Using Loneliness to Your Advantage (Part 2)

One of the reasons loneliness is so difficult is because we were created for community.

The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18

A helper, companion, and friend. The couple would then have offspring, not only for reproduction but also to create family. Families would become tribes, etc.

However, we know that not everyone is equal in families or societies, regardless how much people say they want “equality.” Even these persons and groups shun and dislike certain persons, whether it’s because of difference of religious or political views, social and economical class, styles or culture, the way persons look, etc. Thus, not everyone has friends or family to hang out with.

With all this said, there are many who do not have family or friends to be with during the holidays. There are others who do, but who feel so disconnected from those around them. Understand, loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Being alone is simply not having people around. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a sense or feeling of being disconnected, rejected, unloved, undesired, unwanted, and/or ostracized by others. 

Strangely, anyone can be susceptible to feelings of loneliness, whether it is one who is considered the “dreg” of society or the beloved captain of a football team. Regardless, the feelings of loneliness are very real and can be destructive if not kept in check.

Another way to use loneliness to your own advantage is to use it to consider who you are and what you desire to be. I do not mean what psychologists call “visualization” (i.e., if you want to be a rockstar, then picture yourself up on stage, etc.). Rather, who are you as a person? What is your temperament? What are your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and passions? What kind of person do you want to be (e.g., kind, compassionate, mean, or obstinate)? What do you want to accomplish or be remembered for?

Times of loneliness can also be times to consider the deeper issues of life: What is truth? Is there a God? What is justice? Does life have meaning? What happens when we die? Too often we can be influenced by the media, teachers, preachers, gurus, emotions, etc. However, it requires times of solitude to genuinely reflect on these issues. These times of pondering can also aid in observing contradictions and logical fallacies. For example, when corrupt politicians try to lecture society on morality and ethics; when university professors deny absolutes, then decry “injustice”; when preachers talk about following God, but then deny His Word; etc.

Most of us will experience rejection of some form, as well as seasons of loneliness. During these times decisions will be made. Will we allow these trials/fires to consume or purify? Will be become bitter or better? Will we permit the experiences to transform us or the opinions of others to conform us?

Loneliness is painful—at times, emotionally excruciating. But it can be a beneficial discipline—even a healthy forging, if we will endure it. If you are presently going through the fires, truly I know it is difficult, and it is years later that I have come to appreciate the value of loneliness. 

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. ~ 1 Kings 19:11-12

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:33

Using Loneliness to Your Advantage (Part 1)

Loneliness is a painful experience. It can be emotionally crippling. However, loneliness can be used for one’s advantage and betterment. Mind you, I am not going to lie to you, loneliness will continue to be painful at times. Nevertheless, it does not need to destroy a person.

When I became a Christian in my teens, nearly thirty years ago, I lost nearly all my friends. I was passionate about Jesus and the Bible. Strangely, this does not necessarily endear a person to others in churches, let alone non-church goers. In any case, there were many, many weekends I spent at home with nowhere in particular to go. No phone calls from friends asking if I wanted to go to the movies or out to eat. I admit, there were times this was extremely difficult.

There are a few benefits I received from these experiences. 

First, spiritual development. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless until they find their solace in Thee.” Blaise Pascal noted, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

This world always has an abundance of activities to distract us from God and thoughts of Him. This technological age has only multiplied the distractions. Sometimes, if we will allow it, loneliness can remind us that there is more to life than mere continuous empty pleasures and distractions; and that there is a God who is knowable, if we will but approach Him on His terms and stop being so distracted.

I hated school when I was younger, and I was not much of a reader. Yet, being by myself a lot, I was able to have a lot of time to read the Bible. I got tired of watching television all the time, so I began reading. Strangely, I grew to love reading. Although I was a high school dropout, all my reading would later help me tremendously when I would earn my GED, then enroll in college. I graduated with honors.

Use loneliness to draw near unto God, and to build a solid foundation for your life (see Matthew 7:24-29). Loneliness will still be painful, but it will serve a greater purpose.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. ~ James 4:8

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

Worth Fighting For

One of my favorite lines in “moviedom” is in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Frodo is feeling the weight, weariness, and hopelessness of the evil bound to the ring. His friend Sam tells him, “There’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Like Frodo, the heaviness of life can weigh a person down, and all one can feel is the loneliness, hurts, evil, and despair. Despondency begins to strangle hope, and distorts one’s perception. One forgets about the sunlight and trees, as all that can be seen is a fiery sky painted over darkness, illuminating a barren land of devastation. However, Sam’s words are just as applicable to us.

