Even just saying the word out loud it is bereft of warmth.
One can be alone in the middle of a crowd. One can be alone while in the midst of family. One can be alone while going out with friends. One can be alone in the company of one’s spouse. It’s not the amount of people surrounding that makes one feel alone…its the sense of no one else understanding or being able to share one’s experience or internal thoughts or even wanting to. Alone.
Even when friends and family tell us we are not alone we can still feel very much alone because it’s not about what we experience on the outside its about the deep sense of isolation on the inside. Telling one they aren’t alone is affirming but does little to penetrate. It’s like one is blanketed by this cone of insulation where one can see everyone and everyone can see us but words just don’t come out, we can’t, and even when we do they try to pass through this blanket of insulation only to come out on the other side muffled and misunderstood. And so we keep them in…because what is the point….I am alone.
The Psalmist felt alone. Sometimes he felt surrounded by enemies and misunderstood and abandoned by friend. Sometimes he felt like God wasn’t listening and had abandoned him as well. Alone.
Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. (Psalm 102:1-7)
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)
Even Jesus had a moment where he felt completely, utterly alone. His friends had deserted him. His enemies surrounded him. Darkness was all around. His relationship with his Father was severed.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)
Forsaken. Isn’t that perfect word to describe feeling alone? One commentary notes this as defining the Aramaic word Jesus spoke: “Languages differ appreciably in expressions meaning ‘to forsake, to abandon.’ For example, the most appropriate equivalent in some instances is ‘to leave alone’ or ‘to leave behind.’ In other instances one may employ a phrase such as ‘to leave without help’ or ‘to leave and refuse to care for.’ The Greek word has this definition: “to desert or forsake a person and thus leave that individual uncared for.” This oneness that Jesus felt with his Father had now been broken. The care Jesus had received from the Father was now absent. The presence of the Father was absent. The support from the Father had been withdrawn. Alone. Alone. Alone.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:45-54)
What caused Jesus to feel alone? Why the disconnect? It was sin. Sin of the world upon his shoulders. Sin the Father could not look upon. Sin that needed to be paid for. AND IT WAS! Consider what occurs after his death: the dead (death: the ultimate fruit of sin) were raised and Jesus was recognized for who he truly was (spiritual blindness: the practical effect of sin)! I believe sin to be THE ultimate cause of loneliness. It could be sin that we have committed. It could be sin committed against us or even the fact that we live in a world that is still broken by sin and therefore we sit with it swirling around us causing us to feel alone. I believe being surrounded by sin affects our thinking and emotions. This “sin storm” causes us to feel separated and affects our connectivity to each other and to God both in the giving and receiving of communications. Sin enhances that sense of isolation. I love how Jesus promises his presence to his disciples in Matthew 28, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” The unspoken reality is that after “the end of the age” we will be in heaven with him for all eternity never to be separated.
Perhaps you feel alone today. Truly and utterly alone. Perhaps “forsaken” better describes your sense of aloneness. It could be you feel misunderstood, uncared for, abandoned, unheard, unwanted, or unseen and it has struck to your core so deeply that you are past the point of hurt and anger and are now numb without any sense of how to reconnect with someone, anyone, most of all, God. I can tell you that you are not alone. I can tell you there are others who care. I can tell you that God sees you and loves you and cares for you. I can tell you that Jesus himself knew what it was like to be abandoned, doesn’t want that for you and promises that will not be your reality in relation to him. Perhaps that will help and perhaps it won’t. Whenever any of us get into this place of being alone I believe only God can pierce through our fog…and so I will pray for you just as I hope you will pray for me. The scriptures say that we are not alone,
…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5B-6)
In the end though, we need to trust in God’s love. It was shown on the cross for us — that is a fact our loneliness cannot deny. And if Jesus was willing to die for us why would he abandon us now when he is alive? That is a fact. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not sin, not death, not even our sense of being alone. May God’s love shine and pierce the darkness surrounding your heart. May it illuminate and bring peace and joy to your mind. May it reveal you are not alone, have never been alone and never will be alone. Amen.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalms 13)