SOMETIMES I FEEL INCREDIBLY LONELY

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-3smms-10254a6

 

When God created the world, He declared that everything was good (Genesis, Chapter 1)

The sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars — all good!

  • He was pleased 
    • Pleased with the animals
    • Pleased with the mountains
    • Pleased with the oceans
    • Pleased with the trees

Above all, God was most proud of His best work: Man (“very good”)

All was good — except one thing…

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man (Adam) to be alone’” (Genesis 2:18)

Loneliness was a fly in God’s otherwise perfect ointment

A problem that He fixed by doubling the human population from one to two

Adam now becomes Adam and Eve, his wife

And this opened the way for centuries of arguments over who gets to hold the remote control

But don’t miss the important point: God designed people to need people / others

So, it is not good to be alone

Question: If this is true then why do you feel lonely so much of the time?

Feeling alone

Feeling lonely is a major issue today in spite of Facebook and all the other social apps 

And more and more people are experiencing loneliness during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic

Robin Williams: “I used to think the worse thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worse thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.” 

Personal comment as an introvert:

I like to be alone. But I hate to be lonely

Loneliness is a weird thing…

You can stand in a crowded room and feel alone

You can have people close to you physically but far from your heart

You can be the life of the party and still be relationally bankrupt

Loneliness…

Married people aching to really know their partner’s thoughts and feelings

Kids craving real friendships

Teenagers who battle feelings of isolation and lack of acceptance

Single adults longing for married companionship

Older people feeling abandoned and forgotten

Even leaders – the ones who seem to have it all together – often feel lost and friendless in the hollowness of their souls

And, God hates it

God said: “It is not good for men or women to be alone”

Why is God so passionate about loneliness?

Because He deeply values relationships

Our God is a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who relate to each other and live in unity and community

    He wants us to know Him – Relationship – and live in unity and community with Him

    And we come to know Him more by sharing His love with one another (relationships)

We cannot know or experience His love when we are isolated and alone

Yet so many people struggle with thoughts like:

        • No one understands me
        • Does anyone genuinely care about me?
        • If I died, would it really matter?
        • No one knows the real me ..and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t like me

And so many have lived life …

Hoping to having an abundance of meaningful relationships and not having one really  good one

Finding out that almost every one – no, change that, everyone – has unspoken exceptions of you that you most likely could not meet or simply wouldn’t want to

Discovering that people close to us have wounded us and so we live guarded lives so we don’t get hurt again

Most of us can relate …

We became a believer and expected Christians to act like Christ … only to find out that they act more like the Antichrist

People you thought you could trust … well, you shouldn’t have

And so, even in a crowd, we feel lonely – incredibly lonely.

As we lived life we come to three key observations and conclusions…

That keep us secluded; separated from touching and knowing others intimately

That cause us to live life on the surface with no depth in our relationships

“An inch deep and a mile wide” as we wear masks and hide who we really are

Seclusion Conclusion #1: I HAVE TO PERFORM FOR PEOPLE

When we are trying to please people – all people, all the time

When we are co-dependent and thus ‘need-to-be-needed’

Needing to please as we meet all needs

This whole issue of “I have to perform” spills over into our faith as believers and Christians

Some believers see faith as something we must “do” so it is is performance-based

Earning approval

Performing

Fulfilling rules and requirements 

When we measure our worth by what we accomplish and produce – our performance

When our value is found in what we do and not in our relationship with Jesus and with others

Then we come to the first Seclusion Conclusion – “I have to perform for people”

This leads to isolation and loneliness

As a church leader … pastor – apostle

If I don’t perform – I don’t get invited back and thus my ministry will shrink instead of grow

Don’t offend people

Say the right things (usually what they want to hear)

Help the church grow

Don’t rock the boat

Be who they need you to be – don’t be real

This is a hard reality to change … it always involves others and requires a strong you – a stronger you!

Maybe you’re a performer

In school as a child you tried to prove your worth by making all A’s

In your mind a B was the same as an F

In sports – you didn’t play to enjoy – you had to be the best and win

As an adult – you strive to be the perfect parent

As an adult – you want to be the perfect spouse

As an adult – you strive to be successful in the business world

As an adult – you want to be financially successful

As an adult – you work hard to be a good friend

In relationships – you don’t let others see the real you because you think — maybe you know — that you don’t measure up

So you become who others want / need you to be

So, you unknowingly create impossible standards for yourself and daily put on your best performance for others

The show must go on

And so does the loneliness

Seclusion Conclusion #1: I HAVE TO PERFORM FOR PEOPLE

My value and worth is directly related to my performance

RESULT: Sometimes I feel incredibly lonely

Seclusion Conclusion #2: TO SURVIVE IN LIFE, YOU CAN’T TRUST ANYONE

In my life and ministry I have extended a helping hand many times – discipling and training young men (and women) for ministry

Helping people in need – counselling, being there for them

In many cases – as soon as they had what they wanted – the relationship came to an abrupt end

In a few cases it was simply our paths took us in opposite directions

In many cases those I trusted and thought were loyal turned on me and destroyed the relationship and poisoned many others with their words and actions

