How Many Ways Can You Say Lonely?
Most of us think of Jesus as the Son of God and our personal Savior. Some might assume that God’s Son and Savior of the World would live a life of luxury. Royalty to the max. But His life was the antithesis of that. We are told, “He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.” (John 1:10-11, MSG)
He spent three years training his disciples and helped them over and over again. But on the last night of His life those disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him. Shortly after the soldiers came to arrest him, the disciples fled and left Him alone to face certain death. All of them. All alone.
How lonely Jesus must have been. But that agony was just beginning. By far the greatest separation for all eternity happened just a few hours later. When Jesus was crucified he became the sacrificial lamb that bore all of our sins on his body. And because His Father could not look on sin when His Son hung on that cross God had to do two things: 1) create a horrendous storm which blackened the earth; and 2) turn His eyes away.
Never before throughout all eternity, nor in his 33 years as Jesus, had Jesus and the Father lost contact. They were always one until the darkness exploded and the light of God vanished for three hours. Then we hear Jesus’ greatest loneliness, “And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mark 15:34, NIV).
I’ve often thought that backslidden Christians should ponder their own separation from God as critically dangerous and God-hurting when they read Jesus’ loud voice here. It should cause them to fall on their knees in repentance begging the Father to: “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalms 51:9-12, NIV)
Loneliness is not only found in Jesus’ life it is being felt throughout the Globe right now.
Mark left work when the clock clicked 12:00 noon. He’d bought a bouquet of flowers as an anniversary gift to his wife and headed up the highway to hug her before returning to work by 1:00. I was two cars behind Mark and was enjoying the sunny Spring day.
Up ahead something didn’t look right. “Oh No,” I said, as a loaded log truck coming toward us was suddenly twisting in the lane. The driver had looked to the side and didn’t see the car in front of him stopping to make a left turn. The logger slammed on his brakes praying he could get his load stopped. But then it happened. The trailer loaded with massive firs couldn’t stop and instead jack-knifed around completely blocking our lane. Worst of all, Mark’s car met that trailer head-on plowing hard into the logs.
I turned on my flashers and quickly ran up to help Mark. When I opened the passenger door and reached to pull him out it was too late. He died in my arms crushed to death with his chest squeezed to waffle thickness.
Later when his wife was given her bouquet I heard the most heart-wrenching grief I’d ever known. She was now all alone with only memories to linger in her lonely years afterward.
"Anyway, we had some sadness come to our family. My husband had a mild stroke, and 4 days later, my dear mother passed away. He is doing OK, but dealing with the loss of my mom has been hard. It was so sudden. She wasn't sick hardly ever, and wasn't on any medications. She was 88 yrs.old. She had a bad stomach ache the night before. I told her to drink some ginger tea and it helped a little, so I told her if it got too bad to call an ambulance. This was about 1:30 in the morning. Around 10 am, I got a call from the ER saying she was there. I spoke to her on the phone and she said she still had some pain. Well, they found a small bowel obstruction. I've had that and it's not fun, but I always fixed it naturally. Needless to say, as the day and evening progressed, and doing lots of blood work, her white blood cell count went up and her blood pressure was dropping. The doctors didn't know why. They put her in ICU and I got there as fast as I could. They were trying to revive her as I got there and did, but I was told she may only have one hour. I was shocked. So, I immediately prayed as I was stroking her hair. She was unresponsive to me but I knew she could hear me. I started singing all her favorite hymns. I could see her eye twitch as I was doing so. Then, the nurse said, she just passed. Well, that was that. My mom is exactly where she wanted to be. Her faith in Jesus was immense."
That same study from Cigna placed associated health risks on par with smoking and obesity.
Only time will tell whether loneliness will cause far greater mortality risks than even the COVID-19 virus itself. When loved ones can’t accompany or visit their infected loved ones in their struggles or dying efforts in the hospital ~ loneliness has hit its worst.
Paul was first mentioned at the stoning assassination of Stephen in Acts 7:58. At that time his name was Saul of Tarsus and he was renowned for spearheading assaults on Jews who converted to Christianity. His ferocity focused in Jerusalem at first and spread even to the foreign city of Damascus.
Ananias, a gifted disciple in town, was told by the Lord to go and touch Saul restoring his eyesight and baptizing him into Christ.
But Ananias was afraid of Saul as he had imprisoned many Jews who were new converts to Christianity and even assented to the martyrdom of Stephen. But the Lord told Ananias to do as he was told as He had crucial plans for Saul. Ananias, with knees knocking and shivers down his spine obeyed the Lord and restored Saul’s sight and baptized him.
Saul was no longer the fierce Jewish foe of the new Jewish Christians who were burgeoning like the measles. Now the Lord had unique plans for him. From that moment on Saul did a 180 degree turn. “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:22, NASB)
Saul was so electric that the Damascus Jewish leaders schemed to kill him. Being forewarned Saul was able to escape and flee to Jerusalem. At the holy city he immediately sought the apostles and disciples. But they were terrified of him and, though they had heard about his conversion in Damascus, they doubted it was legitimate and instead sensed it was a deceitful trap allowing him to capture them.
