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Thursday, June 1, 2023
Tuesday morning we passed this Gazebo on a farm along Rt. 241 in Lebanon County.
Apart from the landscaping what caught our attention was the re-purposed grain bin top! As you might see from the grass in the foreground we are very much in need of rain.
Message summary: Today we consider loneliness.
Listen to our message on your audio player.
"Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted" (Psalm 25:16). "Thou art with me" (Psalm 23:4).
Tuesday morning I was loading some groceries into our van outside a grocery store in Myserstown, PA when an elderly man walked by as he was going into the store. I was finished loading so I suggested he take my cart. I noticed as I arranged my groceries at the side of our van that he was lingering and trying to tell me something so I walked back to talk to him.
What he was trying to tell me was, "It's my birthday today". He is 92 and told me he had been a widower since 1969 but soon corrected himself; he meant 1999 which is still a long time. He had a pleasant disposition and it seems he was a lonely man who just wanted someone to talk to which we did for a few minutes and of course we wished him a "Happy Birthday".
Several weeks ago our pastor asked us to consider the question whether it's better to have a broken heart or a lonely heart. It seems most would say a broken heart. A broken heart conveys having had a relationship and lost it whereas a lonely heart conveys never having had a relationship in the first place. However they are, of course, somewhat interchangeable. The widowed man in our story was certainly lonely.
In our younger years we'd often hear of "The Lonely Hearts Club". It doesn't have the prestige of being a member of a "Golf Club" but rather a stigma that would not make a member proud to boast about having such a membership!
From an old sixties secular song comes these self-questioning words, "All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?" Another song says it well, "One is the loneliest number".
We have on our hearts this morning our readers who may be in a lonely place or state of mind today. The word "lonely" conveys being isolated from others and brings about sadness. Most lonely people are not necessarily at a distance from other people. In fact they may very well be surrounded by other people in a city, a warehouse or office environment. Even as the planet gets more and more populated it seems loneliness grows. And for a variety of reasons.
Fundamentally many people experience loneliness because mankind has tried replacing the divinely appointed order of our relationship with God, family, and Christian fellowship with a host of tawdry replacements. Even the word “friend” has changed. For more than a decade people have collected “friends” on social websites; "friends" they don’t personally know, let alone have a deeper, meaningful relationship with.
In the beginning God and man had close fellowship and still God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" and made a helper suitable for him and thus ordained marriage as he "set the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6).
Today we urge you to treasure and nurture those close family relationships. Some of our readers have been with us for decades and we've seen them lose one family member after the other, and that would include us as well. Today we urge you to seek and recognize the presence of God so that you can have the deep abiding assurance of David who wrote, "Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me". Hide deeply in your heart these words of our Lord, "Surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20) and "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
However, as we conclude our message we're still mindful of the souls reading this who are lonely today. Perhaps you're separated by death, abandoned by an unfaithful spouse, or you're dealing with estranged children. Specific readers who've contacted us or that we personally know come to mind for each situation. We don't minimize your pain even though it is not presently our experience so we leave you with:
1) Lean heavily upon the steadfast love of the Lord and in His time He will fulfill the needs of your lonely heart. You will find Him to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
2) Are you actively involved in a local Bible-believing church with a caring pastor and congregation? It's interesting that the Bible uses the analogy of a family to describe the church (Galatians 6:10). Having lived over 1000 miles from our home turf all our ministry life we've often viewed our congregation as our family.
3) Often the quickest way to end loneliness is to reach out to another who might need a caring friend. When we put others' needs first, God has a way of meeting our own inner need.
4) If you’re lonely due to past hurts and you remain guarded, seek God for healing and start giving of yourself again to cultivate meaningful relationships.
Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)
Daily prayer: Father, there are many in the world, in our own neighborhood, workplace, church or even within our own family whose hearts are filled with loneliness. They feel alone, even afflicted with that very thought. It's easy for them to observe others in relationships that they long for which only leads to attitudes they must be on guard against. May those in such circumstances find their comfort in drawing near to You, since You sent Jesus to earth to carry our burdens, heal our brokenness, and set us free from life's bondages and He continues to intercede on our behalf. Hear our prayer, O Lord, we pray. Amen.
Brooksyne's Note: Lonely people do surround us, but we tend to look the other way when we don't want to take the time. Sometimes we don't reach out for fear of rejection, we struggle for the right words, or we simply lack the courage to do so.
I can still see the empty and hopeless expression on the face of a carnival worker I saw at a fair in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania over 30 years ago. I was waiting in line at the merry-go-round when she caught my complete attention. She collected tickets from the riders and operated the ride. Her dark hair was a big tangled mess; her eyes were glazed and her expression seemed so distant and hopeless. God spoke to my heart as audibly as I've ever heard Him… "Tell her 'Jesus loves you.'"
I felt my heart was going to burst as I contemplated her reaction to hearing these words from a complete stranger. Finally the line moved forward and I put Ester, who was about three years old at the time, on the horse. I stood watching her ride on the Merry-Go-Round, all the while, putting off this conviction from God to be a messenger for Him. I began saying to myself that I would give this message to the worker after the ride was over. But I let fear override the conviction from the Holy Spirit and sadly walked away from God's leading.
This experience is so vivid in my memory because it has played over and over in my mind. I have wondered many times if this was a desperate, lonely woman who simply needed to hear from God. I pray that each of us will have godly courage and take the time to seek out the lost and lonely people in our surroundings who may simply need to hear, "Jesus loves you."
Through this toilsome world, alas!
Once and only once I pass;
If a kindness I may show,
If a good deed I may do
To a suffering fellow man,
Let me do it while I can,
No delay, for it is plain
I shall not pass this way again.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Be Thou Near to Me" Click to listen on YouTube Selah
"There Was Jesus" Click to listen on YouTube Zach Williams
Last night Stephen and Ester went to a Hershey Bears hockey game in a sold out Giant Center Arena. The Hershey Bears went into the game with a 3-1 lead in the best of seven Eastern Division championship series. However they lost last night so the series goes on. This shot was taken after their only goal.
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