Jesus Speaks to Us About Loneliness
October 27th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS SPEAKS TO US ABOUT LONELINESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-27-85 8:15 a.m.
It is a gladness on our part to welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour with us on radio. You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message, which is the first of a series of five. And if you have been here attending this church any length of time, you know it is a new departure and a type of a message for me. But in preparing the sermons I have been blessed by it, and I pray they will be a blessing to your heart and life.
An extensive survey was made among many, many, many thousands of people in our American life and culture. And the survey concerned problems that our people face in their human lives. And there were five of them that were named above all others. One was loneliness; one was hopelessness; one was purposelessness; one was emptiness; and one was fear.
So I am preparing five messages as Jesus speaks to us: Jesus Speaks to Us Concerning Loneliness; Jesus Speaks to Us about Hopelessness; Jesus Speaks to Us about Purposeless; Jesus Speaks to Us about Emptiness; and Jesus Speaks to Us about Fear. Those five, and the first one is delivered this morning: Jesus Speaks to Us about Loneliness.
In the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, verse 46, Matthew 27, verse 46: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" That is Aramaic for, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" In verse 43, they had taunted the Lord, those who crucified Him. They mocked Him saying:
He trusted in God; let God deliver Him now, if He will have Him; for He said, I am the Son of God.
And from the sixth hour – from high noon – there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour – until three o’clock in the afternoon –
And in the ninth hour Jesus cried – that cry of forsakenness and aloneness – My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
Just the night before our Lord had said to His disciples in John 16:32:
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone:
and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
"I am not alone, God My Father is with Me." Yet He cries in our background text, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Loneliness, forsakenness; that is the goal and purpose of Satan in all human life; to divide, to separate, to alienate; that’s Satan. "My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Separation, division, alienation, even God from His only begotten Son.
I read of a fox that separated a little lamb from the flock. And when the fox had separated the lamb from the flock, the fox ran around and around and around the little lamb, separated, alone. And in a cruel way, first, the fox bit off the nose of the little lamb; circling, circling. Then he bit off one of his ears. Then he tore off his other ear. Then he broke the leg of the little lamb and finally, of course, destroyed its life. That’s Satan; even in fallen nature, he separates and divides and alienates and destroys.
That’s hell. Whenever you hear hell presented as "a convivial banquet with boon companions," that’s a deception. The Bible says hell is isolation in outer darkness. So many times did our Lord use that phrase, "in outer darkness." You’re not with anyone; you are alone. Separated from God, separated from humanity, separated from everything you ever knew and loved. That’s hell, separation.
And from the beginning, that has been Satan’s curse to the whole universe and the human race: division, dividing, alienation, loneliness, separation. He separated himself from God. He separated his angels from God. He separated man from God. He separated man from man. He separated man from woman. He separates nation from nation. He separates earth from heaven. That’s Satan.
Satan invented the phrase, "irreconcilable differences"; he invented that. Satan coined the word "incompatibility." He invented that. He coined that. That’s his purpose; with sledgehammer blows to drive differences between loved ones and families, children and parents, husbands and wives. Separation, that’s Satan.
He separates nation from nation. You can hardly read any paper, any magazine, listen to any broadcast but that they recount those terrible confrontations between Iran and Iraq, two Muslim nations, between the Arab nations and Israel, between the countries of Central America that so closely press upon us. Division, confrontation, isolation, that’s Satan.
And he does it among brethren. There is not anything you’ll ever see in human ecclesiastical church life than to see division come into a church. Bitterness; I’ve lived through them since I was a youth. I have sat in the congregation in little churches where I grew up and have seen brethren stand up, accuse one another of every gross misjudgment and fire the pastor at the eleven o’clock hour. Tragedy, sorrow, that’s Satan.
That’s why the psalmist said in Psalm 133 [verse 1], "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Satan divides. Satan isolates. Satan separates. Satan alienates.
The purpose of God in Christ Jesus is the opposite. God has been reconciling man to man, and man to God, and earth to heaven ever since Satan tempted our parents in the garden of Eden. The purpose of God is reconciliation, friendship, forgiveness, brotherhood, sisterhood, unity. That’s God.
