When You Feel Alone!

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.

John chapter 20, verse 11 from the New Living Translation

The Resurrection Story! Tell me, is the only time you think about it at Easter? For many, this falls into the category of You Only Read It At The Appropriate Liturgical Season. You know, like the Incarnation–you’re only supposed to read it around Christmas time, right? But, if any epic story from the Bible is appropriate 24/7/365, it’s The Resurrection. This morning it was Verse 11 from John’s account that hit me. Remember it with me.

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb. An appropriate response to grief. But the stone had been rolled away and the body wasn’t there. She ran back to tell the others, and some ran there to see for themselves, including Mary. With me so far? Good! Then they all went back, except Mary. Now she is all alone with her pain. Do you ever feel alone in your pain? A crisis? A fear? A problem? Uncertainty? At home? Even in church?

Perhaps you feel alone with your cancer. Or maybe you feel alone as you read that eviction notice or foreclosure statement. It could be as you are reading your termination letter. The feeling of alone pounces on you as you read your divorce decree. You watch your loved one just lie there in the midst of dementia and you feel alone. You watch your youngest child leave for college. Your child is The Prodigal Son and they just won’t reach out to you. And it could be you’re in your “Mary” moment. You are grieving at the grave. The dirt may be still fresh, or maybe the grass has grown back over it and it’s been years ago. Situations are different–but the loneliness is still the same.

And if John had ended his account of the Resurrection, then we would be justified in our “feeling alone”. But isn’t that just like God, to not let the story end at that point. Jesus is right there! She just doesn’t know it–YET! She stays and stays, then finally decides to leave the grave. Remember! She is still carrying her pain though she is leaving the grave. So, what happens next? Just in case you forgot or didn’t know:

1She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

John chapter 20, verses 14 through 16 from the New Living Translation

There were two Resurrections that morning. The first was Jesus and the second was Mary. When YOU feel all alone, you’re not. The Owner And Master of The Resurrection is also present, even if you don’t recognize Him. Resurrection isn’t bound and tied to a liturgical calendar. It happens every day and all the time. And it’s not just in the lonely places where we need a Resurrection. Problems may be mounting and chaos may seem to be the ruler over your life. Even sin may be telling you that you can never be free. But guess what? The CEO of The Resurrection is right there, ready to share with you The Resurrection you need. Oh, and don’t be surprised if He looks like a Groundskeeper!

I CAN’T CALL HIM! missing my dad!

Well, I made it through Dad’s birthday–it was challenging, but I made it through! I made it through my birthday–another challenging day, but again, I made it through. And this week has been another challenge. Twice a year we come down here to Lake Millsite (Florida) to visit family and friends. I would always call Dad to let him know we made it safely. And then call him every day we were here. And when we arrived here Monday, I couldn’t call him. And once again, here’s that challenge that reminds me of how much I miss him.

God is pulling me through each of these challenges–and to be honest with you (can I be honest with you?)–I don’t like these recurring challenges. I want them to be over–but I still find myself missing Dad. And the pain becomes fresh again, and the loneliness that comes with it–I think I would rather get a root canal without that numbing stuff. Something is missing–someone is missing in my life. But God? He keeps pulling me through these moments. I say pulling because, well, you may find it hard to believe–but I can be stubborn and hard-headed.

I am learning something, in spite of my stubborn side: I can count on God! He gives me a song; sometimes a scripture passage; sometimes a person; sometimes a scene in nature; and always His Presence. And if you are facing a challenge today–you can be assured that God is Present and He is at work in your challenges. My grief is roaring and rolling over me right now. I’m hurting. And I wish I wasn’t. But know what? God is pulling and tugging, tugging and pulling me to help me get through this moment. Our Heavenly Father is a mighty tugger and puller. Count on Him today, tomorrow, and every moment of every day.

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah chapter 43, verse 2 (New Living Translation)

OH, LORD! IT’S MONDAY AND I’M LONELY!

Mondays and every day is a dreaded day when we are feeling lonely. I didn’t say “alone”–I said “lonely”! Being alone and being lonely isn’t the same thing. Loneliness doesn’t depend on the absence of people. We can be in a room full of people and still be lonely. We can be alone but never feel lonely. So, what is the difference?

Loneliness is the result of a myriad of experiences. Abandoned. Disappointed. Forsaken. Neglected. Ignored. Despised. Hated. Misunderstood. Resented. These are just a few of the reasons we feel lonely. To fight loneliness we often make poor choices–just to escape those deep, dark feelings. Back to the previous paragraph. Satan lies to us when he tells us that being alone and beling lonely are the same thing–though they are not the same. Thinking they are the same is only a bandaid fix–eventually lonliness returns.

This season of pandemic hasn’t helped–it has exacerbated the condition of loneliness. And though social media can be a useful tool, it is not the vaccine to cure loneliness. Social media serves the lonely by creating a make-believe world where we are surrounded by people who like, love, care, wowed, cry, and get angry right along with us. Emojis and gifs are replacements for deep, caring relationships. So what’s a lonely person to do?

Glad you asked! It’s not easy, but it is simple. Alienate and isolate those two words: lonely and alone. Then deal with that latter word: alone! Now, tell that feeling of being alone that it’s nothing but a liar–because it is! We are NEVER alone. We may feel that way–but feelings aren’t always truthful. There is ONE who is always present. Psalm 139 is a great song to read when we feel lonely. So is Jeremiah 23, verse 24–“Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord.”

So you see–we are never alone. But loneliness will persist. Fighting that requires a different battle tactic. The first step is to build a deep, faithful relationship with God. Talk to, even call out to the Holy Spirit–and you will find He’s right there with you. And begin to build deep relationships with others–especially those who exude the presence of God in their daily walk. Do you want to make more friends? Then be a friend to someone else. The word “church” wasn’t used in the beginning–the word was Koinonia! It means fellowship and it means holding something in common. Jesus knew loneliness–he said so from the Cross–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We don’t make koinonia happen–we step into koinonia. God is there with us wherever we are and in whatever we face. And He’s not alone! Remember He is 3 in 1–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then He established koinonia in the hearts and lives of others–and the Koinonia is still around us today. Quit trying to make loneliness disappear–step away from it and step into God’s Koinonia. There’s a lot of us already there, and we are waiting for you to step into this amazing fellowship.

When we know the difference between lonely and being alone–and we know that we are never alone because of Jesus, then we can say: “Good! Lord, it’s Monday! What shall we do together?”