When I was in the darkest parts of my depression, and despondency had sucked out of me any desire for living, I would cry out “I hate life!” But I remember during more honest times during prayer, acknowledging to God that it was not truly life I hated; rather, it was the loneliness, sadness, heartache, with the added sense of meaninglessness and abandonment. I did not so much have a morbid lust for death—I simply wanted the continual pain and despair to end. Nevertheless, the feelings of being unwanted and unnecessary were debilitating. 

Perhaps, on this day, you can relate. Maybe you are feeling defeated, as it seems to take everything within you to take another step. Are you asking yourself, “What difference does it make, anyway?” When we consider the characters in Lord of the Rings, Frodo did not have the skills of a man, the stealth of an elf, or the strength of a dwarf. Yet, his part within the mission of the fellowship of the ring was indispensable! The same can be said of Sam, an unsung hero of the fellowship. 

Dear one, maybe everything around you appears dark and bleak. I beg of you, do not give up. There is still a lot of good worth fighting for—including your life! Do not compare yourself with others, for there is no comparison. Others may be greater at this or that, but your life is essential for the purpose God created you! Even within the mundane there is design. Keep fighting, because there is still good worth fighting for, even if you do not recognize it at this moment of time!

If you have found any encouragement from this post, I would love to hear your thoughts. Blessings!

Let the Warrior Within Arise

Trembling before the obstacles,

While adversaries advance;

Depression, Fear, Failure, the like —

Make up the foreboding circumference.

The taunts, the laughter, the endless lies

That you would be better off dead;

The mockery shatters the silence,

And keeps echoing inside your head.

Oh timid one, do not cave to the voices,

But let the Warrior within arise;

Be armed with the Armor, held securely by Truth,

And know your Help comes from on high!

Know that defeat is not your destiny,

Rather, Victory is to be your fate;

Lift high His banner, sound loud His truth,

Each lie annihilate!

Behold, your comrades stand beside,

Hope to your left, and Faith on your right;

Just when it seems that all is darkness,

You’ll find that the Lord remains your Light!

Rise up, oh mighty Warrior,

Fixate on Him who is Faithful and True —

Your Defender, your Shield, your God

Who securely watches over you!

Though your enemies vehemently advance,

In Christ, Warrior, take your stand;

And if you stumble e’en seven times,

He will mightily uphold you in His hand!

~ G.P.

The Crucible of Taking Ownership

The issue of accountability might seem unrelated to depression, but bear with me. Shifting and deflecting blame is a universal human tendency. Most people will readily admit that everyone has faults, but owning up to personal faults is not acknowledged so willingly. The problem with blame-shifting is many people’s lives and relationships remain fragmented and broken. Only when genuine ownership and forgiveness (or repentance) take place, can healing and growth take place.

We read that the proneness to blame, versus taking ownership, occurs very soon after the first couple partook of the forbidden fruit:

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~ Genesis 3:9-13 (ESV)

God asks the man if he ate of the forbidden fruit. The man blames God for making the woman, then blamed the woman for giving him the fruit to eat (as if she made him eat). God then turns and questions the woman. She blames the serpent for deceiving her.

Neither person humbly acknowledged their disobedience to God’s clear instructions. Instead, they became defensive and deflected blame. One can only wonder what would have happened had they humbly confessed. Certainly there would still have been consequences, but would the world know the depths of suffering it knows? I suppose we will never know.

Modern American society encourages blame-shifting, deflection, and “victim mentality.” We want to blame our parents, teachers, the “system,” and anything else for our poor and foolish decisions. Oh, many of the hurts are real, for sure. These might, indeed, make progress difficult. However, none of these can force us to continue to make poor decisions.

Some people remain in depression, in part, because they choose to curse the day they were born, blame others for their miseries, and refuse to let go of the past in order to move ahead in the present.