I imagine some of you, as I, have visited Moscow. In the center, next to the Kremlin wall of the Red Square, is Lenin’s tomb. And every day, every day at least a mile long you’ll find those columns waiting to see the face of dead Lenin. According to the rhythm of those Russian soldiers, you get in the line, finally enter the tomb there to the left and on the top, walk in, and then this way, that way, and that way, around that big glass encasement, and on the inside of it, you’ll see Nikolai Lenin lying there. He died suddenly in 1924. I think God got tired of him. He was fifty-two years of age, just suddenly died.
But the thing that you will notice when you – this way, that side, at the foot and then the other side – walk around that glass encasement, you’ll see Nikolai Lenin lying there with his hand on his chest, and it’s a closed fist like that, a closed fist like that. When you look at it and there are statisticians who say, "There are more millions of people who follow Lenin in this world than follow Jesus the Christ," millions and millions and millions, he lies there with a closed fist on his chest like this. And you can’t help, if you’re a Christian, when you look at that you can’t help but think, "How did our Savior die? He died with His arms outstretched and with His hands open like this." As far as the east goes east and the west goes west, the arms of the cross extend to the humanity of the earth. And His hands are open, open in appeal.
That is the faith of the Lord Jesus. And that is the gospel message of Christ our Lord. Reconciliation, brotherhood, sisterhood, unity, love, compassion, forgiveness, welcome. I don’t think our Lord did anything more astonishing in His life than when He entered into Jericho, and there in the top of the tree stood a Jewish publican of small stature, hated, despised, outcast, and the Lord, walking through the streets in Jericho, stopped, called him by his name. How did He know his name? He knows all of our names. He knows all about us. Called him by his name and said, "Zacchaeus, today I am to spend these hours in your house" [Luke 19:5]. It overwhelmed the little fellow, hated, despised, alone. For the Lord Jesus to come to him and spend the day with him, it overwhelmed him!
There is something on the inside of all of us, just like that; a longing for love, and compassion, and friendship, and encouragement, and helpfulness. We are made that way. It’s the way God created us. And we can’t change it or escape it.
In this First World War, in the trenches, going over the top, after the battle coming back to the trenches, one of those American soldiers, close to his friend, his buddy, saw that his friend was left in no man’s land. He didn’t come back. And he went to his captain and said, "Captain, I can’t leave him there. I must go see him. I must go find him." And the captain said, "Sir, you cannot. You’ll lose your life. The war’s raging." But the soldier friend said, "I must. I must!" He went out into no man’s land, and when after awhile, he came back, fell into the trench, shattered, wounded, the captain looked at him and said, "Didn’t I tell you not to go? And didn’t I tell you, you did it at the risk of your life? Didn’t I tell you that?" And the American soldier replied, "Captain, yes. But I found him. And when I found him, he looked up into my face and smiled and said, ‘I knew you would come.’ And he died in my arms, and Captain, I had rather have died than to have failed him." There is something in all of us like that, the need for companionship, and love, and remembrance, and encouragement.
My mother was so seriously hurt with a cerebral hemorrhage and lived beyond that tragic, tragic attack for almost seven years. And we placed her in a home. There were four women, each in a different room in that cottage and one godly, wonderful woman taking care of them.
And as I visited with my mother, I heard, in the next room because the door was open, the woman in there crying, crying. And as she sobbed I went to the dear lady who was taking care of those four aged women, one of whom was my mother, and I said, "Why does she cry so? Why?" And the dear lady replied to me, "Because her children have never come to see her. And your being present with your mother today has just pressed upon her heart the loneliness of her life, and she cries." Well, I said to the lady, "Would it be all right if I went in and I talked to her?" She said, "It’d be sweet of you to do it." And I went in and I visited with her a long time, and I prayed with her. Hardly anything in human life is more hurting to the heart than that forsakenness, "My God, why?"
