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We are not alone---How so?
The passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “Traveling Light,” published in 2001 by W. Publishing Group.
A friend of mine worked at a pharmacy while attending the University of Texas. Steve’s primary job was to deliver supplies to nursing homes in the Austin area. An additional task, however, involved a short trip next door.
Every four days he shouldered a large jug of water and carried it fifty or so feet to a building behind the pharmacy. The customer was an older woman, perhaps in her seventies, who lived alone in a dark, sparse, and tarnished apartment. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling. The wallpaper was stained and peeling. The shades were drawn, and the room was shadowy. Steve would deliver the jug, receive the payment, thank the woman, and leave.
Over the weeks he grew puzzled by her purchase. He learned that the woman had no other source of water. She would rely on his delivery for four days of washing, bathing, and drinking. Odd choice. Municipal water was cheaper. The city would have charged her twelve to fifteen dollars a month; her expense at the pharmacy added up to fifty dollars a month. Why didn’t she choose the less expensive source?
The answer was in the delivery system. Yes, the city water cost less. But the city sent only the water; they didn’t send a person. She preferred to pay more and see a human being than pay less and see no one.
Could anyone be that lonely?
It seems that David was. Some of his psalms have the feel of a lone oak on a winter prairie.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalms 25:16 NIV)
I’m tired of all this--—so tired. My bed
has been floating forty days and nights
On the flood of my tears.
My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
Nearly blind, I squint and grope. (Psalms 6:6—7 MSG)
David knew what it feels like to be lonely. . . betrayed.
When they were sick, I dressed in black;
instead of eating, I prayed.
My prayers were like lead in my gut,
like I’d lost my best friend, my brother.
I paced, distraught as a motherless child,
hunched and heavyhearted.
But when I was down
they threw a party!
All the nameless riffraff of the town came
chanting insults about me.
Like barbarians desecrating a shrine,
they destroyed my reputation.
YAHWEH, how long are you going
to stand there doing nothing? (Psalms 35:13—17 MSG)
David knew the feeling of loneliness.
He knew it in his family. He was one of eight sons of Jesse. But when Samuel the prophet asked to see Jesse’s boys, David was overlooked. The prophet counted and asked if there wasn’t another child somewhere. Jesse snapped his fingers as if he’d forgotten his keys. “I still have the youngest son. He is out taking care of the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11 NCV).
Jesse’s term for “youngest son” was not complimentary. He literally said, “I still have the runt.” Some of you were the runt in your family. The runt is the one the others have to put up with and keep an eye on. And on this day the runt was left out. How would you feel if a family meeting was called and your name wasn’t?
Things didn’t improve when he changed households.
His inclusion in the royal family was King Saul’s idea. His exclusion was Saul’s idea as well. Had David not ducked, he would have been pinned to the wall by the spear of the jealous king. But David did duck, and David did run. For ten years he ran. Into the wilderness he ran. Sleeping in caves, surviving on wild animals. He was hated and hunted like a jackal.
David was no stranger to loneliness.
You aren’t either. By now you’ve learned that you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Two thousand years ago 250 million people populated the earth. Now there are more than 5 billion. If loneliness could be cured by the presence of people, then surely there would be less loneliness today. But loneliness lingers.
Very early in my ministry I offered this Sunday morning prayer: “Thank you, Lord, for all our friends. We have so many we can’t spend time with them all” After the service a successful businessman corrected me, “You may have more friends than you can see. Not me. I have none.” A person can be surrounded by a church and still be lonely.
Loneliness is not the absence of faces. It is the absence of intimacy. Loneliness doesn’t come from being alone; it comes from feeling alone. Feeling as if you are
facing death alone,
facing disease alone,
facing the future alone.
Whether it strikes you in your bed at night or on your drive to the hospital, in the silence of an empty house or the noise of a crowded bar, loneliness is when you think, I feel so alone. Does anyone care?
Bags of loneliness show up everywhere. They litter the floors of boardrooms and clubs. We drag them into parties and usually drag them back out. You’ll spot them near the desk of the overworker, beside the table of the overeater, and on the nightstand of the one-night stand. We’ll try anything to unload our loneliness. This is one bag we want to drop quickly.
