“CURE FOR THE LONELY HEART”
1. “Growth and change during college years produces a variety of feelings in students. In addition to feelings of excitement and anticipation, there may also be feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not necessarily being alone. We may be alone for long periods without feeling at all lonely. On the other hand we may feel lonely in a familiar setting without really understanding why. The best way to begin to understand loneliness is to examine some of the ways people experience it. You may feel lonely when:
• you’re alone and you don’t feel you have a choice not to be;
• you feel that you’re lacking attachments you had in the past;
• you are facing changes in your life—a new school, town, job, or other changes;
• you feel there’s no one in your life with whom you can share your feelings and experiences;
• your self-perceptions are that you’re unacceptable, unlovable, not worthwhile even if others don’t share those perceptions.
Misconceptions About Loneliness
Loneliness can be made more intense by what you tell yourself it means. College students are particularly susceptible to the following misconceptions regarding loneliness:
• “Loneliness is a sign of weakness, or immaturity.”
• “There’s something wrong with me if I’m lonely. These should be the best years of my life.”
• “I’m the only one who feels this way.”
If you believe these misconceptions you may believe that loneliness results from a defect in your personality. Research suggests that college students who think of loneliness as a defect tend to have the following difficulties:
• greater difficulty in taking social risks, in asserting themselves, in making phone calls to initiate social contact, in introducing themselves to others, in participating in groups, and in enjoying themselves at parties.
• less skill in self-disclosure, less responsiveness to others, and a greater tendency to approach social encounters with cynicism and mistrust.
• more likelihood of evaluating themselves and others in negative terms and more tendency to expect others to reject them.
Lonely students often report feeling depressed, angry, afraid, and misunderstood. They may become highly critical of themselves, overly sensitive or self-pitying, or they may become critical of others, blaming others for their situations.
When these things happen, lonely students often begin doing things which perpetuate their loneliness.
Some students, for example, become discouraged, lose their sense of desire and motivation to get involved in new situations, and isolate themselves from people and activities.”
2. To be sure, college students are not the only people who face loneliness. Students of all ages, active adults, as well as the aged, must also come to grips with loneliness.
3. The question has not to do with whether or not a person feels lonely. I am persuaded that all but the most shallow individuals battle feelings of loneliness. The question is, What are you going to do about loneliness?
4. Before that question is answered, let me direct your attention to a particularly appropriate passage in God’s Word, the 133rd Psalm. Turn there, if you please, and stand for the reading of that portion of Scripture:
A Song of degrees of David.
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
3 As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
5. Please understand that there are times that you will feel lonely because God wants you to feel lonely. There is work that He will do in your life when you feel lonely that He can accomplish at no other time. But there are other times when you are lonely and you don’t need to be.
6. This is a passage that can speak to your heart at those times in your life when you feel profoundly lonely, desperately lonely, but you don’t need to feel lonely. This wonderful psalm naturally falls into two parts:
1A. First, THE PRAISE OF UNITY
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
1B. The 19th century British Baptist, Charles Spurgeon, wrote, “Behold. It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints, -- therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well! God looks on with approval, therefore consider it with attention.”
2B. “. . . how good and how pleasant it is . . . .” David is speaking about something that is not only morally upright, but pleasurable to the soul. This is something that is both delightful to God and delightful to man. This is something that is both beneficial and enjoyable.
3B. Of what does the psalmist speak? “. . . for brethren to dwell together in unity!” It is not good enough to be brethren, you will notice. Jacob and Esau were brethren, but they did not dwell together. Neither is it good enough to dwell together. Some dwell together, but experience no unity of purpose, no unity of mind, no unity of spirit. Cain and Abel dwelt together . . . until Cain slew him.
4B. What is wonderful, what is marvelous, what attention needs to be called to, is when brethren dwell together in unity. David finds such so rare and valuable that he is almost unable to describe it, other than to say that the doing of it is both good and pleasant . . . so he seeks to picture it.
2A. THERE ARE TWO PICTURES OF UNITY IN THIS PSALM
1B. First, there is the picture of Aaron’s anointing.
Verse 2 reads, “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.”
1C. Can you imagine how thrilled Aaron was, standing there before his brother, Moses, and the nation of Israel, there at the foot of Mount Sinai, as Moses poured the specially prepared liquid on his head? It was in this fashion that he was anointed high priest of Israel.
2C. Try to place yourself in his shoes, the oil running down upon his beard and onto his priestly garments. Smell the aroma, caused by the cinnamon and myrrh and sweet calamus blended into that rich olive oil.
