness overwhelmed me.
The trip from Tokyo had lasted about 90 minutes and in that final stretch the train snaked its way through a deep plain, a few ups and downs and twists, snow-peaked mountains rising up on both sides albeit in the distance. My destination was Karuizawa, a popular international summer resort in Japan since the late 19th century, known well for its cool summer climate and breezy environment with thick larch and birch trees lining the bike-filled streets. (John Lennon and Yoko Ono vacationed there in addition to Japanese royalty.) There at the Nagano train station, all alone I would meet my missionary hostess for the first time, Phyllis Chamberlain. Shadowing her the next 10 weeks, Matsabarako Bible Camp would be much of our focus and I would gain a dear “mom-chan.”
I had already experienced some stretches of “all alone” in the two weeks prior to that train trip. I’d traveled by myself from the US to Tokyo, my first commercial plane trip as well as my first international trip – around 20 hours, to be picked up by another new-to-me missionary, Dorothy Steormer. I vividly remember thinking upon my arrival in the airport that day, listening to the unintelligible voices on every side, “Oh, there really ARE people in the world who don’t speak English!!! It’s real! The rest of the world is REAL!” The next two weeks were spent with other missionaries and college students I’d never met. My only connection prior to that time had been through infrequent, very expensive phone calls and snail mail letters. (No computers! No Skype! No Facebook! Imagine that!) Together in Tokyo at the TEAM center we learned some very basic Japanese phrases as well receiving training in Japanese ways and then parted ways, scattering about the lovely island.
That summer was a turning point for me. Away from my friends, away from my family, away from pop culture that was a big part of my life, I heard God in a fresh way, in a clear way. In that aloneness in Phyllis’ quiet little bungalow I sensed Him more personally than ever before. I read. I prayed. I rubbed shoulders with a woman of God, one who was totally sold out to His plan in her life. I even told Him if He wanted me to be single my whole life, I would. (Never mind that I was receiving lovely notes from one very persistent young suitor named Tom...God had other plans for me obviously!)
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main, “ says John Donne, poet born in 1572. God, no doubt, put that truth in his heart letting it flow onto paper for us to read hundreds and hundreds of years later. After all God himself proclaimed in the garden, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a woman.”
These primary source verses remind us that we are created to daily be in healthy human relationships. Scripture is filled with statements explaining the importance of enjoying and fleshing out relationships, of community, of being with others, living and loving side by side. But another truth that resounds page after page after page of the Word is that God and God alone will only and always be there. While loneliness is real when defining it in human terms, God’s presence is even more real. His use of our emotions, the needs we feel in our loneliness, in our aloneness is rich beyond measure.
As I was initially pondering God-alive in our loneliness for this communique some days ago three e-mails suddenly appeared in my in-box, distinctly different, yet all confirming my thoughts about being all alone, away from others, in His presence. They all seemed to say, “Embrace the challenges of your loneliness. Come away. Let go of all else...”
One friend, a strong, busy man, one who actively leads others not only in the US but also around the world wrote - “This morning I am sitting in my chair spending time with The Lord. I am impressed with how my heart calms down and how He gives true security, grace and love when I am near Him. He also gives a quiet assurance of His guiding, direction and provision for His work. I’m finding the art of abiding with Him is learning His rhythms and how He works in His time frame.”
A new friend of mine, a wife, a mom, a committed medical professional penned this - “In my short quiet time this morning thinking about what New Year's resolution I wanted to make…I felt the inside whisper of the Holy Spirit saying: " Seeking His face is the best new year's resolution."
Some good friends from our college days send out a daily encouragement (always very meaty and needed) for couples, called MARRIAGE MINUTES. Listen to what they sent that day - “Perhaps as we start this new year, perhaps you are feeling that God is distant from you today. You feel lost, perhaps even abandoned by God, and you are wondering how to find your way home. It begins with a simple biblical principle: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He is available to you this very moment.”
Today as I get ready to push the SEND NOW key I read yet another message, this time on Facebook just this morning from a young Jesus-following woman in the Middle East, “I want to go where everybody knows my name. And they're always glad I came...Feeling the burn of culture shock and alone-ness lately.”
Loneliness, alone-ness....Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, taking us by surprise. Sometimes it is a deliberate choice on our parts. Sometimes it is welcomed, sometimes not. BUT ALWAYS GOD USES IT AND MORE SO AS WE TURN OUR FACE TOWARD HIS, LETTING ALL ELSE FADE AWAY...ALWAYS HE IS THERE!
EVERYWHERE, EVERY MOMENT GOD USES OUR LONELINESS!
Compact Oxford Dictionary –
LONELY• adjective (lonelier, loneliest) 1 sad because one has no friends or company. 2 solitary. 3 unfrequented and remote.
— DERIVATIVES loneliness noun.
–adjective, -li‧er, -li‧est.
1. affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome.
2. destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc.: a lonely exile.
3. lone; solitary; without company; companionless.
4. remote from places of human habitation; desolate; unfrequented; bleak: a lonely road.
5. standing apart; isolated: a lonely tower.