But should we? Should we be so quick to drop it? Rather than turn from loneliness, what if we turned toward it? Could it be that loneliness is not a curse but a gift? A gift from God?
Wait a minute, Max. That can’t be. Loneliness heavies my heart. Loneliness leaves me empty and depressed. Loneliness is anything but a gift.
You may be right, but work with me for a moment. I wonder if loneliness is God’s way of getting our attention.
Here’s what I mean. Suppose you borrow a friend’s car. His radio doesn’t work, but his CD player does. You rummage through his collection, looking for your style of music---let’s say, country-western. But you find nothing. He has nothing but his style of music---let’s say, classical.
It’s a long trip. And you can talk to yourself for only so long. So eventually you reach for a CD. You’d prefer some steel guitar, but you’re stuck with soaring tenors. Initially it’s tolerable. At least it fills the air. But eventually it’s enjoyable. Your heart picks up the pattern of the kettledrums, your head rolls with the cellos, and you even catch yourself attempting a little Italian aria. “Hey, this isn’t so bad.”
Now, let me ask you. Would you have made this discovery on your own? No. What led to it? What caused you to hear music you’d never heard before? Simple. You had no other choice, no other option. You had nowhere else to go. Finally, when the silence was too loud, you took a chance on a song you’d never heard.
Oh, how God wants you to hear his music.
He has a rhythm that will race your heart and lyrics that will stir your tears. You want to journey to the stars? He can take you there. You want to lie down in peace? His music can soothe your soul.
But first, he’s got to get rid of that country-western stuff. (Forgive me, Nashville. Only an example.)
And so he begins tossing the CDs. A friend turns away. The job goes bad. Your spouse doesn’t understand. The church is dull. One by one he removes the options until all you have left is God.
He would do that? Absolutely. “The Lord disciplines those he loves” (Hebrew 12:6 NCV). If he must silence every voice, he will. He wants you to hear his music. He wants you to discover what David discovered and to be able to say what David said.
“You are with me.”
Yes, you, Lord, are in heaven. Yes, you rule the universe. Yes, you sit upon the stars and make your home in the deep. But yes, yes, yes, you are with me.
The Lord is with me. The Creator is with me. Yahweh is with me.
Moses proclaimed it: “What great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us” (Deuteronomy 4:7 NLT).
Paul announced it: “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27 NIV).
And David discovered it: “You are with me,”
Somewhere in the pasture, wilderness, or palace, David discovered that God meant business when he said:
“I will not leave you” (Genesis 28:15 NCV).
“I will ... not forsake My people” (1 Kings 6:13 NKJV).
“The Lord will not abandon His people” (Psalms 94:14 NASB).
“God... will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).
The discovery of David is indeed the message of Scripture---the Lord is with us. And, since the Lord is near, everything is different. Everything!
You may be facing death, but you aren’t facing death alone; the Lord is with you. You may be facing unemployment, but you aren’t facing unemployment alone; the Lord is with you. You may be facing marital struggles, but you aren’t facing them alone; the Lord is with you. You may be facing debt, but you aren’t facing debt alone; the Lord is with you.
Underline these words: You are not alone.
Your family may turn against you, but God won’t. Your friends may betray you, but God won’t. You may feel alone in the wilderness, but you are not. He is with you. And because he is, everything is different. You are different.
God changes your n into a v. You go from lonely to lovely.
When you know God loves you, you won’t be desperate for the love of others.
You’ll no longer be a hungry shopper at the market. Have you ever gone to the grocery on an empty stomach? You’re a sitting duck. You buy everything you don’t need. Doesn’t matter if it is good for you---you just want to fill your tummy. When you’re lonely, you do the same in life, pulling stuff off the shelf, not because you need it, but because you are hungry for love.
Why do we do it? Because we fear facing life alone. For fear of not fitting in, we take the drugs. For fear of standing out, we wear the clothes. For fear of appearing small, we go into debt and buy the house. For fear of going unnoticed, we dress to seduce or to impress. For fear of sleeping alone, we sleep with anyone. For fear of not being loved, we search for love in all the wrong places.
But all that changes when we discover God’s perfect love. And “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18 NKJV).
Loneliness. Could it be one of God’s finest gifts? If a season of solitude is his way to teach you to hear his song, don’t you think it’s worth it?
So do I. (105-111)
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