3C. How very good he felt. How very pleased he was. All was right in the world, so far as he was concerned. He stood there set off from the others. But was he lonely? Impossible! He was filled with contentment. And that is how brethren feel when they dwell together in unity.
2B. As well, there is the picture of dew on the mountains.
Verse 3: “As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
1C. Mount Hermon is the largest mountain on the northern border of Israel. The water from Mount Hermon bubbles up to form the headwater of the Jordan River, that feeds the Sea of Galilee, and runs the length of the country to empty into the Dead Sea. Zion, of course, is the mountain upon which Jerusalem sits. The psalmist is telling us, thousands of years before climatologists knew of it, that Mount Hermon’s dew descends, ultimately, and by a variety of means, to the mountains of Zion to the south.
2C. If the picture of Aaron’s anointing helps the reader to feel how wonderful it is for brethren to dwell together in unity, this picture of dew descending upon the one mountain and then the other mountain shows us how very important it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
3C. Without dew on the mountains there is no water for the vegetation to grow. Without dew on the mountains, there is no cool breeze in the evening. Like dew on the mountains provides moisture and relief from the heat, so brethren dwelling together in unity moistens the lips and cools the temper. And as the moisture moves from the bigger Hermon to the lesser Zion, so blessings flow from the elder and more mature brother to the younger and less mature brother.
4C. “for there,” in Zion, the place where God’s people congregate, “the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” This is how very important it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Is there life without it? Possibly, but not likely. Certainly not life with quality.
1. Loneliness is a feeling. It’s a feeling of emptiness, a feeling of isolation, a feeling of being invisible to other people. I remember so often feeling utterly lonely, even in rooms filled with people.
2. Are you lonely? Do you feel utterly isolated from real and meaningful contact with other people? After brother Isenberger comes to lead us in another song, I want to speak to you about the cure for the lonely heart.
1. “The lament of loneliness is one of the most common anthems of our time. We fill our schedules with wall-to-wall events and pack in meeting after meeting, phone call after fax response. But despite all the people and all the activity, we so rarely connect deeply with others. We have become a society of clients more than colleagues... acquaintances more than friends.
Los Angeles once was described to me as a thousand suburbs in search of a city. It strikes me that our society has become like the sprawl of L. A. We are often little islands of self-absorbed, self-contained individuals in a futile search for the solid continent of community.”
2. Loneliness is something which can overwhelm a person, which can drive an individual to despondency. But there is no real likelihood of ridding one’s self of loneliness until it is understood that loneliness is actually one of the symptoms of a more serious series of problems.
3. Looking to Psalm 133.1, let me speak to you lost folks for a few minutes about three factors that so profoundly affects loneliness that dealing with each of them in turn will virtually eliminate such feelings of loneliness.
4. Read this verse again with me. Let’s read it out loud together: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
1A. THE FIRST FACTOR AFFECTING LONELINESS IS SUGGESTED BY THE WORD “BRETHREN”
1B. The word “brethren” shows a family relationship. My friend, you will feel lonely so long as you remain outside the family of God.
2B. I remember one of the incidents that led to my conversion: I was in a night spot that was filled to overflowing with young men and women. There I stood, in a crowded room, completely alone and disconnected from everyone else in the room. But it wasn’t just me. Everyone else in that room would have felt the same way, had they slowed down enough to be honest with themselves.
3B. I began, on that night so long ago, to realize that I was lonely because I was lost. I could not have verbalized my feelings then as well as I can after all these years of reflection, but I now know that God is a jealous God, and He demands and commands that we love Him. Therefore, what likelihood do you think there is that God will allow you to have a real and fulfilling relationship with other people so long as you ignore God’s desire that you have a real and fulfilling relationship with Him?
4B. You really have no chance of relieving yourself of this intense feeling of loneliness unless and until you are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ and are adopted into the family of God. Once you are a member of God’s family, once God becomes your heavenly father, and once other believers become your brothers and sisters in Christ, the greatest impediment to being rid of these feelings of loneliness is overcome.
5B. You see, not only does sin separate between you and your God, but sin also effectively separates between you and other people. Even those with whom you share common sins are separated from you by those sins you have in common, because that is the characteristic of sin. Sin not only defiles, degrades, and destroys, but it creates impassible chasms between people that forever isolate them from each other, making real companionship and meaningful interaction almost impossible.
6B. But if you become a Christian, your sins will be forgiven and those barriers to real intimacy with God are removed, as well as those barriers to deep and abiding friendship, comradeship and love for others being removed. So, loneliness is greatly affected by your spiritual well-being and your relationship with God. Many Christians, like me, were profoundly lonely before they became Christians.