The Bible says -
Exodus 3:1 - Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the flames of fire from within a bush.
1 Samuel 16:11, 12 – So Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest, “ Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”...Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”
1 Kings 19:10-11 – “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said (to Elijah), “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Ps. 32:12 - Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.
Ps. 62:1,5 - My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him…Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Ps. 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families, [ Or the desolate in a homeland] he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Ps. 146:9 - The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Psalm 102:1, 7, 27, 28 - Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you… I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof… But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you."
Song of Solomon 8:14 – Come away, my beloved...
Daniel 10:8 – So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking...
Matthew 14:23, Luke 5:16 - After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone...Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Matthew 26:40 -44 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”...He went away a second time to pray...He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed a third time...
John 16:23 - Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
Words of wisdom -
Charles Stanley - Loneliness is one of the most crushing human emotions... The feelings of abandonment and isolation create an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair. People in the throes of a heightened state of loneliness often fall prey to temptations or behaviors that are extremely atypical. It is a dangerous place to be....Jesus knows what it is like to be lonely... Jesus hears our heart cry. The faintest whisper of a heart that feels alone and abandoned comes before the heart of a loving Father who will go to any lengths to comfort his children…When Hagar and her son were dying in the desert after being cast out by Sarah, God heard her feeble voice and nurtured them.
He is here
He is near us
In our hearts, in our lives, in our midst
He is here
He is near us
Calling us to trust in Him
Meghan Kleppinger - Billy Graham was often on the road while Ruth remained the stable force back home…Ruth’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz, remarked on her mother’s example, “I believe that our heavenly Father, our Savior, saved my mother from loneliness because of her daily walk with the Lord Jesus – He was the love of her life. I saw that in her life. It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that.”
Richard J. Foster - Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Solo sung often by my dad
John Bullock - I remember how secure I felt when I was in the care of my parents. I had no worries, no needs, and no fears. So it was somewhat of a shock as I grew older, and realized for the first time that Mother and Daddy were human, and therefore vulnerable to life and death, as were all others around us. I can remember lying in bed at night, worrying about what fate would be mine should anything happen to my parents. Such are the frailties of human existence. But our relationship with God is different. God is not subject to our human frailties. He never ceases to exist. He is always there to offer shelter, to sustain us in our weakness, and to help us in times of need by His very
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted
is the most terrible poverty.
Corrie Ten Boom ( “Clippings From My Notebook”) - writes of her loneliness in prison. She and her family were placed in concentration camps in World War Two Holland because of their work helping Jews. She tells of being in a dark cell alone for four months…One day a beam of sunlight entered her cell. She stood so the beam fell on her face. As the beam moved, she moved, to enjoy it as long as possible. She says that moment she realized her loneliness as never before….But, she says, God spoke to her through a remembered scripture: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20 (KJV)
You will never overcome loneliness
until you reconnect with the Father
through Jesus Christ.
When you feel really lonely,
claim the promises of God, which are ammunition against Satan’s lies.
Go, not by what you feel, but by God’s truth.
Beth Moore - We can lock arms with fellow servants just as the disciples did. We will experience a measure of God's anointing and perform some significant works. For the parts of a whole to work as God intended them, however, each part must stand on its own before a highly personal God. If we insist on a boat full of company, we'll miss the waves where we ride only one at a time. When a wave of loneliness suddenly erupts, ride it. Let your stomach rise and fall with fear and peculiar excitement. Don't fight the feeling. Don't just busy yourself. Ride the wave straight into the presence of God and experience the adventure of feeling you're the only one there.
There are reasons You could leave me
Oh a million or so
So why You stay here
Why You do this, I really don’t know
I’m not handsome, I’m not special, just an ordinary guy
I loose my car keys, always moody,
So tell me why
You love me
When I’m anything but lovely
When no one else would want me
Your love it holds on
Did You know from the beginning all the wretched things I’d done?
That underneath my silver armor
I was hiding who I was
So You’d be blameless if you left me
And I would have to understand
Don’t you see now this is crazy, You could find a better man?
So tell me why
You love me
When I’m anything but lovely
When no one else would want me
Your love it holds on…
In the middle of the night you love me
First thing in the morning
When I’m fast asleep and helpless you don’t love me any less
Well I’m less than a man ever should be and all the odds are against me
You love me…
John Stott – My friend, there is a hunger in the human heart that none but Christ can satisfy, there is a thirst that none but he can quench, there is an inner loneliness and emptiness that only he can fill.
Well, 35 years have come and gone. Of course, I seem to need my precious family and dear friends more each day. That’s normal, right? BUT God quite recently has allowed me yet another time of lonely wandering, completely friendless, without family anywhere nearby…
I soberly told Him, “Lord, I’m invisible here.”
He tenderly answered back, “Yes, Sue, you certainly are invisible…and that is good. I am here, just Me alone! Let’s talk…..”
Lingering alone with Him as often as I possibly can,
P.s. I highly recommend MARRIAGE MINUTES by Bob and Cheryl Moeller. You can request the short daily encouragement by e-mailing them at email@example.com
Sue Addington- Fellowship Mosaic