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The Pain of Loneliness

A few years ago, the magazine Psychology Today had a fascinating article about the function of the human brain. Our diagnostic equipment is now so good that we can actually map the human brain. As we do, we can see what area of the brain becomes active when a person is facing a certain situation. For instance, one area of the brain becomes active when the person is facing danger. Another area of the brain becomes active when the person sits down to a favorite meal.

Researchers decided to try an experiment. They placed someone in a situation where the person had to face loneliness. Their diagnostic equipment lit up. What it told them was a bit jarring. It told them that the area of the brain that becomes active when facing loneliness is the same area of the brain that becomes active when facing physical pain.

Think about that for a moment. According to this experiment, our emotional makeup is such that we process loneliness the same way we process physical pain.

Then again, maybe we don’t need researchers to tell us what we already know. Loneliness hurts. Loneliness brings real pain.

Jesus knows this. He knows this from his own turn at living in this fallen world. More than anyone else, he knows what agony it is to feel isolated, abandoned, alone.

But Jesus doesn’t just feel our pain. He’s done something about it. At the cross his blood washed our sins away. He removed the wall of our sin between God and us. That means by trusting in Jesus we will never be alone again.

The pain of loneliness is real. But it’s no match for Jesus.

How Do I Find More Happiness in My Life?

We need to begin by asking, “What do we mean by happiness?”  For a child, happiness might mean getting Christmas presents every morning and cake and ice cream for every meal.  After a few days, though, it would stop being fun.  Many adults think that money will make them happy.  But we have seen many rich people who are unhappy and even depressed.  Others might think that drugs and alcohol make them happy.  But the “high” soon wears off.  Finding happiness in the things and people of this world is an exercise in frustration.

The Bible uses the word “blessed” to describe happiness.  The blessings of God give us true happiness.  The most important of God’s blessings is Jesus, whom he sent into this world. Jesus took the blame for everything we ever did wrong.  That’s why he died on the cross – not because he did anything wrong, but because we did.  Jesus has paid for our sins, and that means we are saved from God’s judgment of eternal death by believing in him.  That makes us happy.  Jesus blesses us with salvation.

No matter how long we live, we are all destined to die.  But when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, he broke the hold of death.  Even though we will one day die, by trusting in Jesus we have the sure hope that we will also come back to life and live forever in heaven.  That makes us happy.  Jesus blesses us with eternal life.

God even uses the tough times in life for our good – to teach us more about his love and strengthen our trust in him.  No matter how tough life is for us, no matter how much pain we endure, no matter how poor we are, no one and nothing can take away what Jesus did for us.  Our sins are forgiven by God, and through faith in Jesus eternal life in heaven is waiting for us.  That makes us happy. Sometimes we smile through tears, but we can still smile.

Can God help us find happiness?  He has already given it to us through Jesus.

Why Do I Feel Like I Can’t Do Anything Right?

Worthless.  Stupid.  Loser.  Do you feel like any of these words apply to you lately at home, in the work-place, or in your relationships?  Why does it feel like it’s “high school all over again” – that awkward stage of self-conscious living and self-doubt.  Look in the mirror.  Do you like what you see?  In Disney’s “Snow White,” the vain queen asks herself, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?”  It was hard to admit that there was someone better looking out there.  Television tells you that you are only one tube of toothpaste away from happiness, one can of diet soda away from your weight goal, and one phone call away from love and security.  Our lives can’t always be fixed to satisfaction in the time it takes for one two-hour Disney movie to run.

Sin does that.  Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, sin makes us losers.  But God makes us winners.  Through the sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus on Calvary’s cross, God instantly changed our eternal status from loser to winner – without our contribution.  Forgiveness is God’s free gift to a world of undeserving sinners, including you. When God’s Holy Spirit prompts you to trust God’s promise of forgiveness, he also changes your outlook. He directs you from your feelings of self-doubt to the cross of self-less victory.

As we look at the cross, we instantly remember that God has uniquely blessed each of us with gifts and abilities to share with others.  He makes us worth-while, spiritually smart, and winners as we focus on heaven and our earthly mission to share him with others.  When you are using your God-given gifts and aren’t a successful all-star like Kobe Bryant, a pro like Tiger Woods, or a television star like Hannah Montana, don’t trust your human feelings which go up and down like the mercury in a thermometer.  Trust Jesus who won our most important victory and promises to be our side to help always make our failures turn out for His glory and our good.  Serve God with the gifts outlined in Romans, chapter 12.  Talk honestly with a church leader about your feelings of inadequacy – they have them too.  But together find ways to spend your energy helping someone else God brings to you.

At times, we may feel more like Dopey than like Snow White.  But know that Jesus, our Prince of Peace, has come for us and will come again to take us to heaven.  And that’s no fairy tale.

