Ever felt like you’re all alone? In your loneliness, does it feel like God has abandoned you?
Maybe it’s because you’re full of shame for repeated sin. Maybe you took a stand for Christ and now people think you’re crazy, but God seems far away too.
David felt like this in Psalm 22. We don’t know the circumstance, but that’s okay because his pain is clear. It also becomes a prophecy for Jesus on the cross, the ultimate picture of being rejected and how he was forsaken by the Father as he bore our sins.
Take comfort. Jesus understood your loneliness.
Let’s look at how David responds as I think it’s instructional for us when we feel isolated, abandoned, or alone.
Restless, Forsaken, and Lonely
Psalm 22:1-2 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
David starts by acknowledging just how alone he feels.
Loneliness is on the rise. More people live alone. The Economist conducted a study with the Kaiser Foundation that found that over 9% of adults in Japan, 22% in America and 23% in Britain always or often feel lonely, or lack companionship, or else feel left out or isolated
Hyper-personalization (think personalized playlists, Netflix binge-watching, etc…) causes us to do things alone. A man is more likely to turn to pornography than pursue a meaningful relationship. People choose to stay home and play video games over going on real adventures.
Those who feel alone won’t admit it. It’s a sign of weakness, especially for men.
As with Twelve Steps, the first step in overcoming loneliness is to acknowledge that we’re actually feeling alone and disconnected.
Where can you acknowledge this without fear or shame? It takes real strength to admit you need others, but I encourage you to do so while you can. If you’re looking for support or encouragement, you can find other men like you through the Man in the Pew community.
Remember God’s Faithfulness: A Key to Combatting Loneliness
Psalm 22:3-5 –
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
David’s mind goes first to remembering God’s faithfulness in the past.
Jerry Bridges, among many authors and pastors, encourages us to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. We have short memories and we need to be reminded of God’s great love as shown on the cross. It helps to remember the many ways God saved his people in the past. If God is all-powerful and can conquer enemies, surely He is closer than I realized. He’s not disinterested. Maybe it’s just that I can’t see Him at work and need to pray for eyes to see.
That’s exactly how Elisha prayed in 2 Kings 6. He asked God to open the eyes of his servant so he could see the heavenly army prepared to do battle. Perhaps we should pray that God will open our eyes to his divine deliverance in our moments of weakness–or maybe even every day!
Acknowledge Your Sins
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
David acknowledges his sin, failures, and shortcomings. Perhaps these are the reasons he feels abandoned. I often feel far from God when stuck in patterns of sin; these are the very times I also want to run from community. After all, who wants to continually admit they’re weak and sinful?
But that’s exactly what God calls us to do. James 5:15-16 encourages us to confess our sins to one another: “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
It’s healthy for us to repent of our sins. While Christ has paid the price permanently for our sins, our hearts need constant reminders of that truth and we need assurance of our forgiveness regularly. I can say and believe that “ALL my sins have been paid for on the cross; all past, present, and future sins,” but when I sin afresh, and especially when it becomes a pattern of sin that leads to guilt, shame, and despair, I need renewed confidence that the Gospel is still true. I can’t receive that unless I acknowledge my sin and repent of it.
Remember God’s Personal Love
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
David remembers how God made him and how he has been his God from birth. If God has always been there, even when David couldn’t choose to follow God, why would he abandon him now?
It’s funny how we allow our personal feelings and circumstances to distort our perspective. We assume we have way more power than we really do. Loneliness often leads to unproductive obsessive thinking about life and can then lead us astray.
Think about it.
Let’s say a man becomes greedy and starts to covet his neighbor’s house and car. He dreams about it and plots how he can be like his neighbor. It starts to consume he to the point where he thinks of little else and it causes him to make bad decisions at work and at home: He cheats on his taxes. He steals from his employer. He even lies to his accountability group to keep them off his back. He stops spending time with his wife and family so he can afford to buy the things he thinks they want. Perhaps he even cheats on his wife in his loneliness. He stops fellowshipping with other believers or spending time in God’s word. The spiral keeps going down…
One day he wakes up and realizes how far astray he’s become. He assumes that God no longer loves him or cares for him. He asks, “How could God want anything to do with a sinner like me.” He thinks he’s finally become the one exception to Jesus’ words, “I will never you or forsake you.” He’s the only prodigal son that the Father won’t welcome back with open arms. In the whole history of the world, he’s become the one person the Father would never forgive.
Do you hear how ridiculous that is? Rationally that’s easy to see, but when you’re in the vortex of sin and isolation we need to be reminded: God has always loved you. He always will love you. And He loves you right now even though you’ve turned your back on him.
If you’re in the vortex of sin and shame right now, the way of escape is through repentance and remembering.
If you’re in danger of stepping into the miry pit of guilt and shame, your protection comes through remembering.
If you want to follow God every day and avoid the diversions into the swamps of despair and isolation, your answer comes through remembering.
If loneliness has led to finding escape in unhealthy ways refocus your thoughts and mind by remembering.
How to Remember to Overcome Loneliness
Psalm 22 shows us several ways to remember:
- Remember God’s historical deeds. Rehearsing these in dramatic detail rivets them into our brains and keeps them alive and not just legend or myth.
- Remember God’s personal presence in your life. Recounting your salvation story and key moments when God has been powerfully present in leading you.
- Regularly recount how God has been delivering you recently.
Notice in verses 19-21 how David is crying for protection from dogs and lions, but then he remembers how God has delivered him from the wild oxen. This is a fresh memory. David can also remember when he was a shepherd boy how God delivered him from lions, bears, and Goliath.
I find it to be a valuable practice to weekly look back and see the many ways God has been actively present in the details of my life. I try to remember the conversations that linger in my mind. I look for surprise phone calls or messages that provided significant insight or direction. I try to recall moments of delight and clarity. Where has He spoken to me through scripture? Since I keep a journal, I spend a few moments reading through the past week’s entries for themes.
For some more thoughts on praying, listen to this episode I recorded.
As you rehearse your week, I encourage you to spend time being grateful. Psalm 136 is a great model for this. It combines thanksgiving with remembering God’s faithful love through the details of history, big and small.
If you find yourself struggling to see God’s fingerprints in your week, let me encourage you to challenge your paradigm. Podcaster Andy Mason introduced me to the following thought pattern in this episode:
“It might be God, but it’s probably me.”
That sounds spiritual and godly until you flip it on it’s head:
“It’s probably God, but it might be me.”
If you look at your week and see all the things that have happened and expect that most of it is probably God actively working in your life and speaking to you, how would that change things?
For me, this subtle turn of phrase has opened up a well of possibility for living gratefully and powerfully.
Remembering Turns to Praise
The rest of Psalm 22 is an expression of David’s declaration to praise God. He will praise God in the congregation, in the large assembly, with the rich, the poor, and his peers. He will tell the next generation and he will tell the world.
Our celebration of God in worship is one of the most powerful forms of remembering. We do it together and celebrate God’s faithfulness in the past, we hear stories of other believers, and we listen to God’s spirit encouraging us, comforting us, empowering us, and assuring us of His forgiveness and presence for the next day or week.
Consider weekly worship as a corporate remembrance service or a dramatic retelling of the story of redemption through song, prayer, testimony, fellowship, and the preaching of the Word. This article expands on the idea of worship as corporate drama.
If you’re feeling alone, you’re not the first one. Jesus felt complete isolation and abandonment so that you would never be alone. If you’ve confessed your sins and professed your belief that He is your Lord and Savior Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who is your constant comforter, counselor, and friend.
God is with you.
I’ll leave you with this song: Christ Be All Around You (performed by Michael W Smith)