Even people I have worked hard to be friends with …

When relationships blow up and leave you in an emotional pool of blood … you decide that you can’t trust anyone

You end up feeling so insecure and not knowing who you can trust and be real with and so you simply stop trusting

Stop being real

Live life on the surface

Protect who you really are and share it with no-one 

Maybe you have felt the same way

To make it in this world you always have to be on your guard

People aren’t what they seem, so you must protect yourself

Don’t trust them, or you will get burned

So, you build walls around your heart and life and don’t let anyone inside

This will, of course, lead you into a frigid and lonely world of isolation

And, your woundedness from past relationships where your trust was betrayed will keep you locked up inside and you will never trust others again

Seclusion Conclusion #2: TO SURVIVE IN LIFE, YOU CAN’T TRUST ANYONE

RESULT: Sometimes I feel incredibly lonely

Let’s look at the third (and last) Seclusion Conclusion…

Seclusion Conclusion #3: PEOPLE DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT ME

Have you ever felt like that?

People only want what’s good for THEM

Your well-being is meaningless to anyone else

They’ll tell you they love you or that they’re praying for you, but it’s all show

People don’t really care

Let me tell you, when you are in ministry this one really quickly comes to the surface

I sit and listen to a lot of leaders – many, many coffees

As the relationship grows and we begin to relate more as equals and less as ‘Mr. Expert” here to help you in your mess

I look for a give and take in the conversations…

I am interested in how things are going in their life

I would like to think they would be interested in how I am doing as a person … or, at the least, interested in my ministry

Nope! Not the case … in fact, never the case

And so, if I am not careful, I can end up thinking that people really don’t care about me 

And so I relate on a “job level” and not a personal level

Example: One man I have worked for now for a decade and known for 12 years

Live in his home when there – He has travelled with me

Every morning I say “Good Morning” and ask how he slept or how he is feeling

In 12 years he has only asked me how I was feeling once….

He has never asked me how my ministry is doing or how I was feeling at this stage in my ministry and life

My conclusion: He really doesn’t care about me as a person

Seclusion Conclusion #3: PEOPLE DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT ME

RESULT: Sometimes I feel incredibly lonely

In several places where I minister regularly there are TURTLES

When you are driving the back roads to get to a ministry opportunity (usually a rehab center out in the country) you see these little shelled friends in the middle of the country road

Your heart goes out to them – I want to get out and help them get across the road before they get smashed by a car

When you drive by a turtle you have to chuckle at their “survival instinct”

There he is, his bony little head poking out on that long, skinny neck

Then when he sees the car approaching, he pulls in his limbs and head

I can’t help wondering about turtle psychology:

Does this illusion of safety really give him peace of mind?

Is he in there lounging back in his armchair, smoking a little cigar, reading a good book?

Does he really believe the car tire ceases to exist, just because he can’t see it?

I suppose millions of turtles throughout history have achieved a last few minutes of peace using this strategy before being destroyed

But this is what we tend to do when things don’t go right in relationships

        • In the family
        • In friendships
        • In church
        • At work

We behave like turtles

We retreat into our shell

We no longer trust people

We don’t open up to others

We don’t take relational risks

We don’t embrace or engage

We live life on the surface

We just hide inside with the illusion of safety

And, as a result, we don’t even get a few seconds of peace out of the deal

We are inside our little shell – lonely and hurting, crushed and broken

And then, like a lot of Christians, we love God with our whole heart but avoid relationships with other believers because relationships are always so messy … once burnt, twice shy

You start to believe that no one knows the real you – and that may be true

You are around people all the time but you live in what feels like “solitary confinement”

You hide in your shell, living with the illusion of safety

But, in reality, you are more vulnerable than ever

Here is why you are more vulnerable to further hurt and woundedness and greater loneliness…

What do we do when we are lonely – when we are relationally dry?

When we crave meaningful intimacy?

When we are thirsty for something more – yet afraid to risk more pain?

When we build our response to the feeling of loneliness on the wrong assumptions?

Here is what I / we do:

I believe that since people might not like the real me

I should conjure up a fake version of me

The old perform-for-people ploy

You know, give them my best show

Most everyone does it at least some of the time

We try to astonish people with our great marriages … that aren’t that great

We go into debt buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like

Maybe it’s all about making the grade, doing more than expected, scoring more points, or saying the right thing

We put on a mask and relate to others from behind the mask … FRONT A FICTION

When we FRONT A FICTION, we are destined for even more loneliness

I have done it many times for a long time … 

God is saying to me – to you – “Enough is enough. I made you who you are – be the real you!”

I heard that a decade ago and have been on an amazing journey of self-discovery ever since

Discovering the real me God created … then bringing the outside expression of me into line with the new – the real -inside me

Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

The verse that starts this part of the journey…

Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying the please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 

TPT “I’m obviously not trying to flatter you or water down my message to be popular with men, but my supreme passion is to please God. For if all I attempt to do is please people, I would not be the true servant of the Messiah.”

