July 28th, 2015
I recently felt the cold chill of loneliness and remembered a prayer I had written a couple of years ago for the lonely heart. Perhaps you are feeling alone or know someone who is. Here is that post:
Standing at the checkout line, I swiped my credit card and waited for the prompt to sign my name. As the woman in front of me scanned my remaining items, she looked at me and said, “Did you marry the man you loved?”
Her face was flat and her voice held no emotion. She could have just as easily said, “Paper or plastic?”
Confused, I asked her to repeat herself. I thought maybe she thought I was someone else she had spoken to before. She asked the question again.
“Yes.” I answered. “Why do you ask?”
She then went on to describe arranged marriages in her native country. With disappointment in her voice, she talked about her own arranged marriage. She spoke with longing about the way marriages are made in the U.S. I listened to her talk more about the custom and why she didn’t think people in her culture should continue the practice.
“You sound lonely.” I remarked. She nodded and then someone came up behind and began placing their items on the belt. She turned her head, ending our conversation.
I left the store saddened. Not because she was married to someone she didn’t love but because she didn’t know the Bridegroom. She didn’t know the One who could fulfill all her loneliness and love her unconditionally. She didn’t know the One who could complete her and make her whole. Because what she needed more than a happy marriage was a relationship with her Savior, Jesus Christ.
So many people are lonely and seek to fill that loneliness in ways that could never fill their need. They think the cure to their loneliness is found in change or things or shallow relationships. Or maybe they seek to fill that void through shopping, social networking, blogging, keeping busy, hobbies, the gym, clubbing, or online games.
Even those of us who are believers find ourselves at times lonely, longing for a deep connection with someone else. The ache of loneliness is so intense, we are immobilized and remain stuck in our sadness. Perhaps the loneliness blinds us to what we already have in Christ.
This prayer is for the lonely at heart to seek God at the throne of grace:
Dear Father in Heaven,
I come before you today with a heart heavy with loneliness. I feel like there’s no one who cares, no one with whom I can share the real me. I even feel alone in a crowd of people, like I’m the only one in the room.
Will I ever feel like I belong somewhere? Will I ever feel connected to others? Will I always feel like an outsider?
Even as I pray these words I know I must confess that I’ve forgotten what I know to be true. I’ve forgotten that I am never alone. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death for me, I have become your child. You have adopted me into a forever family. I’m no longer an orphan wandering alone in the wilderness. Because of Jesus, I am part of a family that is as large as the number of stars in the sky. And as your child, I can come to you whenever I want. I have unlimited access to my Abba, my Father.
Forgive me also for trying to fill my loneliness with counterfeit gods, false substitutes, and temporary pleasures. Nothing and no person can fill the void in my heart that was made for you alone.
Help me to seek you in my loneliness. Help me to find my comfort, not in things, but in the love Jesus secured for me at the cross. I know that you will never leave me or forsake me. Help me in my unbelief. Help what I know to be true to be what my heart lives out as truth.
I pray for others who are lonely that you would show them their need for Jesus, the only perfect Friend. Help them to know that he will never leave them, reject them, or turn away from them. I pray that you would use me to encourage the lonely with the love you’ve given me.
Help me also to do the things I don’t feel like doing–becoming a part of a community of believers, participating and using my gifts, encouraging others, serving and giving of myself. These are all hard to do when I feel this weight of loneliness. But then I remember Jesus and how everyone left him alone in his final hour. And how you had to turn your back on him when my sin was placed on him. That was true loneliness and because of Jesus, I will never have to feel that separation that he experienced. May his great love for me propel me to love and serve and join, even when I am hurt, alone, and wounded.
Give me gospel joy even in my aloneness. Blanket me with your grace and loving kindness to ward off the chill of rejection and loss of friends and family. Help me to feel your presence and trust that you are always with me. May this season of loneliness draw me ever closer to you.
Because of Jesus I pray, Amen.
July 14th, 2015
As believers, we are quick to say that God is love. We teach our children the song, Jesus Loves Me, at an early age. We share with others all the ways God has loved us, recounting answered prayers. We often talk about how Jesus reached out in love to sinners in Scripture and how he dined with the outcasts and healed those who were scorned as the least of these.
It is true that God is love and that he is kind and generous and giving and patient with us. In fact, his love for us is more than we can imagine or put into words. But sometimes his love for us looks different than what we expect. Sometimes his love might not be seen as love at all. But it is this kind of love that that we must learn to recognize, appreciate, and even give thanks for.
For this kind of love is a love that gives us what we need most of all.
In John 11, Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus is sick.
“So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”…he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” (John 11:3-7, 11)
This passage tells us that because Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus, he stayed two days longer instead of coming right away to heal Lazarus. It was out of his love for them that he waited. And because he waited, Lazarus died. Verse 4 tells us that Lazarus died “for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. “
John Calvin wrote this about this passage:
These two things appear to be inconsistent with each other, that Christ remains two days beyond the Jordan, as if he did not care about the life of Lazarus, and yet the Evangelist says, that Christ loved him and his sisters; for, since love produces anxiety, he ought to have hastened immediately. As Christ is the only mirror of the grace of God, we are taught by this delay on his part, that we ought not to judge of the love of God from the condition which we see before our eyes. When we have prayed to him, he often delays his assistance, either that he may increase still more our ardor in prayer, or that he may exercise our patience, and, at the same time, accustom us to obedience. Let believers then implore the assistance of God, but let them also learn to suspend their desires, if he does not stretch out his hand for their assistance as soon as they may think that necessity requires; for, whatever may be his delay, he never sleeps, and never forgets his people. Yet let us also be fully assured that he wishes all whom he loves to be saved.” (Complete Commentaries, Kindle edition, Location 401146)
God’s love for us doesn’t mean that he will always give us what we want when we ask for it. He might respond in complete silence. He might not bring healing, provide us the job we want, or make our greatest dream come true. But he always gives us just what we need. As the Gospel Transformation Bible puts it regarding this passage, “The gospel is a story of our God doing all things well, not all things easily. His name is Abba Father, but this does not mean that he leads his children in a life of complacent ease and comfort” (Kindle edition, Location 227289).
What Lazarus needed more than physical healing and what Martha and Mary needed more than for their brother to be healed was for them to see the glory of Christ. They needed to see that Jesus was more than a friend who could miraculously heal. They needed to see that he was God made flesh, the Maker, Creator, and Sustainer of all things. They and all the mourners gathered that day needed to see that even death itself is under his command. They needed to see the wonder of his glory.
When we are confused by God’s love for us, when he doesn’t answer our prayers or when life is really hard and he doesn’t make it all better, he doesn’t cease to be a God of love. Rather, we need to remember that his love is not like our love. God’s love goes deeper. It sees farther. It desires our complete transformation, from the inside out. It is a love that will go to any lengths necessary to redeem and restore us to who we were made to be.
Keep praying. Don’t let God’s silence or delay cause you stop praying. But know that God has not fallen asleep or forgotten you. He loves you deeply. He will finish what he started in you. He will give you what you need most of all. And you will see his glory.
I recently felt the cold chill of loneliness and remembered a prayer I had written a couple of years ago for the lonely heart. Perhaps you are feeling alone or know someone who is. Here is that post: Standing at the checkout line, I swiped my credit card and waited for the prompt to sign my […]
As believers, we are quick to say that God is love. We teach our children the song, Jesus Loves Me, at an early age. We share with others all the ways God has loved us, recounting answered prayers. We often talk about how Jesus reached out in love to sinners in Scripture and how he […]
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