“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16

Finding Help When You Are Feeling Lonely

By Robert D. Foster

Several years ago I awoke at 2 a.m. with waves of loneliness sweeping over me. This was a new experience and emotion for me. Marion, my wife of 53 years, was dying in a hospital with complications from Alzheimer's disease. An ancient writer expresses my "furnace blast" in the Psalms:

"I am like a pelican in the wilderness; I am like an owl in the desert;

I lie awake and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop" (Psalm 102: 6, 7).

I felt isolated, distant from friends, consumed with emptiness and loss. As someone has said, "It is not without reason that ‘loneliness’ has been termed the most desolate word in the English language. It’s very sound seems to echo its own desolation." Clinging to a cup of coffee, I sat in the darkness of my study where usually I enjoyed solitude with God during my morning quiet time. This time, however, seemed different. I felt utterly alone, unplugged from any and all relationships.

There is an important distinction: Loneliness is involuntary, unwanted. Solitude is voluntary and deliberately chosen. Loneliness is always negative – solitude is positive and renewing. Loneliness brings feelings of depression. Solitude often brings inspiration. Psalm 102 emphasizes this difference:

  • For instance, what is a melancholy pelican doing in the wilderness? It belongs near the ocean, enjoying the refreshing spray of water.
  • What is a desolate owl doing in the desert? This nocturnal bird loves trees and the forest, or perching atop a telephone pole to size up its prey.
  • And what is the bereaved sparrow doing on the roof of the house? This familiar, feathered bird is very communal. Wherever there are people or buildings, we find this gregarious creature. Had he lost his mate? Was he sick? Or not wanted by the flock?

All three birds are depicted out of their habitat, their accustomed environment. It would have been understandable for each of them to experience unbearable feelings of separation, of loneliness.

We see human examples in the Scriptures as well, of individuals that were alone, yet not all alone: Jacob wrestling with God; Joseph in the pit and in prison; Moses on the back side of the desert; Elijah on Mt. Carmel; Job on his pile of ashes; Jonah in the belly of the fish; Jeremiah at the bottom of a cistern; Jesus alone at Calvary. The most profound statement of loneliness was uttered by Jesus when He asked of His Father, “Why have You forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

In Psalm 73 Asaph, the songwriter and choir leader for King David, described his own mental struggle when life seemed so unfair. He wrote in response to his own disappointments and crisis of faith. This psalm offered me comfort during my affliction with loneliness years ago. It offers these promises:

God's Presence: "Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand" (Psalm 73:23).

God's Protection: "You guide me" (Psalm 73:24).

God's Person: "…earth has nothing I desire besides You?" (Psalm 73:25).

Perhaps you are now experiencing a time of deep loneliness, in your job or in your home. You might feel adrift or abandoned, without a single friend to provide support. At times like this, remember the promise God gives to His children: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

Taken and adapted from Take Three on Monday Morning, an e-mail meditation published by Robert D. Foster. Permission to reproduce with proper credit is freely given and encouraged. For questions or comments, write: 29555 Goose Creek Rd, Sedalia, CO  80135, U.S.A.

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