It was at that moment that Heaven intervened and sent exactly the perfect person for this unbelievable rejection. That one-of-a-kind person was Barnabas. “Barnabas” wasn't his birth name (Joseph was), it was his nickname meaning “Son of Encouragement” and may have been given to him by the early Jerusalem church leaders for his generosity with money but maybe even more so for his non-stop shot-in-the-arm motivation. The meaning of “Barnabas” in the Greek is very close to the meaning of the “Comforter” that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be.
“Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.” (Acts 9:27, MSG)
After Barnabas did his magic, Saul began“moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.” (Acts 9:28b-29, NASB)
So, Saul was in danger again and the brethren rushed him to the seaport of “Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:30, NASB) Tarsus was Saul’s hometown and was in modern-day Turkey...far from Jerusalem. Though a life-saving and necessary trip for Saul, it led to another problem. Saul was all alone. And he would one day be named Paul and testify to kings, rulers, Gentiles and more. So being in Tarsus could be thought of as being stuck in Tarsus. The main Gospel action was elsewhere. The Holy Spirit needed the awesome exhorter ~ Barnabas to do one more critically important task. He needed to fetch Saul and accompany him back to the holy land and then they became a ministry team to God’s glory.
Are there any Barnabas people today? Wouldn’t you appreciate it if a Son of Encouragement came to your house or emailed or phoned you today? Amazingly the Lord has a team full of Barnabas Encouragers. Romans 12 introduces 7 functions or gifts that the Holy Spirit has implanted in differing believers in each congregation. And "the encourager", like Barnabas, is one of those 7 gifts. “If you have the grace-gift of encouragement, then use it often to encourage others.” (Romans 12:8, TPT)
I propose that during these horridly-frightening days where millions are nervous wrecks and anarchy reigns worldwide that churches everywhere assist those with the Barnabas gift to actively begin reaching out to their members who are so lonely, grieving and feeling hopeless. And if you’re a Barnabas there is no time to back off or delay starting. Each and every soul on this planet is loved by our Heavenly Father. So the Holy Spirit urges action right now: “Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” (Ephesians 5:15-16, MSG)
Mary’s phone rang and Carole sounded so depressed. “I just can’t take it anymore. I hurt too much.” Then silence... continued silence. Mary called me and said her best friend and nursing partner was threatening suicide. I drove as quickly as possible. We met at Carole’s driveway. Her condo was dark. It was then we realized the car was in the garage with the engine running.
We forced the garage door up and called 911. When the EMTs arrived they said we’d gotten her out soon enough that she didn’t need to be hospitalized. The three of us went inside her Condo. The Holy Spirit provided heart-nourishing stories and Scripture verses which slowly lifted her up out of the murky blackness. We spent a few hours talking about the Lord’s interventions in the lives of other wounded hearts. Then she agreed to meet with the charismatic local Barnabas minister ~ Dave Adams.
Dave’s faithfulness and diligence was exactly what the doctor ordered. Carole became a Christian and her faith slowly but steadily increased.
If you are suicidal or have someone close to you that has ideations God doesn’t want you to take your life. Reach out. Find a Barnabas. Read the Gospel of John. John was the disciple whom Jesus dearly loved. “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31, NASB)
Neither of them was in very good health, but they stayed glued together through thick and thin. But still they were not expecting what was just around the bend. Charles began to struggle with mental issues that led to some unwise choices and behaviors. Leah’s health struggles began to require some assistance in her daily living. It wasn’t long before they sold their home and moved into an assisted living home.
That worked for a while but Charles began to decline farther and sooner than expected. Finally his needs were greater than the Assisted Living Home could provide. This led to a huge dilemma which forced a miserable choice. Separation. The caregiver management told Leah that Charles needed to be moved to a care center better equipped to handle his unpredictable behavior and mental confusion. It was the hardest decision Leah ever had to make.
In just a few days they moved Charles across the street to the better-equipped care center. So the couplet was now split in two. Had it not been for cell phones they never would have been able to see and talk. Neither one’s health allowed for personal visiting. To top it off the COVID-19 hit in full fury and the doors on each of their separate homes were permanently locked.
A lifetime of over a half-century of wedded companionship now had an impediment that seems to be so permanent and final. Oh so very, very sad. But then the rest of the story made my eyes gush with tears and tugged at my heart strings.
Charles and Leah speak to each other every day... several times on their smartphone cameras. But Charles was slipping cognitively and told his dear wife, “Leah please send one of our kids to see me.” Leah said, “Why honey.” Charles, “So I can give them something so you can have a baby.” Leah knowing that her baby-making days were long gone, said, “Why Charles?” “Why do you want me to have a baby?” Leah will never forget her husband’s heart-wrenching response. “Because you’re so lonely. I want you to have our baby so you won’t be so sad and alone anymore.”
“a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, NIV)
for His only possession