Lonely? Be Encouraged! – Part 1

A family writes and explains how they have no like-minded families with whom to fellowship. The families in their church are very worldly, and they aren’t able to spend quality time with them without wrong influences on their children. As I read the story, I sense a desperation for fellowship.

A mom writes that her husband is complacent about spiritual things. He takes no initiative in spiritually building up his family’s souls such as leading a nightly family Bible time. In addition, he allows the children to be involved in worldly activities such as watching TV and movies. The mom is deeply lonely for a like-hearted teammate with her same passion for following the Lord Jesus.

Another mom writes that her children desire to have friends. The problem is that those they know all seem to be from the “youth group scene” being entertainment and romance focused. What does she do with lonely children?

We have spoken with others who acknowledged they were desperate to get married because of their loneliness. Now they have a spouse, but they aren’t like-hearted, and they simply traded one form of loneliness for another form.

What if you had a terrible stomachache that had lasted two weeks? Undoubtedly you would like relief from the pain, but wouldn’t you really want to know the cause? Physical pain is a symptom of a physical problem. God designed our bodies so that pain would be a warning sign that something is wrong and needs our attention. One of the greatest problems of leprosy is that the nerves aren’t signaling pain when damage is occurring to the body. Hence, lepers will lose their fingers because they are damaging them but not feeling any pain. Pain is the body’s call for help.

I believe that loneliness is similar to pain in that it can be both very real in a person’s life and is symptomatic of a deeper problem. A person who is lonely can tell himself that it is only loneliness, and therefore it shouldn’t matter, but it often won’t go away unless the root cause is dealt with. I do believe the loneliness of those mentioned in the opening of this article to be real and troubling. With pain, one can usually take some form of pain medication, but what does one do with loneliness when there is no acceptable, masking solution? One can’t expect that like-hearted families, husbands, or friends will just miraculously appear.

So what’s the need in our lives of which loneliness is a symptom? The need is for a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When we are focusing on our loneliness, we are looking to others to provide for us what only God can and should provide. The Lord is to be our all in all, our every thing. David tells us that his expectation is in the Lord only. “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalms 62:5-7).

The Psalmist says, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalms 73:25-26). The Lord is the One on earth that he desires and Who gives him strength.

Oswald Chambers said in My Utmost for His Highest, “When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely, we never need sympathy, we can pour out all the time without being pathetic.” The cure for loneliness is to draw closer to Jesus. Our peace can never be in other people because other people are not perfect and will always let us down. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

As Jesus was leaving to return to the Father, He told His disciples that He would be with them always. He said, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20). Through His Spirit, He comes to live in every one who has placed his faith in Him. Each believer always has Jesus Christ within him!

If that is true—and it is—then why would any believer ever feel lonely? The reality is that our day-to-day life involves this world. We work, we interact with others, and our focus is easily drawn to this world and those around us. It is all too easy to have an earthly focus and lose sight of the fact that Jesus is within us, and He is the One with Whom we most need fellowship.

This isn’t “pie-in-the-sky” Christianity, but true life in Christ, the way it is supposed to be. Some might be tempted to say, “Wait a minute. My relationship with Christ is good, but He isn’t real enough to me to keep me from being lonely.” Well, He should be! Jesus said in John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” The Greek word for “manifest” means to reveal. The more we obey the Word, the more Jesus is made manifest to us.

I wouldn’t have much of a marriage if I didn’t spend time with Teri. We enjoy being together. Even when there have been times when we were easily irritated with each other, we found that the cure was to spend more time together. The more we are in the Word, the more we are praying, the more we set our hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3), the more we obey, then the sweeter, the more dynamic, the more intimate our walk with Jesus becomes.

I also think many Christians have wrong expectations. They believe that they will have fellowship with other Christians of like heart, that there will be no persecutions, and that everyone will love them. This is not the life that Jesus promised us. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). The cross could be very lonely indeed if it wasn’t for Jesus being with us. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). That neither sounds pleasant nor popular.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). When we are not following the broad and popular worldly path, Jesus is telling us that on the narrow path there will be fewer for us to fellowship with on that journey. There should be no surprise if our neighbors and those we work with think we are crazy. In addition, it may even be professing Christians in church who also don’t understand us and are not like-hearted.

