Have You Ever Been Lonely?

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An old song asked the question, “Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue?” Surely every thinking, feeling person has felt lonely and blue. Three thousand years ago the Psalmist appealed to God, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.” (Ps 25:16-17 NIV) Truly, loneliness and depression are appropriately described as anguish and affliction, inflicting deep suffering on those who experience them. It is natural to crave deliverance from loneliness and a troubled heart, and going to one who is greater and who understands and has answers is the way to find relief.

In fact, God is pictured in the Psalms as providing a solution to loneliness, both spiritually and practically. God’s concern for the lonely is shown in the representation of God as a father and builder of families. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Ps 68:5-6 NIV). The Psalmist found that God himself is a spiritual companion, a father, that anyone can find comfort with when human companionship is missing. Besides this spiritual consolation though, the Psalmist said that “God sets the lonely in families.” One of the ways that God does this is through the “family of believers,” people who share faith in God and so share companionship and family obligations with one another. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Gal 6:10 NIV) God’s people are to be a family for each other, and so are to help one another overcome loneliness. This is a great asset for winning the struggle with loneliness and depression. God sets the lonely in families by providing a new kind of family for them, a family bound by common faith and goals rather than by genetics, a growing family that is never to abandon the needy or troubled, but is to join together in doing good.

Of course neither loneliness nor a troubled heart are always bad. Sometimes loneliness for a time can be a benefit, a useful deprivation that lends focus and clarity to our thinking. Jesus knew the value of temporary solitude and loneliness for communing with the Father, as in Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Prolonged loneliness can be debilitating, but short periods of loneliness can also be a blessing, if used as an opportunity for reflection, for introspection, for prayer. Likewise prolonged depression is devastating but a troubled heart may be helpful if it helps a person recognize a need for change or provokes a needed action. The needed action in many cases might be putting confidence in God who has provided spiritual and practical relief from prolonged loneliness or depression. That relief is found in knowing the assurances of his promises, and being in the family of believers that he has produced for the support of all who have ever been lonely or blue.

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