Can Loneliness Cut Us Off from God?

I’ve always had a heart for Christians dealing with chronic loneliness. Not just singleness, though that is a cousin – I’m talking social isolation.
Sometimes such isolation comes by a person’s choice. Sometimes it’s because of a person’s toxic attitude.
But a few people are born without the ability to relate. It isn’t really their fault. Those social cues and dynamics you regularly take for granted, like who takes which roles in a multi-person conversation, or reciprocating body language? Totally foreign to those folks, like a shuttered and darkened mall store. They just don’t get it.

These folks come in many different shades; some are almost normative, some learn their way out. But let’s be honest – it doesn’t take much to “bug” others. They spend much of their lives shunned. Their tanks are empty.

And what these people lack from others, they often perceive to lack from God. They feel abandoned. They feel left to their own devices. It’s a daily, pervasive pain that elbows its way into every aspect of life.
The Bible speaks honestly about loneliness, and in notably more somber tones than other trials. “For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up!” (Ecc. 4:10). Being stranded on a desert island is one of the most harrowing fates we know; prisons use solitary confinement to break souls. Mother Teresa said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness.” Even Jesus, blase as he is about human concerns like money, wanted companionship as his hour approached. He denies himself the fruit of the vine until he can drink it with us (Matt. 26:29).
If “all you need is God” were license to run off to the woods for a life of divine communion without seeing another human again, most theologians would hasten to correct. The Christian life wasn’t meant to be lived solo. We were made in the image of a Trinity that enjoys perfect internal companionship. Timothy Keller said, “Loneliness is the one problem you have because you’re made in the image of God.” So, with few exceptions (some driven by bitterness), our souls reach for companionship. And God, who works through means, intends great benefits for us through that community.

And when it doesn’t come for some, they wonder if they have been deprived of vast swaths of God’s kingdom.

They have few people to pray with them – “where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them” (Matt. 18:20).

They enjoy less accountability – “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

They have fewer kingdom resources to draw upon when in need (Romans 12:13).

And they cannot help but ask why God isn’t helping.

Put simply, if they feel that God’s hands and feet don’t care, why conclude that his heart does?

Can loneliness cut us off from God?

Something clicked with me from a sermon this week:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9a)

I cannot imagine that God spoke to Paul without empathy. He acknowledges pain of many kinds throughout Scripture and calls himself the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). God knew that Paul sought relief, peace, freedom. He did not deny the weakness and need.

He did, however, change the route. God’s message was clear: his grace is the only source of life.

Ultimately, it comes down to how you view the universe. Do we really believe that God is the single source of life and goodness? Life and Satan will challenge that assertion. We often only belt it at church, spending the other six days sidling slowly towards comfort TV or staring at stock tickers (guilty).

If we do believe God is the only source, we inevitably believe there is no path to either him or his provisions except going directly to him. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

C.S. Lewis said, “When the first things are put first, second things are not suppressed, but increased.” That applies even to the most profound needs and trials. Even if God agrees we need something we’re not getting, he remains first, not just by right, but by necessity. We should know from experience by now that the other way is booby-trapped, inverted, wrapped in paradox. Put a need before God and it will stagnate; put a need after God and it will be watered by his grace.

It doesn’t diminish God to say that lonely people struggle. It does diminish God to say that something other than him must come before him.

Loneliness does not place us beyond God’s reach, nor does it restructure the universe so that we need the church to get to him. Indeed, it suggests that our best chance of having our needs filled – be they community, food, deliverance from any trial – is to abide in God first (John 15:1). Everything else is downstream.
There may still be time and effort involved. I can’t say where the delay comes from.

But when we find greater holes in our soul, God says, “challenge accepted”. As the challenge grows, so does his power. Approach him with your weakness; receive his power overflowing into all else. There is no cup he cannot fill.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Star Trek: Discovery is No Longer Family-Friendly

Funny…if you’d told my ten-year-old self that, one day, a Star Trek series would be running and I wouldn’t have the faintest desire to watch it, I’d have laughed at you.

