The Loneliness BusterVolume 27 No. 1
On the Bible Sabbath, Jesus gives Himself to us in a special way to connect us with one another and with God.
By Gillian Bethel
But the young woman’s sentiments reveal a deeper problem. Author Aldous Huxley describes it this way: “In spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody. The essential substance of every thought and feeling remains incommunicable, locked up in the impenetrable strong-room of the individual soul and body. Our life is a sentence of perpetual solitary confinement.”2 As a communication craftsman, Huxley was particularly aware of this frustrating and painful situation. Many people would rather not think about it; they try to make do with whatever numbs this sense of isolation. But the fact remains, as another novelist puts it, “Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man.”3
Why are human beings so lonely, and more importantly, is there a solution?
ONCE UPON A TIME
It’s fascinating that loneliness is the first human experience mentioned in the Bible, and the setting is the first day of man’s existence. Genesis 2 describes how God lovingly forms Adam and breathes life into him. God says, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and promises him a “helpmeet.” He then brings all the beautiful animals He has created—the magnificent, the amazing, and the funny—and Adam names them, but doesn’t find a soul-mate among them. Finally, when the loneliness of Adam’s situation seems hopeless, God takes a rib from him and makes his helpmeet. You can hear the joy in Adam’s words: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.”4 Loneliness problem solved!
So why is it that as people seek for that missing person to take the loneliness out of their lives, they can’t find anyone who really understands them? Or if they find someone who seems the perfect answer, why does the relationship often go bad? The answer lies in a further exploration of the Genesis scenario.
Actually, God’s solution to the loneliness problem is two-fold: a human soul mate for Adam and a divine one—Himself. There is one more day of creation to come, the seventh day, in which God rests from creating and spends 24 hours acquainting Adam and Eve with who He is and how much He loves them. God is the bigger part of the answer to Adam’s loneliness, but in his first day of life, Adam hadn’t had time to get to know his Creator. Now God sets apart the Sabbath to be an uninterrupted time with His human children. That first Sabbath day presents us with a beautiful picture: human beings close to each other and close to their Maker.
THE LONELINESS OF SIN
But unfortunately, it doesn’t stay that way. The next Genesis story is about the fall of mankind, where Adam and Eve choose self-interest over loyalty to God, and sin and selfishness enter the picture. Now we see them afraid of God and blaming one another. In one stroke, Adam and Eve destroy their closeness to each other and to God, and human isolation sets in. Selfishness and sin make a wall of separation around each of them—that “impenetrable strong-room” Huxley sensed—which has since become the universal experience of humanity. This is the reason for the loneliness that haunts us and the trouble in many relationships. We are cut off from each other and God because “I” is our major focus. No amount of effort on our part can unlock that strong-room door. We need a loneliness buster, and God in His love for us has provided one!
GOD PROVIDES A CURE
Let’s fast forward to the time of the Roman Empire. Human beings are still lonely. Perhaps being sick and uncared-for while others are being helped is the worst kind of loneliness. A crippled man in old Jerusalem knows this kind of loneliness. For 38 years he has put his hopes into the legendary cure at the pool of Bethesda. As the legend goes, now and then an angel of healing troubles the water, and the first one into the famous pool will be healed. Family members lovingly watch the pool for the sick and rush them into it at the right moment. But this man has no-one, and he is getting weaker and more hopeless as the years drag by.
One Sabbath day, a stranger approaches and asks kindly if he wants to be made well. It seems impossible, but his faith takes hold of the stranger’s next words: “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”5 Not only his body, but the man’s whole life is transformed!
Although the stranger looks like just another man, He is actually the Son of God in human flesh. On that Sabbath day the Creator has come especially to him in his loneliness with both compassion and creative power to change everything. John’s gospel describes Him this way: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not [could not overpower it].”6 Unexpectedly, this turns out to be the sick man’s last day at the pool, his last day of sickness, and his last day of feeling nobody cares about him. Jesus is his loneliness cure! With kindness and a few words, He shines light into this man’s darkness and frees him from sickness, loneliness, and despair—so easy for the Creator! Or is it?
THE COST OF THE CURE
Actually, providing the cure is not easy at all. There is another Sabbath day we need to consider, just a year or so after this one. For those who have known and loved Jesus, it is the worst day of their lives. He is dead—resting cold and still in a sealed tomb. Although heartbroken by His death, none of them yet understands the depth of suffering He has experienced for them. Isaiah puts it this way: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”7
On the cross, Jesus experienced all our pain, including loneliness, and took the ultimate consequence of sin in our behalf: eternal death. In the process, He was rejected by His own people and separated from God the Father as witnessed by His heart-rending cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”8 No one in the universe knows more about loneliness than the Son of God. Why, then, is this Sabbath so significant? On the Sabbath of creation week, Jesus had rested from the work of creating our world and our race. On this Sabbath, He is resting from the atonement he made to give us our re-creation!
In order to unlock the strong-room of isolation we’re all in and give us a new life, it took the incarnation of the Creator into human nature, a misunderstood life of service and self-sacrifice, and an agonizing, lonely death for our sins. That’s how much God loves us and wants to restore us to closeness to one another and Himself. This restoration was infinitely expensive for Him, but He offers it free to us.
Because Jesus died for our sins, there is a basis for God the Father to make the changes in our lives that will bring our loneliness to an end. Now He can give us a choice: hold on to “my way” and continue as we are, or choose loving loyalty and obedience to God. In choosing that, we give God permission to recreate us and transform our loneliness. He will adopt us back into His family, show us how to live life differently, and give us the ability to have better relationships with others. He will also open a 24/7 channel of communication between us and Him, and as we use it, we will realize that there is Someone who understands us perfectly.
Jesus came to a crippled man on Sabbath and ended his sickness and his loneliness.
And guess what! He wants to make the Sabbath a special day for us again. It can become our best day for being close to others and close to God. Jesus wants to come to us individually and set us free like the man at the pool. He will speak to our minds as we worship and explore the Bible, with others or alone. We can enjoy His presence by focusing on Him through the day and by reaching out to share His love with others. Adopted into God’s family, we need never be lonely again—on this day or any other. The wall of separation will be down, the strong-room door flung open, and we’ll experience being understood and loved by God our Father, and Jesus our Elder Brother. This time, the loneliness problem is truly solved!.
- Discussion forum post, http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Loneliness/forum/6740346-noone-gets-me
- Aldous Huxley, Music at Night and Other Essays.
- Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again.
- Genesis 2:23
- John 5:8
- John 1:3, 4
- Isaiah 53:4, 5
- Mark 15:34
Gillian Bethel teaches Bible and English at Hartland College.
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