Can God Help Me Find Faithful Friends?

Have you ever longed for a solid friendship?  Have you ever wondered if there’s a friend out there that you can count on?  It’s no secret that a true friendship is a rare thing.

That’s not to say there aren’t people who will pay attention to us!  The world is full of people who will be our friend as long as they feel we have something to offer.  But what about that friend who sticks by us, even when we’re at the end of our rope?  What about the one who cares about us even when we have nothing to give?  Is it possible that God could provide such a friendship?

Certainly God has a good track record of providing friendships to those in need.  When David was under attack by King Saul, he found a faithful friend in the person of Jonathan, Saul’s son.  The Bible tells us that Jonathan “loved David as he loved himself” (1 Samuel 20:17) and even defended David against his father’s attacks.

We’re also told that the apostle Paul had several friends that attended him while he was in prison.  They were of great help to him at a time when he really needed a friend.

But even during those times when true friendship seems far away, there is one friend who will stick by us no matter what!  That person is God’s one and only Son – Jesus.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).  What a beautiful description of Jesus’ friendship for us.

Just think!  Even when we sinned, Jesus didn’t abandon us.  Instead, he stood in our place, taking our sin and guilt for us and then giving his life for ours to set us free from eternal death!  Jesus also earned a place for us in God’s family. By faith in him, we have the privilege of being heirs of his promised heaven.  And he did it all because he loved us even more than he loved his own life.

Looking for a faithful friendship?  Simply look to Jesus!  His friendship will never end!

Can God help me find companionship?

“I struggle with loneliness. Can God help me find companionship?”

“Hi ho Silver, away!”
Those are feel-good words.  The bad guys are in jail.  The good guys win.  The sun sets.  Everyone’s happy.  Well, almost everyone.  At the end of the day the hero is still the LONE Ranger.

Ever felt like the LONE Ranger?  You saved the office from certain peril.  You arrived with your son’s glove just moments before he took the field.  You made everyone happy.  You should feel like a hero.  But so often when the sun sets, the feelings of loneliness rise.  Like the Lone Ranger, at times our days end only with the companionship of a faithful, four-legged friend.  Can God help me find real companionship?

Imagine how Adam must have felt when he was the only human on the planet.  Talk about lonely!  But God saw Adam’s deep need for companionship.  Then by the power of God’s creative hand, Eve walked into his life.  She was perfect for him.

If only God had a silver platter like that for us!

Without sin, our loneliness would vanish as quickly as Adam’s companionship appeared!  But sin is real.  We see it in everyone else.  We see it in ourselves.  And when we see sin, loneliness sets in. Listen to these words from a man who was no stranger to loneliness.  While unfairly sitting in prison, the apostle Paul said: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

More than a friend who tells you to “get out there” and find someone, these words tell you that Jesus got down here and found you.  He took hold of you so you could “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

The silver platter of companionship is seeing yourself as a companion of Christ.  His love forgives your sin and creates a relationship with you unlike any other.  Through faith in Jesus you are never alone.

Have you been hiding your feelings of loneliness behind the mask of heroism?  It’s time to take off the mask.  Look at Jesus.  See who you really are – a forgiven, grand-prize recipient of eternal life in heaven.  Then, come and see us.  Let’s take off our masks together and learn more about Jesus, our true hero, who alone saves us.

Am I all alone?

A survey by Psychology Today found that 50% of those surveyed report feeling lonely during a given month. Is it safe to say that some of those surveyed may be Christians? Do Christians experience loneliness? Yes, they do.

What is loneliness? In their book, Survival Guide for Being Alone, Terrell and Koehler III describe loneliness as coming from within and can affect every part of our feelings, thoughts, behaviors, relationships, and, most importantly, our Christian faith. One might say that loneliness comes from an inner need to be intimate and to “connect” on several personal levels (mentioned above) for the purpose of feeling safe and secure.

What causes loneliness? Many factors can precipitate loneliness. Factors such as: death, divorce, being single, physical/mental illness, breaking off of a relationship, being away from friends, family and home or maybe not having friends, family and a home.

Where do we turn when loneliness leads to despair? As Christians, we look to God and His Word for strength, guidance, comfort, and peace.

  1. Philippians 4:13
  2. Psalm 73:23, 24, 28
  3. Matthew 11:28
  4. Philippians 4:6-7

What else can be done to combat loneliness?

  1. Keep a journal – helps to process some of the difficult emotions surrounding loneliness.
  2. Write a letter or phone a friend – preferably someone close and whom you can trust.
  3. Take a more active role and participate in your Christian congregation – use the gifts God has given you.
  4. Exercise.

With God’s help and direction – take some risks – challenge yourself.

Pray.

How do I find a friend?

Be a friend. It’s that simple and that hard.