I usually try to keep my blog away from culture wars and “Christian boycotts”, because I believe we’re likely to get better evangelistic results by talking about what we’re for (i.e. loving God through Christ alone) than what we’re against. But today, it’s a PSA (public service announcement) for anyone considering watching Star Trek: Discovery.

I watched the first five episodes of Discovery, the seventh series in the franchise and the first to air in 12 years. I didn’t continue because the series is part of CBS’s All Access project and I thought it stupid to keep paying for a subscription unless the writing was top caliber. Discovery’s wasn’t. Muddled and excessively Nolan-ized (i.e. characters are horrible and we’re supposed to care because it’s “dark”), the show was strongly performed but wasn’t sure why it even existed. It didn’t have that immediate mystery-grip that Lost did.

Then, with its midseason finale, the show made a hard-left turn into mature-rated cable content. Not just the much-ballyhooed gay kiss (a first for the franchise), but a flashback sex scene featuring nudity. (I was ambushed by a Youtube clip.)

Not only does it all feel done just “because it can”, but it pricks my conscience as a Christian. I grew up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was never a bastion of Biblical thought even then, dripping with Gene Roddenberry’s yes-we-can humanism and contempt for religion (how can one work in the LAPD, of all things, and come away with a rosy picture of human nature?), although he deserves great credit for promoting racial diversity in his casts. But Trek for the most part remained harmlessly family-friendly. Deep Space Nine had its LGBT dallyings, but they remained wrapped in sci-fi trappings. We still stopped watching it as a family.

Well, now it has to be edgy, and has also (along with a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the recent feature film, Star Trek Beyond) given the LGBT community the victory for which they have clamored so loudly  over the decades.  I am not the first to note that they think it discriminatory if any entertainment product omits an LGBT pairing these days. Such is the direction this show has turned, seemingly for no reason except to further normalize those lifestyles.

I leave it to you to decide whether to invest in Discovery, and I pray we will all practice good discernment and shine like lights in the darkness. But I will not be further investing.

4 Ways to Snag a Christian Mate with your Facebook Feed

How your Facebook feed can "sell" you like anything else.If you rely on Facebook to find your prospects, you might want to reevaluate things.

But sometimes Facebook just ends up being part of our first impression. It’s the world we live in. You meet someone, you sneak in a brief chat, and then go home and…friend each other. Hopefully in that order.

And in that moment, our Facebook feed can say a lot about us. Just like clothing or mannerisms can. File this entire post under the category “Like it or not”. As in, like it or not, Facebook has become a separate domain of our existence, right alongside “work” or “home”. It reveals our witness, and it sells our character in more ways than you might think.

Assuming you’re looking to do your part in finding a Christian spouse while God does his part, and assuming you’re out for his very best, here are a few ideas to flag down the kind of person you’re looking for.

(If you’re the kind who doesn’t post much on Facebook anyway and just uses it to keep track of friends, consider yourself excused from this.)

 

1. Show evidence you’re a Christian

You might have heard the question, “If you were arrested and put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The point being, Christianity is not something to be kept on the down-low.

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For the Martyrs of Roseburg, Oregon

(I couldn’t decide which was more pretentious: thinking that my words were apt for the suffering believers in Roseburg, Oregon this weekend; or pressing on with my next post without honoring them. I decided to risk my words.)

A question arose in our small group this week: “Why do you think people don’t read the Bible more?”The reward of Jesus

I think most people don’t see the Bible as good news.

We see it as a list of rules and expectations, a litany of warnings and harbingers, and endless reminders of our inadequacy and our need for God.

Honestly, those are part of the deal. There is a price tag when we launch out to follow Christ. “Don’t begin until you count the cost,” He warns in Luke 14:28 (NLT). He’s not a Savior to be tailored, streamlined, or optimized to meet our user preferences. We’re the ones who need to be tailored.

But look what we’re getting in return!

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10b)

Today, as the nation mourns with Roseburg, God indeed offers good news.

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