The last few weeks the sermons have been titled, perfect confidence and perfect forgiveness, looking to Jesus as the absolute standard. Today I could not go with the same sort of title because it is about how to overcome loneliness. I don’t believe Jesus was ever lonely in the negative sense, but he was alone and he was lonely in the sense of craving others to understand him, to know him… are there degrees of loneliness? Jesus worked to confront and overcome the loneliness! This message is about the aloneness Jesus faced, how he overcame loneliness thereby showing us how we overcome loneliness.
In our scriptures leading up to Easter, Jesus felt the loneliness of suffering, the pain of the cross that is before him, the isolation of abandonment… that’s todays scripture. Through-out his life there are many moments of isolation: When Jesus was 12 and his parents frantically searched for him and found him in the temple he was surprised they did not know where he was, even his parents did not understand him… when you feel like nobody understands what you are going through, Jesus had those same feelings…Jesus began his public ministry by going to the wilderness, all alone, confronted by Satan as well as his inner thoughts… alone times can be a cleansing time, a testing of how we’ll respond by looking retreating deeper into our minds or trusting God…the final week of Jesus life is when we find the most poignant situations of loneliness as he is rejected by the Roman guards, the Jewish leaders, Pilate, Herod, and especially Judas, Peter and the other disciples. The lonely Savior is a harsh title, but helpful because loneliness is real. As Jesus confronts loneliness, he serves as an inspiration for us to overcome our own seasons of loneliness in which we are tempted to isolate even further.
When Jesus prays in anguish on the Mt. of Olives, Jesus does not want to be alone, he wants his disciples to be with him emotionally. READ Luke 22:46. He wants them to be with Him in spirit… He wants them to be ready…
LONELINESS is not sin, but loneliness can lead to sin because of the isolation, the neglect of doing that which we ought not to do, the abandonment of responsibilities, pushing away of that which is right…Satan’s greatest work is when he can get us to eat ourselves with our own negative thoughts from the inside out! it takes courage to NOT be lonely. It takes faith to listen to the voice of God and respond. When you are feeling alone, you are less likely to receive God’s word. Those who feel alone feel sorry for themselves, putting even more distance between themselves and others. Seek to overcome loneliness! and rediscover the fruit of the spirit. How to overcome loneliness. ~~ the example of Jesus.
#1. Put loneliness in perspective. When you are feeling alone you think you are the only one. Some chronically lonely people wear it like a badge as they try to get others to feel sorry for them. Enlarge your perspective: Loneliness is a fact of life. Jesus felt alone. As Jesus prays on Mt. of Olives cannot help but feel the aloneness of Jesus. anguish. wrestling. It is a powerful scripture as it summarizes the agony of the last week of the savior and the loneliness he feels as he marches to his destiny on the cross…
Put loneliness in perspective. Loneliness is not a punishment. Many people feel they are lonely through some defect in their personality like they deserve it. One person writes: “[Jesus] is the most perfect Being on earth, and they crucified Him. Why should you feel all alone? Why should you feel so abandoned by friends? Loneliness is not a fault in you. If Christ felt it why should you feel so upset?” (Harriet Hohreiter). That’s perspective…Jesus experienced everything we go through, including loneliness…
#2. Attack loneliness. Be proactive. To overcome loneliness is a battle…. Jesus prays to God. He enlists the solidarity of his disciples to be on the same page. And when they fall asleep he wakes them up!!!!! Do better than the disciples ~~ when you have friends that you know are struggling emotionally tell them they can call you in the middle of the night. Tell those that you suspect have suicidal thoughts to talk to you anytime. Do for others what the disciples did NOT do for Jesus.
And when you are feeling the weight of loneliness, enlist the help of friends. Don’t fall into the trap convincing yourself nobody cares. You need fellow warriors to go to battle with you, that’s what Jesus did, warriers to stay awake with you, to pray for you. Be courageous and ask. Ask. Ask. Ask. Suffering in silence is the worst.
#3 Asking for help means risking rejection. Yet being proactive, fighting for your own sanity, is still cleansing/healing. But it is a risk. Jesus takes a risk. Sometimes the payoff isn’t immediate. Peter not only fell asleep, he later denied knowing Jesus, but then later still Peter comes around. When you are lonely, risk reaching out…
#4 the most obvious application of overcoming loneliness in this scripture: PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. Jesus prays. It is Jesus and God. It’s an honest prayer… It’s a raw prayer… “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” I sometime run into people who say I prayed and I’m so discouraged because nothing has changed. Here’s my answer: Pray again!!!
