Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
– Psalm 25:16-18 (NAS)
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
– Mark 6:31 (NAS)
In 2014 the Guardian published an article entitled, “Loneliness: a silent plague that is hurting young people most”. The article outlined that while our social media technology helps in many ways it does not alleviate the struggle of loneliness. In fact the a study by the University of Michigan in 2013 indicated that that certain social media platforms like Facebook tends to reduces life satisfaction, technology can help us find and meet new people (Guardian, Natalie Gil, Sunday, July 2014)
Being Lonely – We can all identify with being lonely. David’s Psalm is a remarkable insight into a phase of life that seems filled with turmoil and strife. We often see David as a great warrior, a great man of faith, and relentless in his pursuit of God. Certainly he had some large and problematic appetites that put him between a rock and a hard place at times but being lonely does not seem like our first headline with him.
But obviously, David is just like us. He has moments of great courage and faith and some moments of being deeply rattled by his circumstances. In this lament / penitential Psalm he uncovers a precarious element of his own heart and emotions – “I am lonely and afflicted”. The idea of loneliness is the idea of being solitary and alone. Often this occurs when we are feeling overwhelmed by something. David cries out to God because there is no other source of encouragement but he knows that God is his best source of hope in the midst of his despair. Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. One is a matter of circumstance while the other is about our attitude and perspective. When we lose perspective, we lose hope. God never promises that we will never face challenging circumstances that may leave us in lonely place but it does not mean that we are alone. God is faithful to be with us in every situation.
Being Alone – On the other hand I have noticed that being alone, at times is the best thing in the world. No that is not a peculiarity of introverts; being alone is often the place to gain great spiritual perspective. Mark 6:31 indicates that in the chaos of life there is great value in getting apart from people and responsibilities to spend time alone in a solitary place for rest and prayer. Mark 1:26 tells us that Jesus regularly went out early in the morning to a solitary (lonely) place to pray and commune with His Father. With our frenetic, chaotic and ADD lifestyles it is actually hard to find people who can get away to a lonely or solitary place AND use that time, not for self-pleasure but to seek the Lord through the avenue of prayer.
It is interesting how we can find ourselves in the same circumstances discovering two different ways of life. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by our circumstances while at others times we find spiritual wisdom and power in spite of our circumstances. We can struggle in our loneliness or find ways that even being alone does not mean we need to be lonely. God makes the difference.