Everyone has experienced loneliness, that sense that they are left to face the world without any companionship or assistance of any kind. A person can even feel lonely in a crowd, even with family and friends around. Even though it might be more emotion than reality, the experience can be very traumatic.
Sometimes loneliness can strike just after a time of great achievement, such as after a graduation, the birth of a child or even a wedding. A pastor was surprised by a feeling of depression after the completion of a building project. It was similar to the “blues” his wife felt after the birth of one of their children. The experience seemed so out of place considering the circumstances the person had just passed through.
One of the classic examples of loneliness in the Bible was the experience of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He had just gained a great victory for God in a fearless struggle over the predominant forces representing Baal worship in the land of Israel. God had descended upon his sacrifice with holy fire, consuming everything, including the altar itself (1 Kings 18:38). God had also ended the three-year drought at the prophet’s word – by sending a mighty rainstorm.
But Queen Jezebel, the key patron of Baal, sent word she would scour the land with her agents until she had killed the prophet who had humiliated her cult. This once-brave prophet became so frightened that he ran approximately 123 miles through the length of Israel, from Mt. Carmel to Beersheba, fleeing for his life. He left his servant in Beersheba and journeyed another day into the Negev, where he fell under a juniper tree and asked God to take his life. He really did not want to die. He had run 123 miles to escape death at the hands of Jezebel!
God’s ministry to this man is a wonderful recipe for spiritual recovery from loneliness. First, God knew Elijah was physically exhausted from his hectic pace of life, so he allowed him to sleep, and even sent an angel to give him food and water. Regardless of talent or calling in life, no person can live in a healthy way on a constant rush of adrenaline. Second, God ministered to him emotionally and spiritually in a gentle manner. A “still, small voice” assured the prophet that his Lord was present and as capable as he had ever been. While Elijah felt he was the only one still true in faith, God comforted him with the news there were thousands of faithful in the land. And third, this voice of encouragement told Elijah that his life had meaning and that he had much more to accomplish. He was to invest his life in a young man named Elisha.
Elijah could not know at this point, but he would not die in the wilderness. In fact, he would not die at all. When he was caught up in a whirlwind into heaven, he would join Enoch as one of the only two men of history who would not experience death (2 Kings 2:11).
So if you are feeling lonely, realize that it is a temporary experience. Like Elijah, your perspective may not be clear, and the dark emotion of isolation has clouded your rationale. So don’t make drastic decisions you will later regret. Physically rest and take nutrition. Take a break from your normal routine. Wait quietly and allow God to renew your physical and emotional strength (Isaiah 40:31). Look for someone else in which you can invest your life. Watch God lead you, like many other lonely souls, through this valley of isolation to the mountaintop of a new hope.
Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise.
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.