Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Alone With 7 Billion People

We live in a world that, while it is growing in population, is shrinking in size because of technology. We can talk to a person on the other side of the world in mere seconds. We can speak face-to-face through our computers with someone many miles away. We can text message every minute of the day so we are in constant contact with someone else and yet we feel we are isolated and alone.

Have you ever felt lonely even though you're not alone? You know there are people all around you, yet you can't fight this feeling of loneliness. It's there, there's no denying it. You might be surrounded by a crowd, but you're alone. It might feel like you  don't have a friend in the world. Or maybe you feel like you are the only one who feels the way you do about a certain subject. Either way, you are blanketed by a profound sense of loneliness that just doesn't seem to want to go away.

Have you ever felt that way? I have and I know the psalmist David did too. He wrote in Psalm 61:1-3:
"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe".  Loneliness can attack anyone; from any walk of life, but I believe that loneliness is an arrow the enemy of our souls sends towards leaders especially. It's one of the weapons he uses against us to discourage us and to wear us down.

Many pastors and their wives will tell you that they don't have a friend in their congregation, nobody that they can let their hair down around. Sometimes people will cultivate a friendship with a pastor or his wife for the wrong reason. Sometimes it is only in the hopes of gleaning information and when none is forthcoming, because of confidentiality, the friendship soon fizzles.  And sometimes people don't want to know their pastor on a personal basis because they are more comfortable with that separation between pastor and parishioner. Sometimes the fact remains that as the pastor, you're the new kid in town and you may be leaving soon, so people don't want to get attached and then lose you.  But for whatever reason, and I'm sure there are many, most pastors do not have a close friend. 

 If you are in the role of leadership in your church it is vitally important that you cultivate friendships outside of your congregation. I am thankful for the friends the Lord has given us in our years of ministry. They are few but they're true. Sadly we don't get to see them all the time but we know they are a call or email away and that they don't see us as 'pastor' but as friend. We need our friends to pray for us, encourage us, listen to us and support us. 

It's easy when you're tired and discouraged to feel lonely. It's easy, as a pastor, to feel like a failure, when you see people drifting away from the Lord.  It's easy to feel responsible for every wrong decision people make in their walk with the Lord and that can lead to a feeling of isolation and loneliness. It's easy to get caught in those traps that Satan sets for us if we're not careful. 

When I am surrounded by the feeling of loneliness I try to read the Word more. It comforts me. It reminds me that I am not alone. And I try to stay busy doing what I know to do is right. Sometimes it is just putting one foot in front of the other but I believe God will bless us if we are faithful. It's easy to give up. It takes stamina to keep going when you don't feel like it, when you feel like you are all alone. But let me encourage you today to keep going.

And let me add one final thing: pray and ask God for a friend. A true friend. Pray that He would send a friend your way. Moses needed Aaron and Hur to support him. Jesus had twelve disciples who were around Him every day. David had Jonathan. Ruth had Naomi. We all need friends no matter what role we play. Don't isolate yourself because of past hurts and disappointments. Pray and ask believing for a friend to be sent your way.

A friend of mine once said: 'Pastors need friends too.' Let me encourage you to befriend your pastor. You will be blessing him and encouraging him and you will get a better pastor because of it. But go beyond your pastor and ask the Lord to open your eyes so that you would see people needing a friend, and go be that friend to them. We live in a world that has just hit the 7 billion mark in population. Nobody should ever have to feel lonely, but many do.  Let's all do our part to end the epidemic of loneliness. 

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