Sometimes real hurts happen to persons. Dealing with this requires honesty about the pain; however, one cannot blame anyone for their own choice to refuse to get better. On the other hand, some people want to blame the “system” or others for their own poor decisions. No one else is to bear the blame if an individual refuses to put the work involved to get to where they want to be.

If you’re dealing with depression, these words are certainly not intended to add to your hurting nor are they to ignore any genuine hurts. However, take an honest inventory: are some of your woes your own doing? Regardless what others might have or might not have done, they are not responsible for your present decisions. Someone’s actions may have angered you, but you choose to remain angry or not. Someone might have deeply wounded you, but you make the choice to remain crippled or not. You might not be in a position to move ahead at this time, but no one else is responsible how you view and respond to today’s circumstances.

Hurts hurt, no doubt about it. Yet, we do not have to be defined, hindered, or paralyzed by them. To forgive, let go, and move on is each person’s choice to make alone. No one can make this choice for us. Taking ownership is difficult, but necessary. Mind you, doing so will not necessarily take away the hurt or depression; however, it will begin paving the path leading to freedom and living.

“But they don’t deserve forgiveness!” some will defy. No, I do not suppose they do. Then again, none of us do. “But I can’t forgive!” some will argue. Pray! Ask God for the willingness and help to forgive. And remember, forgiveness has little to do with others but more to do with you. Forgive, because you are worth it!

Remembering the Cross When We Hurt

In our hurts, pain, broken-heartedness, loneliness, etc., we can feel rather isolated—even abandoned by God. However, feelings do not necessarily reflect reality. When we are going through grief or depression, I dare to say our feelings rarely reflect reality. During these times our feelings will often scream that we are forsaken, God has left us to writhe and die in our pain and misery—alone. But this is not the case at all, although our feelings will defiantly say otherwise.

One of the things that has always amazed me about the Gospel message is God has always “played by the rules.” Although He is God and sinless, He came into our fallen world as a Man, and experienced fully the effects of a world ravaged by sin. Being God, could He not have changed the rules for Himself?   Could He not have bypassed human experience in a fallen and broken world? But He did not, because He is a God of truth and faithfulness. Therefore, He experienced poverty, loneliness, rejection, racism, betrayal, grief, sorrow, pain, stress, disappointment, injustice, etc.

The writer of Hebrews states:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ 4:14-16

Some time ago I wrote the following song:

He Is Still Worthy of Praise

Even when storms rob us of sunshine,

    And our laughter turns to cries;

Even when our nights are the darkest,

    And there are no stars in our skies…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    The Holy One who cares;

In brokenness,

    We worship Him through tears…

Chorus 1:

(For) He is still worthy of praise;

He is still worthy of honor;

He is still worthy of worship;

He is still worthy of all!

(Repeat)

Even when our minds are afflicted,

    And questions scream with rage;

And our hearts are so deeply wounded,

    Feeling forsaken in some cage…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    And bend our knees in dust.

In spite of pain,

    We sing to Him with trust…

(repeat Chorus 1)

Through loneliness and friendlessness,

Through deep darkness and through sickness;

Through failure and tears, through raging fears;

Through broken dreams, and angry screams …

Through temptations, and frustrations;

Through broken-hearts, and worlds torn apart;

Through death of loved ones, when grief overcomes –

Through all the loss, we remember His Cross!

Even when we face disappointments,

    When dreams are smashed on rocks,

And we watch them sink under waters,

    As our hearts are crushed on the docks.

Bridge:

We bow our souls,

    And cannot even speak.

We want to run,

    We want to die,

    Yet to our God we cry … and we seek …

(repeat Chorus 1)

Chorus 2:

God You are worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

You are still worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

… Through all the loss, we remember Your Cross …

Jesus, You’re worthy of praise.

(Words & music by Geno Pyse)

Indeed, when we are going through hurts and loss, may we remember the cross. You are loved, and you are not forgotten. Your pain serves a greater purpose, if you will but continue to trust even though nothing seems to make sense.

Dealing with the Wounds of Betrayal

Betrayal. A unique kind of intense pain that cannot be inflicted by a known enemy. No, betrayal is an emotional blade that impales the heart, thrust in by one whom we thought to be a friend.

Consider the situation of Nehemiah:

Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. ~ Nehemiah 6:10-12

This was not an act of betrayal. At least not in the truest sense of the word. Shemaiah might have been an acquaintance of Nehemiah, but his deception does not seem to take Nehemiah by surprise. In fact, Nehemiah does not even appear all that upset with Shemaiah personally.

