Are You Lonely?

 

Ironically, loneliness is something which binds us all together. Introvert or extrovert, nomad wanderer or family man, no matter who or where you are, we all feel alone sometimes. I’ve been told there’s no loneliness like a life of being single, and I believe it. I’ve also been told there’s no loneliness like being married and yet on your own. I believe that, too. Loneliness is a hallmark of the human condition.

 

When Adam and Eve fell, they became separated in all their relationships – from each other, from Creation itself and from God. And their descendants inherited their misery. All our associations have become a daily struggle. We misunderstand our friends and malign our enemies instead of ministering to those around us. We fight with the weeds in our yard rather than cooperating with the soil to bring life and color into the world. And we are prone to forget God within moments of knowing His gracious presence with us. You are not experiencing anything strange or unexpected when you feel alone, but loneliness IS a painful form of suffering.

 

So what can you do about it?

 

  • Accept it. You will never cure all your loneliness in this life. Like a clap of thunder on a sunny day, it can strike you at any time, out of the blue. Loneliness sometimes triggers sorrow, frustration, confusion, desperation, anxiety and the feeling that we must be doing something wrong. While you cannot cure all your loneliness, you can refuse to give in to the temptations that come with it, temptations to believe and to do things to fight it, to explain it and to end it. Instead, accept it. It comes with being human. There is something better ahead. If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world (CS Lewis). You are just going to be lonely for a little while here, and that’s OK. Everyone else is, too.
  • Connect with others. The walk of faith was never meant to be a solo journey. Even before the Fall God said it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). Jesus Himself had friends, and He sent his disciples out two by two. God placed us in families, in neighborhoods and nations so we could reach toward the hands and hearts of those around us. The church needs you, and you need the church. Even if it scares you, you were made for relationship. I always tell people that it takes between three and five attempts to make a new friend. Devise a prayerful plan, and be ready to persevere. It’s worth it.
  • Connect with creation. Even if you have a terminally brown thumb like me, you can find ways to enjoy nature. I find that spending five minutes outside (even in the Florida heat) brings me a peace I cannot find indoors. One of my favorite activities is snorkeling where I experience a beautiful world normally witnessed by God alone. He made us for garden life, so get out there. Take a walk. Get a plant or a pet. Arrange some flowers. Paint a landscape.
  • Connect with God. Read Romans 8. Even when you don’t feel it, you are NEVER ALONE, NEVER UNLOVED, NEVER HOPELESS. God knows intimately all your circumstances, your blessings and the heart groanings even you don’t understand. If He loved you enough to send His only Son to die for you, why would He abandon you now?  Stay in God’s word. Study it with others. Pray at every opportunity and in every state of mind. Keep a gratefulness journal.

You cannot finally cure your loneliness by doing these things, but sometimes you will get a taste of the future which waits for us in which we will never be lonely again.

What Are You Worth?

 

I’m asking you right now.  What are you worth?

 

A glassy-eyed, slightly panicked stare is often the only response I get to that question. After several moments of stunned silence, many people answer with a variant of, “Not very much.” Others, especially those who have had some secular counseling, will answer, “I’m worth standing up for,” or “I’m worth my own happiness.” This latter group speaks angrily, as though they are opposing an unseen enemy who always argues against them.

 

No one ever gives me an amount. Granted, it’s a difficult thing to estimate. In the end something is only worth what someone else will pay for it. Today’s real estate market has taught many a lesson in that regard. Similarly, an appraisal of my grandmother’s engagement ring listed the value upwards of $10,000, but when I decided to sell it, no one would pay anything like that price. The ring was over-valued. It was never worth as much as I thought it was.

 

It’s also possible to undervalue a possession. American Pickers has made a cable splash, not to mention a lot of money, based on that fact. They know someone, somewhere will pay more for their finds than the price on the sticker. In fact, something considered a piece of junk can turn out to be worth quite a bit more than its owner suspects. It doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you feel. An asset is only worth what someone else will pay for it. No more, and no less.

 

So I ask you again, “What are you worth?” If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then a ransom has been exchanged for you, body and soul. Your value is a known quantity. You are worth the very life of the only-begotten Son of the Lord of the Universe. It doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you feel. You are worth infinite riches, because that is the price which has already been paid for you. Sometimes just knowing that changes everything.

 


If this post sounds familiar, it might be because it was originally published here in 2012.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, a book review

Why do bad things happen to faithful people? It’s a question which drove me to despair as a young Christian struggling with the devastating effects of stage 4 cancer. It’s a question which has caused my friends and clients great dismay over the course of my counseling ministry. When I needed answers, I was able to find books dealing with either the theological tangles (most notably for me, The Sovereignty of God by AW Pink) or the emotional process of suffering (e.g., A Grief Observed by CS Lewis or Holding On To Hope by Nancy Guthrie). Now there is a book which attempts to include both the intellectual questions and the practical strategies in one volume, Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Random House, 2013).

 

The book is divided into three parts. Simply put, the first part defines the questions inherent in suffering, the second part wrestles with those questions and the third part offers some Scriptural strategies for coping with suffering. That means two thirds of the book is intellectual in nature, a preponderance concealed by the title. And yet, that was the crux of the matter for me. When I was able to discern a little logic, a little purpose in the universe which included suffering, it eased some of the exhaustion, anger and depression I carried with me like a dead weight. Keller also deals with the heavy intellectual emphasis by including personal stories at the end of each chapter in the first two sections, a practice I wish he had continued into the third part, as well.

 

I liked this book – but I like Keller, and I like theology. Before recommending it to someone else, I would want to know whether they are ready for a gentle exercise in philosophy. Part of the reason I enjoyed the book was that it confirmed some of my own beliefs, for example, that God is in control, that the world is a broken place and that suffering is and will be redemptive. Everyone must come to their own conclusions about the meaning of life and the purpose of suffering – I don’t think being handed a mantra on a silver platter solves anything – and this book allows room for that kind of wrestling. It also attempts to provide some practical strategies for dealing with pain, largely from the Psalms, but there is something about those final chapters which falls short, remaining too academic for me. Coping with suffering, like everything else we do, can be worship – should be worship – and at its best, worship is a passionate undertaking. For that you will have to read something else.