lonelyTurn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16 (NLT)

I don’t get to travel often. In fact it’s rare that I spend a night away from my family. One on occasion though I remember sitting in a hotel room 1500 miles from home. I was there for a conference that I’d looked forward to for months. I was basking in the warm sunshine of the Sunbelt while my family endured the cold winter of the north.

It was a great time. The sessions were everything I hoped for. The networking I did was fulfilling. Yet, the entire time I was there I battled the plague of loneliness. Don’t get me wrong. I was far from being alone. I was a phone call or text message from my loved ones; I was in a conference with loving and accepting people. But feelings of loneliness have nothing to do with the location you are in or the amount of people you are around. In fact, loneliness is worst when you are in a crowd.

One recent study suggests that 60 million people in the United States are affected by loneliness. The late Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”  But it’s not just people that make you feel alone. One definition of loneliness is “feeling unhappy because of being separated from other people.” Feelings of failure, inadequacy, rejection, poor self-image, anger and many other feelings can lead us to withdraw into the harsh world of loneliness.

Sometimes we are separated from others because of physical distance, as I was at that conference, but other times we are separated from others emotionally. We’ve all been there. Maybe you are there now. No one seems to understand your feelings. Even your closest friends seem intent on ‘fixing you’ rather than just listening to you and letting you sort things out yourself.

While there is no easy answer to the severe feelings of loneliness, I take some comfort in the Bible and in particular the book of Psalms. Written by a man who failed as a father, leader, lover, husband and friend, David writes from the heart about his struggles with the emotional part of life.

In Psalm 25:16, he pleads with God to, “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.” You can almost hear the anguish in his voice. Imagine that. At the time he was the most powerful and popular king his nation had ever had. Yet in spite of his power and popularity (the two things we all hope for) he felt complete and udder distress.

David knew that the only place to get relief for his soul was from God. In the same way, the only real way to battle the feelings of loneliness we have is by going to God. Many may say, ‘Why God? How can he understand how I feel?”

The reason God can understand how we feel is because his Son, Jesus Christ, endured loneliness and rejection more than anyone else. His family thought he was crazy. Church leaders constantly hounded him, trying to catch him in some lie so they could kill him (which they did eventually), His friends abandoned him in his hour of deepest need and never did fully understand him. The ultimate rejection, however, came from his own Father.

In our western, 21st century culture we don’t understand the significance of this event, but in the book of Matthew (Matthew 27:45-46) we’re told that God himself ‘turned his back on Jesus’. When God ‘forsook’ Jesus, it was like turning his back on Jesus. In that culture, when a father turned his back on his son it was the deepest and strongest symbol of rejection that could happen. At the point of Jesus’ deepest point of need, even his father rejected him and left him all alone. It’s no wonder some of Jesus’ last words were (to paraphrase) ‘Dad! Why have even you turned away from me? You were all I had and now you are gone!”

Are you feeling completely rejected? Do you feel like no one else cares? Do you feel like your failures are so great that no one can ever accept you again? There’s only one person who knows exactly how you feel because he went through the same feelings. That person is Jesus Christ and he anxiously reaches out to you to comfort, forgive and most of all be your closest friend.

Dear Jesus, you know better than anyone how I’m feeling right now. The feelings of loneliness and failure overwhelm me. Please help me to feel your presence in my life right now and especially during those times I need a friend. Amen.

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