2A. Next, DWELLING TOGETHER IS A FACTOR AFFECTING LONELINESS
1B. It is difficult to avoid feeling lonely when you are alone, even if you are a Christian. This is why the writer to the Hebrews stated the obvious, in Hebrews 10.25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
2B. It is vital for God’s people to be together. There is not found anywhere in God’s Word the concept of isolated Christianity. The Christian life is a life that is to be lived in community. So, while I felt extremely lonely in a crowded room, I was lost at the time. Since I have become a Christian I have not forsaken the assembly. I have been faithful in church for thirty years now, and have not experienced the loneliness that I so often faced as an unsaved young man.
3B. Why not? In part, because I am now a child of God and have brothers and sisters in Christ. I am now one of the “brethren.” But also, in part because now that I am one of the “brethren,” I also “dwell together” with other believers.
4B. From time to time one of our number will stand to give testimony to the importance of the congregation, and will make mention of how helpful the brethren have been to encourage and uplift fellow believers who were in deep water. My friend, that is one of the purposes of the church, to encourage one another.
5B. Being in church and gathering with the saints, which is to dwell together, is almost always an uplifting and edifying experience, even for a lost person. What a caring and supportive community we have here. Imagine, then, what it would be like if you were one of the brethren, if you shared a relationship with Jesus Christ with us, if God was your Father as He is ours.
6B. Are we capable of disappointing you? Can we let you down from time to time? Oh, my, yes! We are a congregation of sinners. Never forget that. But we are a congregation of sinners who have a Savior. Never forget that, either.
3A. Finally, UNITY IS A FACTOR AFFECTING LONELINESS
1B. There are several ingredients that combine in this recipe for loneliness. One is being dead in trespasses and sins, estranged from God, separated from the holy God by sinfulness. So, when a sinner comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and cleansing, he is reconciled to God and enjoys sweet communion with his Creator and his Father in heaven.
2B. Still, however, there can be loneliness. When the child of God is faithful in attending church with other believers, when he sits under the preaching of God’s Word with other believers, when he submits to pastoral oversight and instruction with other believers, and when he grows in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ with other believers, yet another factor affecting loneliness is dealt with.
3B. The final factor that all but eliminates loneliness is this thing called unity. You will remember, from Genesis 13, that Abraham and his nephew, Lot, dwelt together. But there was strife between their herdsmen, so they separated. So you see, you can be brethren and dwell together . . . for a while. But until there is unity there is a risk that you may not be able to profitably dwell together, leading once again to loneliness. So, even Christians can experience loneliness, whenever there is no unity.
4B. Let me stop here to avoid overcomplicating the issue. But you can easily grasp the issues confronting you. Loneliness is related to a purposeless and directionless life. It is life disconnected from the grand purpose of God’s design for you. So, when someone becomes a Christian, and when he begins to associate with others of like faith and practice in church, and unites with them in purpose and direction . . . loneliness, such as previously drove him to despondency, becomes a dim memory.
1. Loneliness is a powerful force in the lives of many young people these days. It drives some young people to gangs. It drives some young people to drugs and booze. It drives some young people to promiscuity.
2. However, some young people look for that strongly felt need for companionship, for community, for friends, for belonging, for meaning, for usefulness, for kindness, in church.
3. Our responsibility here at Calvary Road Baptist Church is to open up our arms to welcome the lonely, to welcome the needy, to welcome those who are like what we used to be like, who now feel how we once felt.
4. Our prayer is that the lonely one will feel less lonely here, and will stay. We want them to make friends and to feel welcome. If they stay they will feel more and more comfortable. Our desire is that they will stay here.
5. It has been our experience that after a time they will recognize that their basic needs have not been met. They have not yet come to Christ. Their sins are not yet forgiven. They are not yet part of the church. They do not yet know the oneness of mind and heart that believers can enjoy with each other. They do not yet know God.
6. Our hope is that there will come a time when you will listen more carefully, will see more clearly, will understand more fully, and will truly come to Christ. Then, as brethren, you should become a part of this church and dwell with us in the congregation. Still farther on, when there is real unity, there will be such an intimacy and singleness of purpose, such a oneness of mind and heart, that loneliness, in that way, will be a thing of your past.
 http://www.couns.uiuc.edu/Brochures/loneline.htm 4/29/2004
 Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury Of David, Volume III, Part 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers), page 167.
 An aromatic cane, see Exodus 30.23 in John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989), page 376.