As the whole of the land goes into lock-down to avoid the deadly virus which is devastating the world around us, we are told to stay at home. Here, in the UK, we are being asked – no, being told – to stay at home unless we need to go out for essential shopping, essential work, essential support of those who need our help or for one single daily outing for exercise.
In a previous article it explained that we were social animals who work better in community with each other – yet, we are called to keep apart. And that, undoubtedly will lead to loneliness. Some years ago, I wrote that “sometimes, the heart of the city can be the loneliest place.” After all, most people don’t know their neighbour by name, let alone what they do or anything relevant about their life. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people walk past each other, stand next to each other on the train or the bus, without making any meaningful contact. You can be totally isolated – despite being surrounded by thousands of people! Today, that heart of those cities are even more lonely. Streets are isolated, city parks are closed off, people are being asked to stay at home, keeping themselves physically isolated, in addition to the social, emotional and relational isolation that has been part of their life as long as they remember. For those in the city, even going out for exercise is difficult – as they need to keep away from other people.
But we are blessed in the country. Out in nature – at least, if we keep away from popular natural hotspots, like Snowdon – we are physically isolated. There, we are also at home.
Somehow, I have never been lonely on the mountains, even though I am alone; yet, I have felt totally lonely in many cities, despite being surrounded by countless numbers of people!
Anne Hathaway is a successful actress, born in 1998 in the USA (Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Hathaway). She has played in several Disney and other well-known films, and in 2008 won several awards, including best actress; and her later performances have earned her fantastic reviews and several accolades, including the Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA. She appeared on a list of the world’s most beautiful people in 2006. Despite this, she says:
Loneliness is my least favourite thing about life. The thing that I’m worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for, or someone who will care for me.”
King David is one of the most important figures in Jewish history, defeating Goliath, reigning as king of Israel for 40 years, establishing the walled city of Jerusalem and bringing in the Ark of the Covenant, writing most of the Psalms and being the bloodline from which Christ Jesus came.
Despite his greatness, even he wrote:
[Lord] turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are multiplied; bring me out of my distresses.”
Elijah, probably thought to be one of the greatest prophets of all time, after working a miracle in defeating the prophets of Baal, was rejected and abandoned, isolated and left alone in a cave in the middle of nowhere. Despite God’s provision of food and shelter, Elijah wanted to die! He felt abandoned, even by God. (Elijah’s story is found in 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2.)
He cried out to God, and there followed a wild windstorm that ripped the rocks away from the mountain side; then there was an earthquake that shook the ground around him; then there was a fierce fire that blazed around him. But it was only in the soft, still, quiet aftermath, that Elijah heard God’s gentle whisper.
Les Carter, counsellor and author, wrote (https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-17-lessons-loneliness):
Loneliness is a feeling of separation, isolation, or distance in human relations. Loneliness implies emotional pain, an empty feeling, and a yearning to feel understood and accepted by someone.”
Is that you today? Are you crying out to be understood and accepted? Are you struggling with this current lock-down and struggling with loneliness right now?
Be encouraged. You are not alone – even though you might feel lonely – you are not alone. Many people are reaching out to others – family, friends, extended family, church, communities – groups of people are making efforts to reach out and make contact with others: to show them they care, to show them that they are important, to show them that they are not alone through all of this. Physically, you may be alone, but you are understood, you are accepted, and you are valued.
But more importantly than that, God is with you. Jesus’ last words to His disciples was this reassurance:
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
That’s His promise to us – He is with us always – even to the end of the age. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around us – He is with us. Whether you’re good or bad, whether you’re happy or sad; whether you’re a sinner or a saint; whether you’re isolated or you ain’t; He’s with you. He will never leave you or forsake you – even to the end of the age – even to the end of your age – He’s with you.
Whether you’re in the city, or in the country; He’s with you. And what’s more – He made you a promise. He made a promise to heal your land:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
YES! He wants to heal our land! He wants to heal us of the devastating disease that is rampaging through our land. But it comes with an “if!” It says: “If” my people …
That’s what He asks of us, so that He can heal our land.
Do you want healing? Then will you humble yourself? Do you want healing? Then will you pray? Do you want healing? Then will you seek His face? Do you want healing? Then will you turn from your wicked ways?
Then He will hear from heaven, forgive your sin, and will heal your land.
May we pray …
Heavenly Father, we come before you now. We humble ourselves before You – we acknowledge Your sovereignty, Your majesty, Your power; and we humbly ask for Your grace and Your mercy. We come to You in prayer – we seek Your face. We call upon You and we trust that You will hear us; we call upon You and trust in Your promise that You will forgive us; and we call upon You to heal our land. We ask this in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen