Jesus Speaks to Us About Loneliness
October 27th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
JESUS SPEAKS TO US ABOUT LONELINESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-27-85 10:50 a.m.
You are a part of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. It is the first in a series of five and is a new departure as far as your pastor is concerned in a preaching ministry. If you have been here to church any length of time, you know the way I preach is through expounding the Scriptures, book by book, preaching through a book; always, preaching through a book in the Bible.
Sometime ago, not too long ago, there was a vast, extensive survey made among the people of America. It concerned the problems they face in their lives, and out of that vast survey, there were five human problems that surfaced everywhere. One was loneliness, one was hopelessness, one was purposelessness, one was emptiness, and one was fear.
So, I have prepared, am preparing, these five messages addressed to the problems of human life. I am doing it under a theme: “Jesus Speaks to Us.” Jesus Speaks to Us About Loneliness; Jesus Speaks to Us About Hopelessness; Jesus Speaks to Us About Purposelessness; Jesus Speaks to Us About Emptiness; and Jesus Speaks to Us About Fear, these five sermons in this series, and the message today, Jesus Speaks to Us About Loneliness.
Our background text is in Matthew 27 verse 46; Matthew 27: 46. It is a cry from the cross. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Aramaic for, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
In the forty-third verse, those who had Him crucified, mocking and jeering said, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, ‘I am God’s Son’” [Matthew 27:43].
Then the cry of our Lord, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46].
It had been just a few hours earlier that the Lord had spoken to His disciples in John 16:32, saying, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that you shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because My Father is with Me.” I am not alone. My Father is with Me. Then the cry from the cross, “My God, My God, lama, why has Thou forsaken Me; alone?” [Matthew 27:46].
This is the goal and the purpose of Satan from the beginning of the destruction of the world; to separate, to divide, to alienate, even God from His only begotten Son. A fox separated a little lamb from the flock. And the little thing, separated, full of fear, the fox ran around and around and around the little lamb. Then he attacked, and he bit off his nose. Then around and around, he attacked again, and bit off an ear. Then around and around, tormenting, he attacked again and tore off the other ear. And around and around, and attacked again, and broke the little lamb’s leg; and then finally destroyed its life. That is Satan: to divide, and to alienate, and to separate, and to torment; that is hell.
It is a strange answer from this fallen world that hell is a place where our convivial boon companions gather together in banqueting, and in rioting, and in revelry. Not so, hell is an isolation! Time and again does the Lord Jesus speak of these who are cast into outer darkness. In hell you will be alone; you will be isolated. You will be separated; you will be alienated. That is hell, and thus Satan has been dividing, and alienating, and separating from the beginning of this fallen world.
He separated himself from God [Ezekiel 28:17]; he separated his angels from God [Revelation 12:4]. He separated man from God [2 Corinthians 4:4]. And he separates man from man, and man from woman, and nation from nation, and earth from heaven. It is Satan who coined the phrase, “irreconcilable differences.” It is Satan who invented the word “irreconcilable,” “incompatible.” It is Satan who plows up and divides families and homes and friendships. With sledgehammer blows he drives wedges between loving, enduring people. It is Satan who divides nations, places hatred in their hearts, an Iran against an Iraq, an Arab world against the Jew, these countries in Central America, Eastern Europe against Western Europe; Satan divides.
I read the craziest story this week than I think I ever heard of in my life! A Chinese gentleman and a Jewish gentleman—friends—were eating lunch together. And a cloud came over the face, and a hostile spirit covered the countenance of the Jew, and he stood up and slapped his Chinese friend and knocked him out of the chair. And the Chinese brother looked at him and said, “What is the matter? What have you done?”
And the Jew said, “That’s for Pearl Harbor. What you did at Pearl Harbor!”
And the Chinese gentleman said, “We had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, that was the Japanese!”
So they went back to eating lunch together, and suddenly there came over the face of the Chinese gentleman a hostile spirit. And he stood up and he slapped that Jew out of his chair.
And when the Jew arose and gathered himself, he said, “What is the matter with you? What’s that done?”
And the Chinese said, “That’s for sinking the Titanic!”
And the Jew said, “Titanic? The Jews had nothing to do with the Titanic!”
And the Chinese said, “What?” He said, “Goldberg, Steinberg, Feinberg, Insberg, iceberg, it’s all the same!”
That’s humanity! The dividing, and the separating, and the misunderstanding; finally the hatred, and the slaughter, and the war—that’s Satan! It is tragic beyond description to see that in the house of God among brethren. I grew up in little churches. The bitterness in some of those churches—hatred to one another—was like the opening of the abyss itself. I have sat in services as a youth, as a boy. I have listened to the most dastardly, condemnatory, incriminating accusations! I have seen brethren stand up, point to the pastor in the pulpit, accuse him of everything imaginable, and fire him on the spot. Division, separation, alienation!
That’s why I think one of the most beautiful verses in the Psalms is 133, verse 1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to gather together in unity!” [Psalm 133:1]. Loving each other, preferring each other, encouraging each other, that’s God. And as the goal and purpose of Satan is to divide, and to separate, and to alienate. God’s purpose in Christ is that we be reconciled, that we be one in Him [John 17:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:20].
As with many of you, I have looked on the dead face of Nikolai Lenin in his tomb in the Red Square in Moscow. Always, every day in the week, there will be a line, a queue there, a mile long. And under the surveillance and direction of those Russian soldiers at a certain temple, you’re guided into the tomb and then around that glass encasement, this side, that side, that side, and then out. As you look at Nikolai Lenin—he died in 1924, he was a little beyond fifty years of age, and he died suddenly—and as you look on his dead face, his right arm is extended and lies on his chest. And his fist is doubled up, and he lies there with his fist doubled up. There are statisticians who say there are more followers of Lenin’s communism in the world than there are of Jesus Christ. And wherever he touches, there is that fist doubled up, sowing the seeds of hatred, and suspicion, and war, and revolution, and death; Lenin with his fist doubled up.
And if you’re as I was, and you walk, and look, and see, you couldn’t help but think about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He died with His hands open, nailed to a cross. And He died with His arms outstretched, extended [Matthew 27:32-50]. As far as the east goes east and the west goes west, so the arms of our Lord embrace the entire world of lost humanity.
Reconciliation, loving forgiveness, back to God as God intended that earth be near to heaven, reconciling brothers, man to man, woman to woman, man to woman, children to parents: God’s people, one in Him [John 17:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:20].
I think of our Lord, out of all of the unusual and impressive incidents told in His life here in the Gospels, I think one of the most impressive is this. When He came into the city of Jericho, He walked to a certain tree and looked up into the top of it. There was a little diminutive Jew. He was a despised and hated and outcast publican, tax collector, a traitor in the sight of his brothers, a servant of the hated Roman government, a pawn in their hands to oppress his own people. Jesus went to that tree, looked up and called him by his name. He knows us, every one, and all about us [John 10:3]. Called him by his name and said, “Today, this day, am I to spend these hours in your house” [Luke 19:1-5]. The little fellow came down and stood ten feet tall. And the loving, compassionate encouragement and remembrance of our Lord brought him into a new faith and a new relationship with God [Luke 19:6-10]. That’s the Lord, reconciliation, kindness, encouragement, brotherly love.
And there is something on the inside of all of us that longs for, and hungers for, encouragement, and affection, and remembrance, and helpfulness, and love. We are made that way, we cannot help it. When God created us [Genesis 1:26-27], He created us for that. He said, “It is not good that the man live alone” [Genesis 2:18]. He placed us in homes, and He placed us in families [Psalm 68:6]. And it was His purpose that we love one another and be as one in Him [John 17:21-23]. Now I say there is something deep on the inside of all of us that long for love and remembrance and affection.
I was asked the other day, “Do you remember the First World War?”
Every syllable of it! Lived through every moment of it; had a member of the family who fought through it.
Over the trenches and into no man’s land, the attack was made. And when the American soldiers came back, this fine American boy had left his friend out there in no man’s land somewhere. He didn’t come back. And the American soldier went to his captain and said, “May I go back and find him? He’s out there somewhere!”
And the captain said, “American soldier, No! No! You do that at the risk of your life.”
But the American soldier persisted, and gaining permission from the captain, he went out into no man’s land. When he returned, he fell into the trench, severely wounded, shattered. And the captain came to him and said, “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t go?’ And didn’t I tell you at the risk of your life you would go? Didn’t I tell you that?”
And the American soldier replied, “Sir, when I found him, when I found him, he looked up to me and smiled and said, `I knew you would come,’ then died in my arms. And captain, I had rather have died myself than to have failed him.”
All of us are made like that. There is something on the inside of us that longs for love and remembrance, companionship and encouragement. My sweet mother had a cerebral hemorrhage and lingered for almost seven years. In those years, we placed her in a cottage. There was a dear, wonderful, Christian woman who had about four aged women in the cottage, and she took care of those four women, one of whom was my mother. Visiting her one time, just across the hallway and through an open door, I could see a mother there; an aged mother who wept and sobbed and cried. I went to the dear woman who took care of those precious mothers, and I said to her, “Why does she cry so? Why does she sob so?”
And the dear Christian woman said to me, “Her children have never been to see her, and your coming to see your mother has brought to her the brokenness of her heart. And she cries.”
And I said to the Christian woman, “Would it be all right if I visited her?”
She said, “Oh, do so!”
And I went into the room and sat down by her side, and visited with her long and I prayed preciously, and then prayed with her. It’s hard for me, as it is for you, to think how could children forget their mother, but sometimes they do. And when they do, it is the saddest heartbreak in human life, to be left alone. As I said, this is a new departure for me. I have not preached on things like this ever.
And as I read and read and read, I came across many things. Here’s one of them: a psychiatrist—the psychiatrist says, “The baby needs touching, and caressing, and loving, and holding. The baby needs that. And if the child is to grow up respecting itself, you must touch the child, and care for the child, and hold the child.”
Then I read another psychiatrist who said, “The reason God makes little toddlers so precious and so beautiful and so cute is so that people will touch them, and caress them, and love them, and show them affection. That’s why God did it,” this psychiatrist said. Well, this is what I say. I say we’re all babies, all of us. You just can’t help being that way. We’re all babies, we love to be caressed, to be touched, to be loved. Affection is something deep, needed in our souls.
Reading also about solitary confinement—now this is from physicians—I was surprised to read that in solitary confinement, let the isolation of the prisoner extend for a while, and the nervous system will disintegrate, and the very anatomical processes of the prisoner will deteriorate. God made us for one another. And when we’re separated and isolated and alone, we perish. What an amazing thing about human nature and human life!
But I can tell you this. Isolation and separation are not just for that prisoner in solitary confinement. We can feel isolated and separated anywhere in the world. If you want to feel lonely, you walk up and down the streets of New York City by yourself—don’t know a soul, don’t know a person—and there are thousands of people around you, but you never feel so alone in your life as you do in a great city by yourself.
And that’s why I had us read from the Psalms, “Reproach hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness: I look for somebody to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none [Psalm 69:20]. I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop” [Psalm 102:6-7]. Loneliness, “Lord, Lord, why has Thou forsaken me?”
Now I must conclude. It is the heart of God and the purpose of God that He be closer to us than hands and feet and nearer than our very breath. That’s God’s heart and love extended toward us. Do you remember this verse from Isaiah 49? “A mother may forget her sucking child, and a mother may forget compassion for the son of her womb, but I will never forget thee” [Isaiah 49:15].
Or from the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5]. God is always with us. When Gehazi lamented that Elisha was in the hands of his captors and about to be taken, Elisha said, “They that are with us are more than they that are with them” [2 Kings 6:16]. And Elisha was alone. And the prophet prayed, saying, “Lord, open his eyes.” And God opened the eyes of Gehazi. “And behold, the mountains were filled with horses and chariots of fire, surrounding Elisha” [2 Kings 6:17].
God’s angels are always around us, always with us, always. God is there [Psalm 139:7-10]. When Ruth, leaving her beloved and native Moab—as a stranger entering the land of Israel, God went with her [Ruth 1:16]—and she is listed in the genealogy of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus [Matthew 1:5]. God is with us!
When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fiery furnace, he said, “Did we not cast three into the burning fury? But I see four walking free, and the sight and the countenance of the fourth is like unto the Son of God” [Daniel 3:24-25]. God is with us!
In that terrible storm in Acts 27, the apostle Paul said, “There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve” [Acts 27:23].
The Apocalypse in the first chapter opens:
I John, your brother . . . was in the isle called Patmos, for the testimony of Jesus Christ, alone. And I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying: I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last . . . And I turned to see the voice that spake unto me.
And being turned, then he describes the glorified Lord Jesus [Revelation 1:12-18]. He is always with us. We are never alone. The great host of angelic angels hover around us. Always, God is with us [Psalm 139:7-10]. As I read this poem, written by a Stoic, a stoical attitude, I thought, that’s fine, noble:
Though I am beaten,
Nobody shall know—
I’ll wear defeat proudly.
I shall go
About my business
As I did before:
Only, when I have safely
Closed the door
Against friends and the rest,
Shall I be free
To bow my head—
Where there is none to see.
Tonight, I’ll shed my tears:
I talk with you,
I will be up again.
Though, I am beaten,
Nobody shall guess:
For I will walk
As though I knew success.
[“With Banners,” Abigail Cresson]
I read that and I thought, that is wonderful to be stoical. Nobody, anybody; I’ll just be strong in myself, and self-sufficient, and able, and equal. That’s just great! But I’m not that way; if you want to know how I am, this is how I am:
I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.
I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate Friend;
If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
[“I Must Tell Jesus,” Elisha A. Hoffman]
It’s a different life; it’s a different way; it’s a different quality; it’s a different world, looking to Jesus, asking His presence, and His help, and His grace, and His blessing. I must close.
As I‘d say practically all of you know, I grew up poor, poor, poor. And for years—not days, for years—I lived on a few dollars a month. I struggled as a youth. There’s hardly any trial that a young fellow would face that I haven’t lived through. Not only that, but I was also of a certain turn, a certain nature, in studying. One of the dearest friends, one of the closest friends I had in school said to me, “You’ll never be a preacher.” He and I were in those philosophy classes together. And a whole lot of the things of the mind of men contradict and controvert and interdict the things of God. Faith moves in another world than the rationalizing of a man’s mind. Well, in those days, I wrote a poem. They are just the words of a youth, but these are they:
I have been thrust in the valley, and could not understand why.
God seemed so far away, distance drowned my cry.
My heart turned to a promise that Satan cannot deny;
God says, “I will be with thee,” and He cannot lie.
I have wandered in a wilderness desperately seeking the trail,
The books of men and the men of books had bled my faith so pale.
My hand reached up toward a Helper, to a God who could prevail.
My hand was clasped by Jesus and He cannot fail!
O my soul! Why dost thou ever falter before the Lord?
Behold, He leadeth forever those who trust in His Word.
Follow the call of the Spirit wherever the Spirit moves,
For the battle is with the Lord Jesus, and He cannot lose!
[“God Prevails,” W. A. Criswell]
And that faith to which I gave myself as a youth is the faith that increasingly, endearingly, preciously I embrace today, and shall until God says, “It is enough, come up higher, come up with Me,” walking with the Lord in the morning of life, walking with God in the noonday of life, walking with God in the evening of life, and walking with God into the night.
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5]. Oh blessed Jesus! Precious Lord, what You mean to me and to us! And that is our invitation to your heart, to open your life, to open your soul to the Lord Jesus. Lord these days are in Thy hands, and I am walking through them with Thee. And whatever the shadow, God is with me in the night as in the day; in the morning as in the evening forever. Lord Thou art my strength and my help and my comfort.
We are going to pray, and after the prayer we will sing us a song, and nobody leaving in this time of soul searching and decision. Then after our hymn of appeal, we will be free to leave, but now let’s pray together. Then when the song is sung, let’s pray together and ask God to move in the hearts of these that He hath given us this day, and in thanksgiving with the angels rejoicing, we will receive them. So let us pray.
Our Lord, You are the One who stood by Stephen. He looked up and saw You. And You stood up to receive the first martyr into heaven [Acts 7:55-56]. You are the One who stands by us today. There is no trial, there is no illness, there is no trouble, there is no sorrow that You do not share. Jesus wept [Luke 19:41; John 11:35]. Jesus burst into tears. Moved with a feeling of our infirmity, tried in all points such as we are, wherefore He is able to succor them, to strengthen and comfort them who in need of grace come by faith to Him [Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16]. “O Lord, there is room in my heart for Thee. There is room in my home for Thee. There is room in my life for Thee. Lord Jesus, be my Friend, and Counselor, and Comforter, and Mediator, and Savior, and Deliverer. Lord Jesus, welcome into my heart.”
And in this moment when we stand, to give your life to the blessed Savior, to put your life with us in this dear church, to answer God’s call in your heart whatever it may be, come now. Welcome now, and may the angels attend you in the way. And our Lord, thank Thee for the souls You give us, in Thy saving, keeping, and wonderful name, amen. While we stand and while we sing, a thousand times welcome.
JESUS SPEAKS TO US ABOUT LONELINESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 27:46, John 16:32
10-27-85I. Purpose of Satan: to separate, divide, alienate
A. He has done so from the beginning of this fallen world
B. He plows up families, homes, friendships
C. He divides nations, races
D. He divides the brethren
1. How different the purpose of God(Psalm 133:1, Hebrews 10:22-25)II. Purpose of God in Christ
A. Lenin’s tomb – he lies there with fist doubled up
1. Jesus died arms outstretched, embracing world of lost humanity
B. Reconciliation the work of God(Luke 19:1-10)III. The longing of our hearts
A. To be wanted, loved, remembered, helped, encouraged(Genesis 2:18)
B. The need for loving remembrance
1. Psychiatry tells us we need affection
2. Physicians say solitary confinement causes deterioration of systems and anatomical processes
C. We can feel isolated and separated anywhere(Psalm 69:20, 102:6-7)IV. The loving, yearning, keeping presence of God
A. His everlasting love (Hosea 11:3-4, 8, Isaiah :15)
B. We are never alone or forgotten(Hebrews 13:5, 2 Kings 6:16-17, Matthew 1:5, Daniel 3:24-25, Acts 27:23-24, Revelation 1:9-12)
C. Jesus is with us
1. Hymn, “I Must Tell Jesus”