And may I add that you will also not be real or have decent relationships

Beyond a shadow of a doubt – I was trying to please / impress the wrong audience

God slowly started to break through my fear and my stubborn performance mentality

He steered me away from living for others and gently called me back towards living for an audience of One

Fronting a fiction…

If you are a performer – and you are – embrace the truth that God loves and cares for you as you really are – the real you that exists deep inside

No matter what kind of external show you put on (performance)

You can’t do anything to make Him love you more

You can’t do anything to make Him love you less

Because He sees the real you and loves you

Then you don’t have to / or need to perform for people

You can just be “you” – a continually growing and maturing you

You don’t have to behave ‘correctly’ – a certain way – to earn His acceptance 

Instead:

You live empowered by God’s Spirit with the goal to please Him alone, because He has already accepted you

You are not who others say you are – or want (demand) you to be

You are who God says you are

Stop performing for others

God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters

God created you, and He knows you and loves you

Your life belongs to Him, so allow Him to guide and direct you and move you away from “fronting a fiction”

A “fake you” that has been created because of these three Seclusion Conclusions…

Seclusion Conclusion #1: I HAVE TO PERFORM FOR PEOPLE

Seclusion Conclusion #2: TO SURVIVE IN LIFE, YOU CAN’T TRUST ANYONE

Seclusion Conclusion #3: PEOPLE DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT ME

The core issue in all of this is “self-protection” 

Protecting you from being hurt, burnt, betrayed, disappointed, crushed, rejected 

In my life, before I learned these truths, the walls would go up, and I would cut myself off from meaningful relationships

The walls were strong and high 

My heart had “No Trespassing” signs posted all over it

I would show others just enough of me to give an illusion of a good relationship

But never enough to make my heart vulnerable again

Slowly, God revealed these truths to me and I saw my need to change 

To come to know myself better

To really fully know myself and then to be fully known by at least one other person 

To then live on the outside who I was on the inside (integrity)

No “fronting the fiction”

To build healthy relationships with no hidden agendas 

Honest, open, vulnerable, transparent, real

To no longer feel incredibly lonely in the midst of multiple relationships

A personal side note:

When I now meet people and it feels like I would enjoy a personal relationship with them

More than a ministry connection where we work together or I minister to them

I think about the potential in light of these three Seclusion Conclusions …

Are they performing and working to impress me?

Are they willing to trust me – revealing who they really are?

Are they showing that they really care about who I am, not just what I can do?

I just don’t have the time or interest to hang around someone who won’t be themselves

Someone who, in so many ways, is hiding who they really are and functions from self-protect mode

Let me close with a Bible story where we see an amazing relationship between two people

A story that is found in 1 Samuel, Chapter 23

A relationship that laughs in the face of these three seclusion conclusions…

Let’s look at the relationship between David and Jonathan

David in the very brief life so far …

Perform for his family and then for Saul, the king

Felt rejected and left out (alone) in his family and in his role within the king’s court

Had experienced many reasons to no longer trust anyone

Father, Family brothers), Saul, others … even God

He certainly would have reached the conclusion that people don’t care

The young shepherd David has been anointed as the next king of Israel

The current king, Saul, was not the least bit happy about it

Consumed with jealousy, he set out to take David’s life

Then God sent David an interesting ally / friend

It was none other than King Saul’s son, Jonathan

Jonathan – the heir apparent to the throne

The throne that has now been promised to David

If I had been David, I would have hesitated before trusting the son of my would-be assassin, but not David

1 Samuel 23:16-17 records a powerful moment between these two young men:

“And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.’”

Jonathan had every reason to be jealous of David or to make his own attempt at securing the throne for himself

But instead, he humbled himself to serve his friend and offered David a powerful and deep friendship

Jonathan did some amazing things:

First, he helped David find strength in God

David couldn’t have become the hero of later decades without his friend’s support at this important stage

Second, Jonathan vowed his loyalty to protect David

Third, Jonathan put David ahead of himself

In word and action, Jonathan showed David he was a trusted and true friend as he engaged and embraced life and the relationship with his friend

Remember, David had been burned by King Saul

The king had tried to run David through with a spear

The king had tried several other times to take David’s life

So, David had every reason not to trust anyone – and to keep the walls up and with “no trespassing” signs posted all over the wall

But, David had dealt with these three ‘Seclusion Conclusions’ and, as a result, has an open heart

And, did not feel incredibly lonely … He felt loved, supported, encouraged, accepted by Jonathan

What about you?

Do you find it easier to give than to receive?

Maybe your pride is blocking you from receiving love and acceptance from others

Maybe you need healing from past relationships so you will learn to trust again

Maybe you have believed a lie – that you are not important, won’t ever amount to anything, and that what you think and feel is irrelevant (no one cares)

Does anyone really know the real you?

Do you know the real you?

Time to get real …

Instead of blaming your past – ask for help to get over your past

Instead of blaming others – look at yourself and be honest, really honest

Instead of hiding from yourself – move forward on your journey of self-discovery

Instead of performing for others to win their approval and acceptance – come to accept who you are right now and be real