Yet, we come to the Gospels and we read Jesus’ words:

“Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” ~ Luke 22:48

In today’s vernacular it might come out, “A kiss, Judas? Are you kidding me? Really?! Wow, that is low!”

Here was a man that Jesus poured His life into and ministered to for three years. They traveled together through thick and thin. In Matthew’s account, it is interesting that Jesus, even while knowing He is about to be betrayed, calls Judas, “Friend.”

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” ~ Matthew 26:48-50

The psalmist prophesies about this betrayal:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. ~ Psalm 41:9

I do not think Jesus was being facetious or sarcastic when He referred to Judas as “friend.” I believe He was driving home the point that, on His part, He considered Judas a friend. Furthermore, Jesus was letting Judas see the reality of his betrayal to that friendship.

Betrayal. The piercing of a heart by the hands of one who was considered a friend; one for whom sacrifices were made; one who was loved. What is a person to do if blindsided and emotionally slashed by betrayal?

First, give yourself permission to feel, and to acknowledge those feelings. Do not pussyfoot around acting as though you do not care. It is okay to cry, to be angry, to scream into a pillow, etc. There is nothing “weak” about acknowledging the pain of betrayal.

Acknowledge all your flooding emotions to God. Be real about your feelings—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Consider the psalmist who wrote:

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! ~ Psalm 137:9

To say the least, this was not a happy camper! Now, this was not a sicko who took a morbid delight in infanticide. Rather, it was a man expressing his grief and anger due to cruel captivity. I highly doubt the psalmist would harm even a hair of the head of a little one. Yet, he was able to truly express his various feelings to the Lord.

Too often many of us bury our feelings deep within. However, the feelings neither die nor dissipate. Instead, they may seem to be like lifeless articles forgotten in an attic or basement, but in reality are like living organisms eventually causing infections in our souls. By being honest and open about one’s feelings, and taking the time to cry and grieve, helps one’s heart and soul to detoxify.

Do not seek vengeance. Sometimes people threaten, “Payback is hell!” What is not realized is the fact that payback is just as much a hell for the one getting revenge–as the feelings eat away inside a person like deathly parasites.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” ~ Romans 12:17-19

Betrayal wounds a person. Deeply. Betrayal incites a riot of emotions within a person, it is a spark igniting the flames of grief and rage. Betrayal is a pain all its own, and ones response to it is critical. One’s initial reaction is to retaliate—to confront the person head on. However, this will never ease the pain; instead, retaliation will usually start a series of cause and effect—none of which is good. If one chooses to nurse and nurture the hurt and resentment, it will grow to strangle the very one nurturing it. Resentment and refusal to forgive will rob one of light, love, joy, and peace. Although the temptation to hate is strong, hatred destroys the one who possesses it.

Romans 12:17-19 gives us five pieces of sound advice:

  1. Do not repay evil for evil. Just because someone else sins, do not add sin to your account. Just because a monkey flings its pooh, do not in turn behave like a monkey!
  2. Do what is honorable. People observe what goes on. Continue to do what is right and kind. Do not tarnish your character because of someone else’s lack of integrity.
  3. As much as depends on you, live in peace. This does not mean you become bosom buddies with your betrayer; however, there are tribes who have warred for centuries simply because one will not say, “Enough!” So blood continues to be spilled.
  4. Do not avenge. Adding violence and harm only adds more violence and harm.
  5. Let God repay. Understand, God’s desire is reconciliation; that is, persons unto Himself, as well as unto one another. Of course, this will not always happen. Regardless, persons will not get away for betraying love and friendship. There will be a payment. Leave this in God’s hand. He knows every reason and motive for the betrayal, and He will deal with the situation justly. Perhaps the hardest part is waiting on His timetable.

The process of dealing with betrayal is neither quick nor easy. It is a painful and difficult process. However, if one reacts and chooses to disregard the Scriptures’ instructions, and instead chooses to resent and/or retaliate, the person betrayed will be destroyed by their own devices. As difficult as the process might be, go through it. One has already been injured by one whom they trusted. Why add further hurt by reacting and holding onto inner poison?