"FAITH IS THE VICTORY!" In Overcoming Loneliness INTRODUCTION 1. To the persecuted church in Smyrna, Jesus had His servant John write these words: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Re 2:10 ) 2. This promise certainly demonstrates the importance of believing in Jesus... a. For the "crown of life" is a figure for the gift of eternal life that Jesus offers b. And if we wish to receive this "crown", we must remain faithful! 3. But the rewards of faith in Jesus are not limited to "the afterlife"... a. There can be victories to be enjoyed even in this life - 1 Jn 5: 4-5 b. In this series we have noticed how faith in Jesus helps us to overcome such things as: 1) Sin 5) Despair 2) Anxiety 6) Discontent 3) Boredom 7) Fear 4) Depression 8) Grief 4. As we conclude this series, I wish to provide one more example of how faith in Jesus helps us in overcoming the world with its many ills... a. I am referring to the problem of "loneliness" b. It is has been said that "Loneliness and the feeling of being uncared for and unwanted are the greatest poverty" (Teresa of Calcutta) c. A Jewish proverb states that "Loneliness eats into the soul"; it can also have an adverse effect on the body [As we shall see, faith in Jesus can help us overcome the problem of loneliness; but let's begin as before by seeking to better understand the problem we face...] I. UNDERSTANDING LONELINESS A. LONELINESS IS NOT THE SAME AS SOLITUDE... 1. Solitude describes a situation where one is alone by CHOICE a. To reflect, meditate, or simply enjoy solitary activites such as writing, drawing, reading, etc. b. Every one needs some solitude from time to time 2. Loneliness is a feeling of dissatisfaction with the quality and/or quantity of one's relationships with other people; it can be broken down into two types a. Social loneliness - as when a person goes to college or takes a job in a new town and are isolated from friends and family b. Emotional loneliness - when we feel that we have no one to talk to, no one who understands our deepest concerns and needs 3. Other comparisons between loneliness and solitude: a. Where solitude enriches and energizes, loneliness detracts and debilitates b. Solitude can build a desire to involve one's self with society, whereas... 1) Loneliness often robs one of any such motivation 2) Loneliness can provoke a vicious cycle of despair so that the sufferer shys away from social contact and support needed to overcome c. Perhaps this why it has been said: "Loneliness and solitude are quite different. One is defeat--the other victory." -- The above notes were taken mostly from the General Loneliness FAQ of the soc.support.loneliness newsgroup B. HOW PEOPLE REACT TO LONELINESS... 1. Active solitude a. Becoming engrossed in some activity that we enjoy and which enriches our lives b. Such as listening to music, reading, exercising c. This is a postive reaction to loneliness 2. Social action a. Such as calling or visiting a friend or relative; helping someone less fortunate b. It is a deliberate action that breaks the isolation and involves us with others c. This too is a positive reaction to loneliness 3. Distraction a. Doing something to take our minds off our sense of loneliness b. Such as going for a drive, or going shopping c. This is a more neutral reaction, and really only a temporary solution 4. Sad passivity a. This is where one continues to feel badly and does nothing to positively impact the problem b. This can lead to a downward spiral of depression, and often includes sleeping too much, overeating and self-medicating c. This, of course, is a negative reaction to loneliness -- The notes in this section come from an article by Rona Subotnik, M.F.C.C., who refers to a book called "In Search of Intimacy", by Rubenstein and Shaver C. CHRISTIANS NEED TO RESPOND POSITIVELY TO LONELINESS... 1. For being lonely may be a sympton of a more serious problem a. "Loneliness is being unaware of the One who is with us everywhere." b. "Many Christians suffer from loneliness because they are sitting instead of serving." -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers 2. When one walks with God, they are never truly alone - cf. Jn 16:32 a. "The soul that has been enriched by communion with God will not be dismayed by isolation but will welcome solitude. He will seek not the crowd but the closet, and emerging will never walk alone, for he has unseen companionship." (Frances J. Roberts) b. "The soul that is growing in holiness is the least lonely when it is most alone." (F. Andrew) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World [When one suffers from loneliness, it is an indication that their relationship with God and others may need some work. There is no one better qualified to help us in that regard than Jesus Christ...] II. HOW FAITH IN JESUS OVERCOMES LONELINESS A. JESUS RECONCILES US BACK TO GOD... 1. Paul explained that Jesus' ministry was one of reconciliation - 2 Co 5:18-20 2. Jesus offered Himself as the only way to God - Jn 14:6 3. When we keep Jesus' commandments, we are assured of the abiding presence of both the Father and the Son - Jn 14:21 ,23 -- Through faith in Jesus, we can be reconciled to God and thereby never truly be alone! B. JESUS ADDS US TO HIS FAMILY... 1. We read where Jesus added people to the church - Ac 2:47 (KJV, NKJV) 2. This "church" is also described as God's house, or family - 1 Ti 3:15 ; cf. 5:1-2 3. Indeed, Jesus told Peter what His disciples would enjoy in this lifetime, which I understand to be a reference to His church - cf. Mk 10:28-30 -- Through faith in Jesus, we are born into a spiritual family where we should never be alone C. JESUS' WOULD HAVE US RESPOND POSITIVELY TO LONELINESS... 1. He teaches us to pray, which builds companionship with God a. To pray always, and never lose heart - Lk 18:1 b. To pray to our Father in secret, where you are one on one with Him - Mt 6:5-6 2. He teaches us to serve, which builds companionship with others - Mt 20:25-28 a. One cannot be alone when they are busy serving others! b. Remember, "Many Christians suffer from loneliness because they are sitting instead of serving." -- Through faithful obedience to Jesus, we will establish and nourish relationships whereby we will never be alone! CONCLUSION 1. Just as Jesus knew He was never alone (Jn 16:32 ), so Paul experienced the reassuring presence of God... a. At a time when others had forsaken him - 2 Ti 4:16-17 b. Which gave him hope for the future - 2 Ti 4:18 2. As Christians, we are promised never to be left alone... a. "...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Mt 28:20 b. "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'" - He 13:5-6 Add to such wonderful promises the blessings of being a part of God's family, the church, and truly we should be able to say to overcoming loneliness, and to overcoming any problem we face: "Faith Is The Victory!"