God’s men were not popular. We can expect that the more we are like Christ, the more those of this world will not appreciate being with us. The worldly and religious both rejected Jesus, and they will reject us as well. Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, the minor prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus were lonely as far as earthly friends go. They took their fellowship with the Father, will we? “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Bringing Up Children Who Will Love the Lord – Part 1

Recently on MOTHBoard, the message board that supports the Managers of Their Homes book, we had a wonderful question. I felt it had such valuable universal application that I told the writer I would personally respond to her question in detail in a near-future Mom’s Corner. Here is what she wrote:

“My greatest desire for my child is that he will love the Lord with all of his heart. He is generally well behaved and obedient, but I have recently realized that I need to do a better job of stirring up godly appetites in his heart. I want to teach him to be a lover of God more than a lover of pleasure.

“There are two areas where I see my own need to improve: One is that I don’t think I have scheduled in enough work and responsibility for him. The other is that I am not a diligent person. I am too quick to settle for less effort, both on my part, and on his. I haven’t been purposely doing this, but now that I realize it, I am so sorry for it! I want to change, and I am claiming God’s promise that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.

“I am going to re-read my Managers of Their Homes book, and re-write our schedule. Once I have done this, I plan to start joining the weekly accountability threads.

“Meanwhile, I would love any advice you have. I know that teaching our children to love God above all is a heart issue. However, I believe that our hearts are affected by the way we spend our time. I believe that our schedule has a VERY strong impact on our hearts. What do you put on your schedules that has actually brought fruit in your children’s lives, taught them to love the Lord, and to have a servant’s heart?

“We have silent Bible reading, as well as a time for reading the Bible together, and for memory work. He uses a Bible study book as part of his homeschool work. We also have a reading time right before bed. For the most part, we use books with a godly focus, such as the Moody Family books, Rod and Staff stories, etc. What more can I do to give him godly teachings and to help him apply these teachings to his life?” WhiterThanSnow

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). Certainly, most of us are familiar with these verses and would desire this outcome for our children just like WhiterThanSnow does for her son. The verses themselves give us some of the answers to the question of how one teaches their children to love the Lord Jesus. We will delve into that aspect as we continue. For now, I just wanted us to have read the verses that are the basis for the goal.

The other part of WhiterThanSnow’s desire for her son comes from 2 Timothy 3:4. Paul is describing the negative attributes of men in the last days with a scary, awful list of the actions and attitudes that will be prevalent at that time. One aspect is that men will be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”

WhiterThanSnow nailed it pretty well when she said she wasn’t a diligent person, and perhaps that has been the reason for her son not being diligent either. There is an awesome reality that our children mirror what they see in our lives. Of course, that can work positively or negatively, but it seems children are usually more quick to catch the negative than the positive.

The appetites and passions that WhiterThanSnow has in her life will most likely become the ones that are in her son’s life. If WhiterThanSnow spends personal time in the Word and in prayer each morning before her son gets up and then at breakfast shares her excitement about what she has learned, he will desire to do the same thing. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalms 63:1). “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). However, if there is no passion in WhiterThanSnow’s heart for her Lord as evidenced by the way she spends her time and what she talks about, she really can’t expect to find that passion in her son’s heart. Sadly that is often the case. We want an outcome for our children that isn’t the reality in our own lives.

When WhiterThanSnow digs into her morning chores with a smile on her face and a song on her lips, she will likely find her son beginning to do the same thing. “She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:15). “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious” (Proverbs 12:27). “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Through this example, WhiterThanSnow can model for her son not only diligence in the task at hand but a love for the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the everyday jobs that fill many of our hours.

On the other hand, if WhiterThanSnow grumbles and complains about her workload and heads for the computer to read e-mails and blogs rather than tackling her housework, she reinforces the sin nature in her son that gravitates toward selfishness and laziness. “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34).

Our lives are the starting place toward the goal of raising a child who is more a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ than he is a lover of pleasure. May we critically evaluate the example we are placing before our children, repent if our hearts have strayed from their first love or are lazy, and then ask the Lord to help us back on the path on which we need to be. As WhiterThanSnow said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). While it may seem too hard to change or seem overwhelming in the current circumstances, the Lord gives us yet another encouragement: “. . . My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Next month we will continue to evaluate key ingredients in our children’s lives that will draw them to that love of their Savior.