My hope and prayer is to encourage curiosity and studying as a means by which God will lead you in His will. I will begin with a testimony: Every year I spend time praying about and looking for materials God would have presented to the young people the Sunday before camp. This year God put an article on my newsfeed about loneliness, and I knew this was the subject to be presented. After that morning class I was recounting to my wife how the class went. Afterward, she said I should write an article and submit it to the Advocate. Then, at the Missouri Reunion Brother Yates came up to me and asked when he could expect something from me for the Advocate. As the word of God says in II Corinthians 13:1, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” So, I will share with you what I learned about loneliness.
Does loneliness have to be negative?
The article that appeared on my newsfeed was an op-ed titled, “God may have put you in a lonely place for an incredible reason” by Rick McDaniel FoxNews.com. As the article points out, the effects of loneliness on a human are well documented, and none of them are good. The article inspired me to study loneliness in the word of God, and reframe it in my mind as a tool of positivity. I like to start my studies by defining any key words of my subject, and with that loneliness is defined as, “solitude, retirement, seclusion from company.” I looked for every variation of loneliness I could think of in the concordance for both books, and found only one verse referenced. Jacob 5: 43-44 says, “That the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away, like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem; Born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.” The negativity reflected in those verses echoes the negativity science puts on loneliness. God even said in Genesis 2:18, “it is not good that the man should be alone…” Does loneliness have to be negative?
To answer my question I first have to find words to look up that relate to or mean the same thing as lonely or loneliness. The word I found through the Hebrew and Greek dictionary at the back of the Strong’s Concordance that best fit the criteria was, “wilderness.” Exodus chapters 13-19 recount the trials and blessings the children of Israel experienced traveling in the wilderness of Sinai after freedom from bondage in Egypt. Moses left the children of Israel alone to talk to God on the mount, and they chose themselves and thus received the Taskmaster Law. The gospels of Matthew and Mark recount Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Jesus, while in the wilderness, when tempted chose God’s word and set an example of overcoming. The difference between these two stories is the motivation behind their actions. When action is driven by emotion we are thinking of ourselves, but when action is driven by the heart of a man we are thinking spiritually. The big picture example I see in these two stories of whether loneliness is good or bad depends on the heart of the man experiencing the loneliness.
In Proverbs 21:19 Solomon writes “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, then with a contentious and an angry woman.” I have found in my life that the full truth is the wilderness is better than a contentious and angry person regardless of gender. The scripture at the end of the Book of Jacob I mentioned earlier reflects the words of Solomon. In the class where my co-teacher, brother Shaughn Sprague and I talked about loneliness, he chose to share a fantastic example of the potential loneliness has for good, and possibly what Solomon meant in Proverbs 21:19. His example is found in the Book of Mormon, Enos chapter 1. There we find a story of a man who went into the wilderness alone to hunt but did something completely different. Verses 4-6 say, “Behold I went to hunt beasts in the forest; and the words which I had often heard my father speak, concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, and the words of my father sank deep into my heart. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication, for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came, I did still raise my voice high, that it reached the heavens.” What Enos received was a remission of his sins, verse 7, and a promise from God, verses 14-16 and 26, concerning his brethren. The experience of Enos was supported by Christ in Matthew 6:6, “But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father which is in secret, and thy father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” This scripture tells me that solitude, or loneliness, should be used for the purpose of prayer.
These scriptures show a positive result of being alone if one chooses God by praying, and even meditating on the things of our souls
These scriptures show a positive result of being alone if one chooses God by praying, and even meditating on the things of our souls. Since the word “meditating” has a different meaning in the world I will give the scriptural definition. Meditate means, to “ponder or converse with oneself” as given in the Hebrew and Greek dictionary in Strong’s Concordance. Enos’ activity in the forest was meditating, and the result was a conversation with God. These examples of intentional solitude have the commonality of being closer to God by getting away from distraction. When we are around company our focus is on them instead of the still small voice. Psalms 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Being apart allows us to be still and listen, which is a key element of a conversation. God said He will be exalted in earth; we are made of earth, so we need to listen so God can be exalted in us. When I entered the wilderness of southern Illinois where I grew up, I felt a connection to God and often found inspiration and answers I could not hear in the day to day activities of life. I would go fishing with a canoe, not for the fishing but for the quiet, peace, and solitude. Seclusion, or solitude, is a way to tithe time to God so He can work and be exalted because of our willingness to be brave and humble by listening to God.
This is why a strong relationship with God is important… to help us be influencers or leaders in a group rather than feeling isolated.
One of the most challenging moments of loneliness I encounter is when I am in a group. It may sound strange, but sometimes we are in a group of strangers or a group doing something we don’t enjoy or agree with, leaving us feeling alone. When I think about that situation I think of Aaron in chapter 32 of Exodus, when the congregation demanded of him to “make us gods which shall go before us…” in verse 1. He was alone, confronted with this large group, and in his isolation of mind and spirit he made a bad choice. His answer to Moses makes me think he was trying to delay, or give the congregation a price higher than they were willing to pay by asking for the gold off the wives’ ears. Regardless of his motives, God’s wrath was directed at all, suggesting Aaron’s heart was not evil but his actions were related to Matthew 5:25, “Agree with thine adversaries quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him…”. This story is one where an individual was isolated not physically, but mentally or spiritually. In that situation I would have done the same as Aaron; complied with their wishes to keep peace and save myself for the moment. This is why a strong relationship with God is important… to help us be influencers or leaders in a group rather than feeling isolated.
Concluding, I want to share a time when my loneliness reached the level of despair, and the miracle I received from God. My company sent me to Germany for two weeks to do a new machine install. I could not speak German, the company denied the rental car, I could not figure out how to make phone calls, the company credit card I had was not accepted at any location in the area, and the two men I was assigned to work with spoke no English. By Wednesday evening I was feeling very alone, isolated, and scared. As I lay in bed at my hotel that night my mind was filled with thoughts of “what ifs” that all had terrible outcomes. I was despairing about how I was going to accomplish my job. To help with understanding what God did it is important to note that my hotel had no air conditioning, and I was there at the end of June, so I kept the windows open while at the hotel. As I lay in bed thinking of everything that could go wrong with no answers for what to do about it, I heard sounds outside that caught my attention. The sounds were a choir practicing at a nearby church, filling the air with hymns. Even though they sang in German I recognized some of the hymns, including “Amazing Grace”. As I listened I was filled with an overwhelming peace, knew that God was there with me, and started to cry. I had no answers for my fears, but I knew with all my heart that it was going to be alright. The rest of the time was wonderful; there were challenges, but solutions presented themselves at every turn and the required tasks were completed without distress. I even had the opportunity to discuss the Gospel with a gentleman at the facility there!
Through the reading I have done and my own experiences, I believe loneliness is a state of mind we choose. Any dark moment, emotional or physical, is a dark moment only if we choose to see it that way. Dark moments can be filled with miraculous blessings when we realize that God is always with us and we let Him talk and lead. May God bless each of you on your walk with Him