The Problem with Loneliness
During this time of self-isolation, many, including myself, have felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Even when surrounded by family, the inability to go about our usual way of life has left us longing for the interactions we once took for granted. It is in these moments, as I read my Bible, that I am surprised to find so many throughout scripture have felt this same way. Yet throughout each of these accounts, one point stands out: the problem with loneliness is loneliness doesn’t come from being alone; loneliness comes from thinking you are alone.
Following one of the most significant victories by any one man, we see the problem of loneliness on full display. As Elijah stands atop Mt. Carmel, outnumbered by 450 prophets of Baal, he cries out to the people “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord….” (1 Kings 18:22) Yet, as Elijah stands alone, he never forgets the one companion that still stands with him, God. And as Elijah begins to mock Baal and his prophets, he highlights a defining difference between the one true God and a false god: false gods are never there for you, but the one true God will never leave your side. It is upon this faith, Elijah prays to God to make Himself known to the people, and in a consuming fire, God reveals Himself as the one true God.
Subsequently, this victory did not have the impact Elijah expected. Having defeated the prophets of Baal in one of the most memorable showdowns ever, Elijah now finds himself being hunted instead of being celebrated. It is this fear of Jezebel, which drives Elijah to leave his servant, possibly his only earthly friend, go out into the wilderness alone, and pray that he would die. Within this moment of loneliness, God comes to Elijah to remind him that he has never been alone. God’s question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) echoes God’s question, “Where are you?” to Adam in Genesis 3. These are great questions for when you are feeling lonely. Where are you? What are you doing? Have you cut yourself off from the people who love you and the God who loves you? You see, Elijah’s loneliness was not from being alone, but from thinking he was alone. As Elijah returns home with the knowledge that there are seven thousand in Israel still faithful to God (1 Kings 19:8), he immediately comes across Elisha, who would drop everything to work alongside God’s prophet Elijah. Elijah’s loneliness would soon turn into an abundance of faithful companions, not because the people weren’t there before, instead because Elijah started looking for them.
Understanding this, we can conclude that loneliness has a power over us that can immobilize even some of God’s most exceptional workers. Loneliness thrives within our minds; it is a mindset that can defeat us, if we let it. But, with a proper view of God, isolation will have no power over those who, as David did in Psalm 16:8 “set the Lord always before me….” Elijah, David, and others throughout the Bible teach us the importance of remembering the presence of God and His people in our lives, especially during the times we feel lonely.