I have to believe I have something to give. My attention, my time, my concern. Maybe a friendship develops out of a shared task as I help others. Maybe somebody is going through hard times and I get in the habit of sitting down and listening to them.

I have to take the first step. For me to wait for someone to be my friend is as effective as holding a cardboard sign on the street corner, “Will work for a friend.” Taking the initiative takes a little guts and courage, but if I believe I have something to give to others, I will take the first step.

Finally I have to recognize I will learn more about myself than I ever wanted to. A friend is somebody who shows you who you are, with all the warts and wrinkles. A friend is somebody who can pop all your presumptuous bubbles and still like you, love you, and your feelings for them don’t change, either.

All those things were at work in Jesus. He knew he had something to give and he was never stingy in giving his time and attention to others. He took the first step. When nobody wants to do the dirty work, he would get up and do it. When somebody was under the gun, he stood up for them.

And with Jesus, he tells me more about myself than I really want to know, but in telling me about myself, I become more than I ever could be. And it is never as a judge, but always as a friend.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says, “We love him, because he first loved us.”

I Just Don’t Fit In

It is not fun when other people seem to be more comfortable socially than you are. It’s downright depressing. It’s especially bad when other people point it out, don’t you think?

There are billions of people in this world. You don’t care what most of them think about you. But there are certain people whose opinions are very important to you, right? Whose opinion is most important?

The clear answer to that is God. God’s opinion of you is absolutely most important. He’s smarter than anyone, he’s more powerful than anyone, and his opinion of you has eternal consequences. So what’s his opinion of you?

He says, “I created you. I redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you. You are precious and honored in my sight” (Isaiah 43:1-4). Because of the work of Jesus, God thinks you are extremely cool.

Anyone who tries to exclude you or make fun of you is dumber than God. But when you are secure in his love, that makes you sad for those people, not angry. God loves them too, and they don’t even realize that they are to reflect his love.

The special things that make you who you are–those things are precious to God. Some of those unique traits may even make you a little uncomfortable socially. But God has a plan to use those things to his glory in your life, regardless of how comfortable you are. There are people who will come into your life and will appreciate those special things about you. Can you wait?

In the meantime, don’t be mean in return. Be kind, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13).

Why Are They Talking About Me?

It is spooky when you walk into a room and friends say, “We were just talking about you!” Instantly you are on your guard.

Sometimes you get the feeling that the people talking about you are not your friends. You enter a room and the conversation dies. Either their eyes don’t meet yours or they try to stare you out of the room so they can get back to ripping you apart.

Why do people do it? Either you are very interesting to them (unlikely), you are envied by them so they want to take you down a notch or two (perhaps), or they derive malicious pleasure from jerking people’s chains, and you are the topic of the day.

It’s going to happen. King David once lamented, “With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause (Psalm 109:3).” There was a lot of talking behind Jesus’ back, talk that led to his betrayal and execution. So people are going to talk about you.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

If they are interested in you, they will, once they get over their shyness in being around such an wonderful person, come out of their shells and talk to you. Talk to them first. Life is too short to wait.

If they are envious, don’t worry. Nothing they can say will affect who you are and what you do.

If you are the target of the day, turn the other cheek and ignore them. That’s what Jesus did. He had more important things to do than worry what they were saying about him. He had a world to save and he did it. He can give you the power to live above those who talk behind your back.

Why Doesn’t Anyone Like Me?

Harley Davidson motorcycles were always the choice for rebels and outlaw bikers, but the company softened its approach for a time. For a time the company chose a marketing strategy that distanced itself from this rebel image in an attempt to appear more wholesome and “American” (maybe like apple pie and hot dogs)!

Harley Davidson stumbled close to bankruptcy, however, and found itself reembracing its legendary connection with rebelliousness. The strategy worked. Everyday Americans really wanted to see themselves as part of another world. They felt unashamed to strap on their leathers and rumble off on their Harley.

There’s a message here for you, whether you’re a bike buff or not. The Bible teaches, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16-17).

When the world doesn’t like you, it can be a sign that you’re doing the right thing, the will of God.

A teenage girl breaks it off with her boyfriend because he’s got sex on his mind, and the whole school makes jokes about her. A young man considers joining a Christian church against the precedent set by his unchurched parents, and they threaten to write him out of the will. A star member of the soccer team misses a tournament game because of a church conflict and is benched for the next game.

Like a Harley owner, when you are different you embrace another world. In that world love, forgiveness, and peaceful comfort provide safety and security, mercy and meaning for those who wish to live in it – both in this life and the next. That world is God’s world of grace.

God would like it very much for you to live unashamedly in his world, day by day, by trusting in his promises. And there are many people, in this world but not of this world, who already live there. They like it and they’ll like you! One place you can find them is at a local church referred through this website.