SOMETIMES I FEEL INCREDIBLY LONELY

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 opening 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 are major issues 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 your person 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 whop 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 though 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
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 know 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 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 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
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, op[en, 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
Family, 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