God of Darkness: Loneliness (Psalm 22)

MOTIVATE

Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, and his family lived on a hillside overlooking a small town in Scotland during the 19th century. Robert was intrigued by the old lamp-lighters who went about the town with a ladder and a torch, lighting the street lights for the night. One evening as Robert stood watching out his home window with fascination, his parents asked him “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

 
Stevenson’s statement is a great summary of our four week sermon series, God of Darkness. No one can deny there is darkness in our world. No one can escape the fact that at some point and in varying levels we experience dark realities: silence, sadness, suffering, hurt and heartache. Christians are often accused as uncaring and uncompassionate towards these dark realities. Yet, when you actually read the Bible you see that it faces these subjects head on, especially the Psalms. And as you encounter God in the Psalms you will find a Man punching holes in the darkness, lighting the eyes (Psalm 13:3) and lighting the world (John 8).

In 1966 a song “Eleanor Rigby” was recorded by Paul McCartney of The Beatles. The song gave the band a shift to how people viewed them as just a young  rockers to be taking more serious in their music. The song hit a reality with the lines “All the lonely people; Where do they all come from?; All the lonely people; Where do they all belong?”

Loneliness is a unique phenomenon in American society. We live in a world of 6 Billion people and almost 4 Billion live in North America. Our world has become a flat society where technology allows us to communicate with anyone from anywhere at anytime. Communication with others is instant. The availability of transportation and entertainment is unprecedented. Three-fourths of American people live in metropolitan cities. Yet, social research tells us that people are lonely.

The AARP came out with a recent study in their Nov/Dec 2010 issue. The study found that of people ages 45+, 35% are chronically lonely. That’s compared to 20% ten years ago. And surprisingly, it’s people in their 40’s and 50’s who experience loneliness the most. 43% of adults ages 45-49 are lonely, 41% of adults ages 50-59, 32% of adults ages 60-69, and 25% of those 70 and older. Even more, our number of friends is on the decline. In 2004 a quarter of the population had no one they could confide in or speak with in a crisis; this was up from 10% in 1985. 

Are you alone? Do you feel alone? Do you think no one understands you, much more how could God understand how you feel? Let’s look at Psalm 22 to gain God’s perspective of loneliness.

EXAMINE

In Psalm 22, David writes and prays this psalm. It seems to go beyond David’s personal experiences in the detailed imagery of suffering. Therefore, no specific circumstance is understood to be the setting for the psalm. However, this psalm is quite prophetic. God gave David these words to write to foreshadow one whom would come from David – Jesus Christ.

This Psalm could be known as the crucifixion psalm. It tells of the loneliness Jesus faced while enduring the cross. The experiences of loneliness were several:

Unanswered prayer (22:1-2)

The Psalmist cried out to God yet there was separation, distance. He felt forsaken by God. God, as our Creator, is never distant. He is always there – yet our sin brings separation between us and God.

–          Adam & Eve walked with God but when they sinned they ran and hid (Genesis 3)

–          Isaiah 59:2 “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

–          If you are struggling with loneliness & unanswered prayer take hope that these words were uttered by Jesus at the cross (Matthew 27:46).

  • Jesus broke the barrier of sin and bridged the separation for you to have access to God.
  • “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13) 

Unrest (22:2b)

The Psalmist felt unrest crying out to God, he was without contentment or peace.

–          Those who are lonely often struggle to have sleep, and research shows mounting risks of high blood pressure and weakened immune systems.

–          Those struggling with loneliness & unrest take hope in Jesus who brings peace.

  • CROSS – VERTICAL & HORIZONTAL BEAMS SHOW PEACE IN ALL RELATIONSHIPS
    • “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

Distant Memories (22:3-5)

The Psalmist’s experience of loneliness was only strengthened by his memory of how God was present among his relatives. God rescued his fathers but yet to do so to him. Those who are lonely often hang on to the past because they feel their future is hopeless.

Mocked (22:6-8, 12-13)

The Psalmist views his enemies and their insults as larger than life. They mock, make mouths & wag heads (faces). He calls himself a worm. Interesting enough, the worm referred to here was one that was crushed to use as a scarlet dying color for royal robes.

–          Those who struggle with loneliness and mockery take hope in Jesus who was crushed for us.

–          “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Physical Hurt (22:14-18)

The Psalmist’s loneliness caused his body to hurt. His bones hurt, his heart melted, strength was sapped.

–          Those who struggle with loneliness and hurt take hope in Jesus’ sufferings that turned into resurrection life.

–          “We are afflicted in afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

 

APPLY/THINK

In summary of Psalm 22 and theme of loneliness it is helpful to remember the gospel, Jesus’ parallel to psalm. 

Once, when Luther was so depressed that no words of counsel seemed capable of penetrating his darkness, Katie decided to don a black dress. Luther asked: “Are you going to a funeral?” “No,” she replied, “but since you act as though God is dead, I wanted to join you in the mourning.” Luther quickly recovered!

We must never forget the hope of Jesus’ death and resurrection! Because of the resurrection we never have to be alone!

µ     God has given us His Presence. (22:19) “But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!”

The best hope for those who are lonely is to recognize the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection is for His Spirit to confirm in our hearts His presence and hope. Every believer is filled and sealed with His Spirit, never again to be separated from God; even in our sin there is the opportunity for repentance and restoration.

“31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

“for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” Hebrews 13:5” 

µ     God has given us His Church (22:22). “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

Those experiencing loneliness must look outside themselves toward God and others. God calls us not towards isolation but connection.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

“The church of the 21st century must do more than add worlds to an already overbooked society; it must design new structures that help people simplify their lives and develop more meaning, depth, purpose, and community… the solution can begin to take root with a small group of Christians from any local church.”[1]

ð      Emphasize SS Groups: Disciple, Inreach, Outreach

ð      Emphasize volunteerism diminishes loneliness

ð      Emphasize mission & purpose for His Church                Psalm 22:27-31


[1] Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community

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