Tag Archives: loneliness

Daniel 3, 4; 1 John 3

Throwback moment to middle school. Something about reading of the fiery furnace and the distorted rage in King Nebuchadnezzar‘s face took me back to the threats of a best friend turned enemy.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Daniel 3:13-15, NLT.

I was near facing fire when I wouldn’t submit to her way–her walk down a destructive path. I was subject to her taunts and name calling at the corner walking home. Girls who had been my friends abandoned me to avoid the heat of her hardened heart. I was told she waited by my locker once, ready to set it on fire.

It wasn’t as though I had some great moral platform and a lineage of wisdom and righteousness to support me. It was more that I was afraid of where her path would take me if I followed, and, lacking mature tools to handle conflict at fourteen, I did the only thing I could do: put one foot in front of the other and walk on. I don’t remember much of the remainder of that school year. And starting high school in a new school the next year was lonely as I tried to find my fit. Little did I know then: middle school was the boot camp for real life.

I found that the dynamics that governed eighth graders govern adults too; people in little bodies grow into bigger bodies with egos and expectations just as large. And while it seems unimaginable that someone would erect a statue of themselves today and demand an audience to worship them, it’s not beyond reason that someone could turn hard against those who are different or don’t cater to their demands.

11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 1 John 3:11-14, NLT.

In middle school and in middle life, I think on those times of a solitary walk and am comforted by this: God was with me. When I thought I stood alone, he stood with me. When I thought I walked alone, he walked beside me. And when an enemy attacked and flamed me with words, God whispered to me, “Walk on.” And he took my hand.

Courtney (66books365)

Lord, I’m grateful that I can see your very real presence in my life–even in years before I ever went to church or opened a Bible. Thank you for standing with me when I felt unable to stand, and thank you for urging me on when I felt too weary to walk. Thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ who’ve prayed for me and loved me as part of your family. I wondered how I could ever be thankful for experiences that brought so much heartache, but you’ve shown me yourself when I thought I had nothing. I may not be able to count on (people, situations), but I can trust in you and the power of your spirit. You amaze me.

 

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Psalm 22-24; Acts 20:1-16

David’s psalms have a flow, especially the ones where he’s hurting or scared–he goes from helpless to hopeful before the last note sounds. Sometimes the rhythm changes, but they have a variation of these elements (more or less):

  • This is my now.
  • This is how I feel.
  • This is who You are, God.
  • And I will praise You.

In anyone’s life, the now and the feeling will change. But God does not.

Reading through Psalm 23, I grab these words (a noun, and many verbs): shepherd, gives rest, leads, renews, guides, protects, comforts, prepares, honors, pursues. He is an active God, even when it seems he is far off. I watched David wrestle with that in Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. Psalm 22:1-2, NLT

I deeply appreciate his honesty and vulnerability. How many real-life examples offer up this intimate glimpse into their hearts?

Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
    and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
    give glory, you sons of Jacob;
    adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
    never looked the other way
    when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
    he has been right there, listening. Psalm 22:22-24, The Message

In my walk with the Lord, even the daily stuff, I can keep it simple. I can say, “God this is my now, and this is how I feel.” I can clutch his word and hold it up to him and declare, “This is who you are, and I will praise you.” It is how to hold hope in the midst of helplessness.

Thank you, Lord, that you are right here, listening.

Courtney (66books365)

 

 

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Exodus 22-24; Matthew 20:17-34

A friend of mine has been posting lately about loneliness. This stays with me.

https://twitter.com/John_Dukes/status/423625237192654849

***

Jesus is leaving Jericho with his disciples. And a big crowd follows behind. With moderate exposure to the Gospels, you get the impression that Jesus could do some pretty amazing things: feed thousands of people, turn water into wine, quiet a storm, drive out demons, bring people back to life. And maybe you reach a point in reading that the miracles become commonplace–Oh. Jesus does another healing.

Or you read on in anticipation: what’s he going to do next?

***

I step into the scene. Dusty road. Hot sun. Jesus is moving on, and people are following. There are two blind guys. I wondered for quite a while what it was like to be blind: was it a legal blindness? Was it always black? Did they feel like the world was going on around them, without them? Did they feel like, because they couldn’t see, they also couldn’t be seen? Is blindness a metaphor? Were they lonely?

The rush of the crowd approaches and hope rises. These two blind men call out for mercy.

And I don’t know if the crowd was a bunch of Jesus lovers or gawkers, but I do know this: they told the blind men to shut up.

If these blind men could hear the crowd yelling at them to shut up, I’m sure Jesus heard it too. But he also heard the blind men crying out. The scene becomes very small. That crowd is anonymous and blurred out, because now it is just Jesus and two blind men.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“Lord,” they said. “We want to see!” Matthew 20:32-33 NLT.

