Attitude Adjustment: Loneliness Looms
Jeremiah 16:1-4, 8-9
Series Intro <ILL: We can all need an attitude adjustment>
5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:5 It is hard to have the Christ’s attitude when we’re brooding. Today, we’re going to talk about loneliness. Loneliness can more than one component:
Physical <ILL: When no one else is around>
Emotional <ILL: Making big decisions> You can feel lonely if you’re not alone, but the inverse is also true. If you are alone for a long you may begin to feel lonely. We were made for relationships! <ILL: “It was NOT good for the man to be alone.”>
17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17 When do we need friends? “At all times.” When do we need close friends? “For a time of adversity.” This is a time of adversity! That is part of the reason why this isolation can be so tough–just when we need people MOST, we’re told that we need to stay away from others. This takes us to our text for today. We’re going to be looking at a section from Jeremiah who was told – not by governmental officials – but by God to stay away from others. And it was tough.
1 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “You must not marry and have sons or daughters in this place.” Jeremiah 16:1-2 Jeremiah is a prophet in southern Israel when everything is falling apart. The kings are wicked and weak. And Jeremiah is the only voice for righteousness to be found. In Jeremiah 16, God says to him: “You must remain alone. You cannot marry or have a family.” That sounds terrible.
There are some very famous people in the Bible who did not marry or have families.
- Paul … (who suffered and died)
- John the Baptist … (who suffered and died)
- Jesus … (who suffered and died)
There is a pattern here? And the pattern turns out to be the same for Jeremiah.
3 For this is what the LORD says about the sons and daughters born in this land and about the women who are their mothers and the men who are their fathers: 4 “They will die of deadly diseases. They will not be mourned or buried but will be like dung lying on the ground.” Jeremiah 16:3-4 I know this is a really hard section of Scripture, but look at the point! God is telling Jeremiah that a pandemic (far worse than COVID-19) is going to sweep across the land. So many people are going to die from this pandemic that they won’t even be buried. Horrible! Talk about hard! God is telling Jeremiah that he must remain alone … and lonely.
Do you have a hard and lonely life right now? How to Navigate Loneliness …
- You have to reach out. One of the things I love about Jeremiah is that he has a hard life of loneliness, but he doesn’t pretend to be pious. He tells God how he’s feeling.
- 19 “I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.” Jeremiah 11:19
- 1 “You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before You. Yet I would speak with You about Your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” Jeremiah 12:1
- 18 “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.” Jeremiah 15:18
Jeremiah has NO PROBLEM telling God how he really feels. I have talked to many people over the years who are lonely, but they don’t want to reach out:
- To their friends if they’re single – “They are busy with their spouse and kids.”
- To their kids if they’re widowed – “They have their own lives.”
- To their church if they’re struggling <Domestic Violence as “intimate terrorism”: https://tinyurl.com/vqjlr8q > – “I’d be embarrassed for anyone to know.”
They think everyone is just too busy to be bothered with their loneliness. But we were made for relationships! It’s okay … it is essential … to reach out and ask for help!
NB: Our pastoral counseling staff. The devil LOVES to isolate us and use loneliness to wear us down and defeat us! We cannot play his games.
If you know someone who is alone, don’t be afraid to reach out! <ILL: I love the stories of people helping each other.> Battling loneliness is everyone’s job! Let’s help each other!
- Loneliness can bring blessings. This is hard, but like everything else, God can take something hard and turn it around into something incredibly helpful.
When Jeremiah is complaining to God about his situation, here’s how God responds:
5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets?” Jeremiah 12:5 This sounds like tough talk from God to Jeremiah. “Stop whining! You’re weak!” But that’s not what’s going on. God is really using Jeremiah’s struggles and loneliness to make Jeremiah strong. Here’s why this is so important.
<ILL: When Ed fell into the icy water> Our experiences with loneliness may make us strong enough to help someone else who is lonely.
The apostle Paul says something really interesting about being single.
7 “I wish that all of you were as I am.” 1 Corinthians 7:7 Now we might say, “No thank you, Paul! Your life is not the kind of life that I want. No way! But notice what he says in the second half of the verse.
7 “But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul has learned to look at his struggles as a path to helping others. And Paul did help others! He was single, but it gave him time to do incredible ministry and to bring the gospel to the whole known world.
What is God doing with your struggle? Remember, even if you’re feeling lonely, you’re not actually alone. God is with you. And at a time like this, we all need God’s strength. Read this with me…
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7, 8 You have the strength of the Lord with you. You are not alone!
Maybe you are saying, that’s all well and good, but I don’t see what God is trying to do or how He’ll redeem my loneliness. Or you are saying, I don’t have anyone I can reach out to … NOBODY! What about me? I want to share something with you that might not seem obvious, but I promise, it IS powerful!
- Practice Gratitude when you feel Lonely (and when you don’t)! The Bible is filled with exhortations to and expressions of gratitude to God. I have shard this verse with you many times before from 1 Thessalonians …
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. In these short verses, God calls us to be joyful, prayerful and thankful. But what is amazing is that He not only invites us, He tells us (through the Apostle Paul) that Rejoicing, Prayer and Gratitude is His will for our lives!
What does that mean?
- Rejoicing, Praying and Giving Thanks are a choice. A choice we make in the face of real life. They are not automatic responses to life. In other words, we must decide to be joyful, prayerful or grateful.
- Each of these activities shift our focus … from ourselves to God. And when that happens, everything changes.
Now I want to focus on just one of the three: Giving Thanks. I am convinced that one of the most powerful things you and I can do in the midst of hard times is practice gratitude. When we do, we think new thoughts. We have different ideas. Our whole perspective changes and we begin to see our lives the way God sees our lives.
If you are struggling because you can’t think of a single person to reach out to, STOP … and start thanking God for everything and everyone you can think of. God may put the perfect person on your mind to reach out to!
And if you are struggling with loneliness and you can’t see any way that God is working for a blessing in your life, STOP … and start giving thanks for everything you can think of!
<ILL: Costa Rica Mission Trip> My whole attitude changed! God wants to be our focus and when He is, our attitudes change.
One more thing … perhaps the most famous verse in Jeremiah is Jeremiah 29:11. God is speaking to people who are going through a VERY hard time. They are afraid and upset and they don’t see an end in sight. And through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, …
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 This simple verse is a reminder that even in hard times, we can trust, even give thanks, that God has a wonderful plan for us. This struggle, our loneliness, will not last forever. God’s plan for us is filled with goodness and hope!