Jesus’ prayer is not attempting to twist God’s arm, but it’s truly leaving it up to God, “if you are willing.” Our prayers too often is to tell God what my solution is... Make your prayer be to give it all to the Lord, with an attitude of His will to be done. God’s answer may not be our first choice! . How many people reject God because God did not act in the way they wanted.
Jesus says, “if you are willing, take this cup from me” The usual interpretation: Jesus is saying I don’t want to go through the agony of the cross, but I’ll do it if you really want… I think Jesus is affirming he will die on the cross; when he says, “If you are willing take this cup from me” he is putting his life in God’s hands: “I will be dead, If it is possible take this cup of wrath away.” In many places in the O.T. judgement is reversed as God removes the cup of wrath… I.e. Jesus is praying, resurrect me to new life.. take away the cup of wrath/death.
Pray, pray, pray. Overcome loneliness, bitterness, depression, agony by turning to God to raise us up when we lose all power. Trust God to answer according to His will!
Jesus amazing prayer is greater than anything we can attain, yet Jesus prayer is an example…. I think of this prayer as the fulfillment of Gen. 22: Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, the heir of God’s promise of salvation. It makes no earthly sense, yet Abraham is willing. At the last moment God provides a substitute. Now through Jesus Christ, God completes the sacrifice he asked Abraham to make. God sacrifices his one and only Son Jesus Christ! This prayer is Jesus affirmation: I will be the ultimate sacrifice. In Gen. 22 Isaac wanted to know what his father had in mind. Jesus willingly goes to the cross. If Gen. 22 is a haunting story, how much more Jesus prayer of agony…
How to overcome loneliness: pray, pray pray. Pray honestly, raw, with trust in God’s will, not yours…. The hardest thing you’ll ever do!
#5 You’ll love the next one… look for the miracle. Don’t be surprised when you pray and the amazing happens….
When you think of Jesus and angels, the Christmas stories of angels appearing right and left to guide the people and reassure them, angels attended Jesus during the temptations in the wilderness, angels were at the entrance of the empty tomb. It’s easy to overlook the angel in today’s scripture: READ Luke 22:43. For a moment, let’s illuminate this verse with neon lights….there are some things ONLY God can do… “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him!”
Often prayer does not result in an immediate intellectual answer: prayer simply gives strength! Isn’t that the main thing? Strength to accept. Strength to find a measure of sanity. Strength to see God! Maybe you won’t see a visible angel when you pray ~ maybe the still small voice, an encouraging words from the person you share your prayer with, (Many people ask me to pray for them as a pastor. How humbling when I pray with my meager words for the difficult situation, and I finish, and I can then see a measure of peace in the person as they say thank you… nothing has changed in that moment, but they found peace in the storm). Maybe your angel takes the form of a promise from God that comes to mind. In taking time to focus on God in prayer, you will receive assurance and the Lord will give you strength. The greatest power of prayer is not tweeking the stuff of life, it’s God with you.
Loneliness is common. With the help of the Lord, overcome loneliness. Be proactive. Enlist the help of friends, asking others, going to God. It’s a risk, not being able to control the response of others, but the promise of God’s presence is greater than the risk. Pray, pray, pray and look for the miracle which will bring a measure of strength.
#6: One more word: How to overcome loneliness? Practice being alone! We live in a busy, noisy and constantly changing world. Jesus prayer of agony is not the first time the Bible says Jesus went off by himself to pray....Take time before the crisis hits to spend with God. Turn off the noise. REST without trying to accomplish something. BE in the presence of God! Make alone time part of your life, time with God…
Years ago, when I was a teenager, over the course of several summers, I walked across Washington State with my brother and father on the Pacific Crest Trail… on one of the sections we met a woman, Teddy, walking the whole trail from Mexico to Canada with her husband. She told us this was her 2nd trip… a few years earlier she had walked by herself and she loved it so much she wanted her husband to experience it… on her solo trip she started in Canada, snow on the ground in many places, rarely saw other people. The loneliness was the hardest thing of all. Then she spoke the words that impressed me: “I walked all the way across Washington before I could stand being with myself.”
Loneliness is common. The agony of loneliness is painful. To overcome loneless be deliberate. Risk asking others to help. Pray pray pray. Expect a miracle to bring strength, which is the main purpose of prayer! Overcome loneliness by practicing being alone with God and learning to stand yourself before the crisis hits. Amen.