And when I think of what blindness is, I fill in this restoration with color. To see, and to be seen. To engage in a world around them. To be part of the world around them. To live in community and not isolation. To stop feeling alone. Or lonely. When all these people are yelling SHUT UP, does anyone care?

34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him. Matthew 20:34 NLT.

Jesus gets personal with two people the world would overlook. He feels for them, and touches them. Reaches right out. Who wouldn’t want to follow this man who hears their cries, who notices them, who stopped his journey that day to reach out to them?

Sam’s depiction of a disciple really stuck with me: someone who imitates the teacher.

Jesus, thank you for keeping me in this scene–to have compassion. To reach right out and touch someone. To hear a cry–and acknowledge it! To stop and help. I want to walk with you and learn from you. Thank you that you don’t pass us by when we call out to you, like we’re invisible or don’t matter.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 9-11; Matthew 4

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. Genesis 9:12-15

I gave birth to my precious daughter Serah two mornings before. We were both doing well, but the crazy surge of post-partum hormones was making me an emotional basket case. I spent much of the night crying, uncomfortable and lonely, and feeling foolish for being so miserable.

It was the second time I had given birth while my husband was on the other side of the planet continuing ministry in India while I was on baby furlough (we are still praying for the finances that will enable us to apply for the visa he needs to visit the US again). My parents and my oldest daughter were in Maryland and wouldn’t be coming to the hospital until later in the day. And, the girlfriend who stayed with me overnight the first evening had to leave the afternoon before.

Though it was peaceful without the hustle and bustle of visitors and trips to the NICU that I experienced with my first child, that 24 hour period felt a little too isolated for my liking. I was feeling lonesome and deserted. I wanted someone I loved to be there, to sit with me, to care for me.

Aware of bitterness knocking at the door of my heart, I prayed. I laid my heart open for my Heavenly Father to see, unveiling the sadness, the loneliness. I cast my cares at His feet and asked for serenity I knew only He could give.

At that moment, I looked out of the window of my room. Hovering over the bridge rainbow-juliet2912leading to City Island in the midst of the Susquehanna River was a double rainbow. I had just enough time to grab my phone and snap two pictures before everything disappeared. The second, faint arc vanished even before the camera app opened.

In those same flashes, I heard God’s voice whisper promises into my ear. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you. You are never alone.” He used this double blessing as a reminder to me of His covenant, a bond sealed with the blood sacrifice of His Son. It ministered to my need.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:1-11

When I think about Jesus being alone in the wilderness for 40 days, I can only imagine how He felt. I would have been shattered, my heart susceptible to temptations, my mind willing to believe the lies that the enemy hissed. I was on my own for a day and I was a wreck, even with my newborn in the room and the hospital staff in and out every few hours.

Jesus stood strong, and even though His body was weakened, He KNEW that He was not alone. He held on to the Truth. The Word of God fortified Him. Those Words gave Him the strength to withstand His test and the might to send the enemy away. And when the enemy left, the angels tended to Him and gave Him what He needed, just like God did for me when He painted His rainbow in the sky.

Yesappa, Thank You for always being there for me; and for reminding me of Your presence and Your promises in the midst of my struggles. Thank You for ministering to my heart and giving me peace. Help me remember to stand strong in You when the enemy comes against me. Bring Your Words to my mind and help me use the Sword of the Spirit to prevail. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan)


Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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2 Kings 13; 2 Timothy 3; Hosea 5,6; Psalm 119:145-176

When Asherah poles are left standing, it’s an invitation and an indication–sin is still present.

But they continued to sin, following the evil example of Jeroboam. They also allowed the Asherah pole in Samaria to remain standing. 2 Kings 13:6 NLT.

Sin is sometimes the dirty undershirt that smells beneath the clean cover-up. And sometimes it’s the filthy garment that is the obvious cloak for public display.

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT.

Guard this heart.

Now their false religion will devour them along with their wealth. Hosea 5:7b NLT

Lord, you mercifully closed doors I tried to push open. And when I found myself in the loneliest places, you sat with me and caught tears.

150 Lawless people are coming to attack me;
    they live far from your instructions.
151 But you are near, O Lord,
    and all your commands are true. Psalm 119:150-151 NLT

Your word sustains me, gets into my heart, transforms me.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT.

Where would I be without you?

I want you to show love,
    not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
    more than I want burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 NLT

Thank you for wanting a relationship with me, for showing me love, and letting me know you. Thank you for stopping me from pursuing destructive desires–that you love me enough to let me be lonely. I am so grateful for your work in my life.

169 O Lord, listen to my cry;
    give me the discerning mind you promised. Psalm 119:169 NLT

Courtney (66books365)

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