You know as I read, as I prepared and studied, I came across books on psychiatry. And these psychiatrists will say, "For the baby to grow up to be fine and strong and accept itself, the baby must be touched. It must be caressed. It must be loved. It must be sheltered." The other one said he thought that was why toddlers were so cute, that God made them so loveable so that people would touch them, and caress them, and kiss them, and love them.
I think we’re all babies, don’t you? We never get over it. To be loved, and to be caressed, and to be cared for, to be remembered and encouraged, we all are babies. We never get beyond it.
I also read – these things are new to me, cause I never had done this before – I also read that solitary confinement in prison does something to the very anatomy of the prisoner. Give it time, and in his isolation his nervous system will disintegrate and his very physical anatomy will disintegrate. If he is alone, just separated, isolated, he will just disintegrate in himself.
Isn’t that a strange way God has made us? Didn’t He say that though in the second chapter of Genesis, "It is not good for the man that he be alone" [Genesis 2:18]. God made us, placed us in families and homes, in friendships, in love, in commitment, in care. God did it. That’s why I guess you wonder, why in the world that passage that we read together from God’s Word this morning? That’s why:
Reproach hath broken my heart; I am full of heaviness: I looked for some to take pity, and there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
I am like a pelican in the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am a sparrow alone upon the housetop.
[Psalm 69:20; 102:6-7]
My time is spent. May I conclude with the promise of God? "A mother may forget her sucking child, a mother may forget the son of her womb, yea, she may forget, but I will not forget thee" [Isaiah :15]. Or again, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [Hebrews 13:5]. Never!
Gehazi said to Elisha:
Lord, what shall we do? My lord what shall we do? And Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes.
And the Lord opened his eyes, and the mountains were filled with horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
[2 Kings 6:15, 17]
He never forsakes us.
When Ruth went a stranger into the land of Israel from her native Moab, God went with her. And she’s in the genealogy of our great, marvelous, living Lord. When the three were thrown into the fiery furnace, even King Nebuchadnezzar was amazed and astonished, saying, "Three? I see four, and the fourth walking with them is like unto the Son of God" [Daniel 3:24-25]. The apostle Paul said in Acts 27 in the storm, "For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I trust" [Acts 27:23]. And in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, the apostle John writes:
I was in the isle called Patmos, because of the testimony of Jesus Christ, alone.
And I heard a great voice behind me, as of a trumpet.
And I turned to see the voice that spake unto me. And I saw
And he describes the glorified Son of God, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [Hebrews 13:5]. You know, to be stoic, to face your troubles in your own self and strength, is somewhat admirable. As I read this poem, I thought, "That’s fine."
Though I am beaten, nobody shall know
I 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 will shed my tears. Tomorrow, when
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 thought, "Isn’t that fine?" But that’s not the way I am. Here’s the way 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! And He will help me. . .
[from "I Must Tell Jesus," by Elisha A. Hoffman]
May I close? As so many of you know, I grew up poor, poor, poor. I lived for years on a few dollars a month, years. And in those days of struggle, and being of a certain type of mind, some of my best friends said, "You’ll never be a preacher. You’ll never. These things that you read in these books of philosophy," I minored in philosophy, "they’ll take you out of ministry." Anyway, in those days of my youth, I wrote this poem:
I have been thrust in the valley, and could not understand why.
God has seemed so far away, distance drown 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 can 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!
["Words of a faithful Youth," by Dr. W. A. Criswell]
As a lad, I wrote that. And now as an old man, I haven’t changed. One, you and God are a majority. You’re an army. That’s heaven, and Jesus, and promise, and strength, and comfort for us. And it’s enough. It’s enough.
In this moment we stand, sing our song of appeal. In the press of people on this lower floor and that throng in balcony round, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m on the way." Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am, preacher. I’m giving my heart to the Lord Jesus, and here I stand." "I’m coming into the fellowship of the church." I am listening to the Word of God, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the great day approaching" [Hebrews 10:25]. Or, "I’m answering God’s call in my heart. I’m coming now." God bless you and angels attend you as you respond with your life, while we stand and while we sing.