In Time of Loneliness
J. R. Miller
"Surely I am with you always--to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20
Loneliness is one of the most pathetic of human experiences. The yearning for companionship is one of the deepest of all yearnings. The religion of Christ has something to meet every human need; what is its blessing for loneliness? We may turn to the Master's own life for an answer to our question. He met all the experiences that ever become ours, and He found for Himself the best there is to be found in the divine love—to meet His experiences. Thus He showed us what we may find in our times of need, and how we may find it.
Christ's loneliness was one of the most bitter elements of His earthly sorrow. His very greatness of character, made it impossible for Him to have any real companionship in this world. Besides, those whom He came to bless and save, rejected Him. The only human relief to His loneliness along the years of His public ministry—was in the love of His chosen friends—and this was most unsatisfactory. But we know where He ever turned for solace and comfort in His experiences. After a day of pain and suffering, He would climb the mountain and spend the night in communion with His Father, returning in the morning renewed and strong for another day of sweet life and service. In His darkest hour, He said that though left alone as to human companionship, He was not alone because His Father was with Him.
The comfort of our Lord's heart in His loneliness, is for us, too—if we are walking in His steps. We, too, have our experiences of loneliness in this world, and we, too, may have the blessed companionship that shall fill the emptiness. In a certain sense—all of life is lonely. Even with sympathetic companions all about us, there is an inner life which each one of us lives altogether alone. We must make our own choices and decisions. We must meet our own questions and answer them ourselves. We must fight our own battles, endure our own sorrows, carry our own burdens. Friendship may be very close and tender—but there is a sanctuary of each life—into which even the holiest friendship may not enter. Blessed are they who in this aloneness can say, "Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me!"
God's is the only friendship that can really meet all our soul's deep needs and cravings. Human companionship helps us at a few points; but the divine friendship has its blessing for every experience. We never shall be left alone, when we have Christ. When other helpers fail and comforts flee—He will ever stand close beside us. When other faces fade out of view—His will shine out with gentle love, pouring its light upon us.
There are special experiences of loneliness in every life—for which Christ is needed. YOUTH is one of these times. Youth seems happy and lighthearted. Companions swarm all around it. But often a young person feels lonely even amid such scenes and friendships. All of life is new to him. As his soul awakens, a thousand questions arise demanding answers. He is in a world with a thousand paths—and he must choose in which one he will walk. Everything is mysterious. There are perils lurking on all sides. Choices must be made. Lessons must be learned. All is new, and at every step the voice is heard, "You have not passed this way before" (Joshua 3:4). This loneliness of inexperience, when a young soul is taking its earliest steps in life—is one of the most trying and painful feelings of all the years. If Christ is not his companion, then, lonely and perilous indeed, is the way! But if He walks beside the young soul in its inexperience, all is well.
There are those who are lonely, because they are homeless. It is impossible to estimate too highly—the value and the helpfulness of a true home of love. Home is a shelter. Young lives nest there—and find warmth and protection. There is also guidance in a true Christian home. Many of life's hardest questions are answered by a wise mother or father. Blessed is that young man or young woman who takes every perplexity, every mystery, every doubt or fear and every hunger—home to the sacredness of love's sanctuary, and gets there sympathy, patient counsel, and true guidance.
Home has also its blessed companionship. It is the only place where we are absolutely sure of each other—and do not need to be on our guard. Youth has its unspeakable longings, its deep hungers, its cravings for tenderness. In the true home, these are all met. Those who have such a home—do not realize the half of its value to them. It is the very shadow of Christ's wings over their lives, the very cleft of the Rock, the very bosom of divine love! Life's loneliness means far less to them—while home shields them and blesses them with its companionship and its patient, wise, helpful, nourishing love.
But sometimes the home is pulled down over youth—and its shelter broken up. Few things are sadder than homelessness. Loneliness begins to be really felt—when the home is gone, when there is no longer a wise and loving mother to give her counsel in your inexperience, to lay her hand on your head in blessing; to listen to your questions and answer them; to restrain your impetuous spirit; to quiet you when you are perturbed and when your peace is broken; to lead you through perplexing paths; to fill your hungry heart with the comfort of love when you long for sympathy and companionship. Bitter indeed is the sense of loneliness—when a young person, used to all that a mother's love means—turns away from a mother's grave to miss thereafter the blessings that have been so much in the past. Nothing earthly will in any full measure, compensate for the loss. Other human friendships may be very precious—but they will not give back home with its shelter, its affection, its trust, its guidance, its soothing, its security.
But blessed is that life which in earthly homelessness can say, "Yet I am not alone, because Christ is with me!" Blessed is that loneliness of homelessness which has Christ to fill the emptiness. With Christ unseen—yet loved and made real to the heart by love and faith—even a room in a boarding house may become a home, a sanctuary of peace, a shelter of divine love!
Another time of special loneliness, is when sorrow strips off the friendships of life. Old age is an illustration. Old people are often very lonely. Once they were the center of groups of friends and companions who clustered about them. But the years brought their changes. Now the old man stands alone. Still the streets are full—but where are the faces of forty or fifty years ago? There is a memory of vacant chairs, of marriage altars with the unbindings and separation that follow. The old faces are gone. It is the young life that now fills the home, the streets, the church—and the old people are lonely because their old friends are gone.
Yet the aged Christian can surely say, "I am not alone!" No changes in life can take Jesus away. He is the Companion of life's feebleness. He loves His aged people. There is a special promise for them: "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!" (Isaiah 46:4). For the Christian, old age is very near to glory. It will not be long until the aged Christian reaches home—to stand again amid the circle of beloved holy ones who blessed their youth and early years.
But not only old people are left lonely by life's changes. Sorrow touches all ages, and if we have not Christ, when other friends are taken, we shall be desolate indeed. Blessed is that life which, when human friends are taken away, finds the friendship of Christ all-filling, all-satisfying, and can say, "Yet I am not alone—for Christ is with me!"
The loneliest of all human experiences is that of dying. We cannot die in groups, not even two by two; we must die alone. Human hands must unclasp ours as we enter the valley of shadows. Human faces must fade from our vision—as we pass into the mists. "I cannot see you!" said one who was dying, as the loved ones stood about his bed. So will it be with each one of us in our turn. Human love cannot go beyond the edge of the valley. But we need not be alone—even in that deepest of all loneliness; for if we are Christ's, we can say, "Yet I am not alone, because my Savior is with me!"
When the human hands unclasp, His divine hands will clasp ours the more firmly. When beloved human faces fade out, His lovely countenance will shine above us in all its glorious brightness. When we must creep out of the bosom of human affection, it will be only into the clasp of the everlasting arms, into the bosom of Christ! Death's loneliness, will thus be filled with divine companionship.
The inference from all this, is our absolute need of the friendship and companionship of Christ, without which we can only sink away in life's loneliness and eternally perish! One reason, no doubt, why our lives are so full of experiences of need—is that we may learn to walk with Christ. If earth's human companionships satisfied us, and if we never lost them—we might not care for Christ's friendship. If earth's homes were perfect, and if they never crumbled—we might not grow homesick for heaven!