The young man’s eyes blinked awake as the sun’s early morning rays began to break through the trees outside of the cave. It was warm on his face, the golden-orange beams dancing off the dust sprinkled in his unkempt beard. He could smell the remnants of last night’s fire, mixed with the freshness of the stream bubbling nearby. Squinting and pressing himself up to lean back on the wall of the cave, he looked up, trying to remember how many days he’d been here now. It had been at least a few weeks since he’d become a wanted fugitive in his own country, and it was wearing on him.
More than the hunger, the thirst, the chronic crick in his neck from sleeping with a rock for a pillow, it was the isolation that gnawed at the young warrior’s soul. How long could he hold out like this on his own? Would there be anyone to help? He didn’t even know if his friends were still alive. As he was being hunted, he felt sure that anyone loyal to him would not last long with the current man in power. As he felt the fear starting to grip his chest and threaten to overtake him, David made a decision, as he often did during these times. He began to hum a low melody that reverberated off the stone walls around him. Glancing at the defeated giant’s sword lying next to him, the warrior turned his mind to the One who had never truly left him, and he sang, “Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone, the faithful have vanished…”
Have you ever felt alone? Ostracized? Excluded? As digital connection replaces face-to-face interaction, the epidemic of loneliness is spreading around the globe like a virus. 40% of U.S. adults now report feeling lonely. The United Kingdom went as far as to appoint a Minister of Loneliness. Even fleeting moments, let alone lasting times of real connection with other humans are increasingly difficult to come by. And in a world that has lost a sense of transcendence, if we’re not around other people, it’s easy to think there’s no One else there. So what can we do, in those moments or seasons of loneliness? The example of David, as a shadow of Jesus, is enlightening for us.
Both David, and the much greater Son of David, Jesus, had a common first response when facing loneliness, betrayal, or exclusion. They turned their eyes from earth to heaven, and they prayed. They went to God and told Him how they felt. They asked for relief. And they took comfort in the presence of the Almighty God, who calls Himself our Friend. They turned their thoughts away from themselves, and directed them toward God. This is different than our natural response to the feeling of loneliness, is it not? It’s so easy to fall into a pity-party of paralysis and soak in the sorrow. But the face of God gives hope.
Having done that, secondly, they took courage and sought out God’s people. Whether we’re talking about David’s mighty men, the 30 outcasts who found him in the cave of Adullum, or the 12 disciples of Jesus, a band of mostly uneducated fishermen, we can see that seeking out a crew, a tribe, a group of fellow travelers seeking after God is essential to getting home. And as we love one another, reach out to one another, pray for one another, we fight back the mutual experience of loneliness and see glimpses of God’s kingdom coming, even here on earth. And this reminds us of our need to confess our sins.
Father, we live in a world that grows more isolating by the day. The forces that push against us often push us away from one another, and from you. Our cars and our screens and our busy schedules threaten to snuff out a sense of communion or community. And we confess Father that whether by commission or omission, we have often failed here. We have failed to pray when we are alone, opting instead to post, podcast, or scroll. And we have failed to prioritize time with one another, failing to love our very brothers and sisters. Father, have mercy on us as we confess our individual sins to you now.
And God now we praise you that Jesus is our high priest, our interceder at the throne of heaven. He is the perfect one - always faithful, in perfect communion with you on earth, flawlessly loving his friends AND his enemies. And because Jesus actually was forsaken by you on the cross for our sin, in our place, we can be completely and totally forgiven. Would you change us now by your Spirit, as we seek to live in step with the truth that sets us free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.